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Does Minister Gammanpila contradict President on energy targets?




Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila has told the Consultative Committee on Energy that Sri Lanka was “sitting on USD 267 billion worth of oil and gas hidden in the Mannar Basin”. Is the Minister abandoning the renewable energy targets of the President, and unwittingly planning to destroy the Palk Strait’s ecosystem (Rodriguez et al. 2007), and return to a future based on fossil fuels? Are we to breach the Paris accord, and spew pollution that the ADB costs at 7% lost GDP!

While the Minister dreams of under-sea oil and gas, the CEB and its apologists uphold coal and fossil fuels, while downplaying renewable energy prospects in Sri Lanka. Similarly, Professor Kumar David (KD), a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, writes frequently on Energy policy and takes a pessimistic prognosis for renewable energy in Sri Lanka. KD agrees with the CEB plan to continue with coal and other fossil fuels for future decades. Specifically, KD claims that supplying even 70% of the “energy needed.” using renewable sources by 2030 is sheer fantasy.

However, identifying a problem is half-way to the solution. The Sunday Island (12-September-2021) carries yet another article by Prof. KD where he repeats his concerns. Let us use KD’s identification of the problems in renewable energy as a basis for further discussion.

1. Randomness and Unpredictability in Solar and Wind outputs

As KD puts it, “If wind or solar output falls quickly by a hefty amount, it is the same as the forced outage of a big unit like Victoria or Norochcholai, and the shock to the system is similar”.

Victoria is a 210 MW facility, while most solar installations are small rooftop installations. KD rightly targets the ADB installed 100 MW wind farm in Mannar, significantly in the path of migratory birds. Wind energy installations have unknown unpredictable and NON-LOCAL environmental effects. I am no fan of wind energy and oppose large wind installations!

In contrast, solar energy installations have only LOCAL environmental effects, and I have argued for smaller “distributed” solar installations, positioned on about 5-15% of Sri Lanka’s inland water surfaces, rather than on land. Floating solar and roof top solar units have small power outputs, compared to the Victoria hydro-power plant! They can be installed rapidly, without the decades of planning and construction needed for fossil-fuel plants.

Big lenders like the ADB go for big Wind or Solar plants, and fail to understand the need for “distributed power”. Instead of a large solar plant, producing 100 MW and occupying a huge area in one location, let it be small solar plants (e.g., 5-10 MW) distributed all over the island. So, when clouds cover Mannar, the sun may shine in Monaragala or Hambantota. Although the output of each solar plant may fluctuate, the SUM of the many many solar plants DISTRIBUTED over the island will average to a steadier power output – the central limit theorem!

The problem envisaged by Professor KD is created when the CEB and the ADB opt for a 100 MW wind-power plant, without setting up similar plants in several places that balance out freak fluctuations. Such balance is out as Lanka lacks contrasting sites that can support 100 MW solar or wind farms. In contrast, Lanka has sufficient potential in deploying FLOATING SOLAR PANELS at 5-10 mw level and should prioritise floating solar.

Cloud cover fluctuations occur at the scale of many minutes, whereas a crest of electrical energy from panels in Mannar, can combine with a trough of energy from panels in Monaragala in less than a thousandth of a second, because electricity travels effectively at the speed of light.

Optimally handling power fluctuations in distributed arrays is a mature subject. In Hawaii too, the erratic fluctuations in solar energy, due to changing cloud cover is a problem. According to Dave Renne of the US-National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative set up a measurement system and data sourcing that enabled the NREL team “to set up a solar-monitoring network that simulates exactly how clouds would impact a large photovoltaic system”. While Hawaii can profit from the US satellite data available to one-second precision, neither the CEB nor the sustainable energy organisations in Sri Lanka have any such data capability. Such research shortcomings can only be overcome by setting up a power-research institute (PRI), where an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers will work on these frontier problems.

In the following I argue that Sri Lanka can use its unique Hydro-power reservoir system for storing solar power, generated during the day by shutting off some turbines and conserving the corresponding amount of water in the reservoir for later use. Batteries are NOT needed.

2. Poor Sunshine in Sri Lanka

Prof. KD says that Sri Lanka is “not the Gobi Desert, Atacama or the Australian outbacks”. Interestingly, the available sunshine data for Sri Lanka are largely from US satellites and from scientists at the NREL in Colorado. Dave Renne et al. of NREL notes that the tropical clouds and humidity are a drawback except in certain times of the year, and yet conclude that “the annual results for Sri Lanka range from 4.5 to 6.0 kWh/sq. meters/day (and that)..the study shows that ample resources exist throughout the year for virtually all locations in Sri Lanka and the Maldives for PV applications. So, the NREL experts are, in my view, in contradiction to Dr. Kumar David.

3. Saturation of Renewable Energy Sources

Apologists for fossil fuels claim that sources of renewable energy in Lanka are already “saturated”, while the demand for power is “ever growing”. According to them, there are no more rivers to dam, no good windy sites, and no readily available land for solar farms.

The Floating Solar Option

There are ample crown-owned water surfaces in Lanka for installing floating solar panels. The density of reservoirs (230 ha for every 100 sq. km of land area) in Sri Lanka is the highest in the world. Additionally, placing floating panels on reservoirs SAVES loss of water by evaporation, boosting hydro-power outputs and agricultural water by as much as 30%.

The floating panels reduce the sunlight falling on the water and curb algae, aquatic weeds, and aquatic oxygen depletion (c.f., Exley et al., Solar Energy, Volume 219, 2021). The use of even 20% surface coverage is environmentally beneficial and aquatic organisms thrive better.

The current population of 21.2m is expected to reach a plateau of 22m (plus or minus 3%) by 2039 and then decrease. Hence, we anticipate a maximum power demand of 44 Terawatt hours (TWh) per annum for Sri Lanka, if Lankan’s are to enjoy the same standard of living as in the EU, with a per capita power consumption of 2000 Kwh per annum. The present supply is 16.6TWh from the existing hydroelectric and fossil-fuel power stations. Rounding off the 44TWh upwards to 50TWh, as the maximum ceiling of power needed, we need to generate an ADDITIONAL 34TWh to satisfy Lanka’s power needs to reach EU life standards in 2039, when the population peaks.

According to Professor David “The output for a one square-kilometre site in Puttalam, the NCP, NP or Hambantota will be about 150 GWh per year” ((

Hence, generating the additional 34TWh will need an area of about 22,666 ha. The area occupied by major lakes, rivers and reservoirs in Sri Lanka is 375,000 ha (c.f., Somasundaram et al 2020), with some 160,000 ha covered by reservoirs (tanks). That is, covering a mere 14% of the available reservoir surfaces with floating solar, is sufficient to achieve the EU standard of consumption of electricity at the peak of Sri Lanka’s population growth.

Prof. KD’s estimate of 150 GWh per sq. km of solar is based on the current photo-voltaics with an efficiency of about 10%. High end cells (e. g, used for space applications) already operate at 40- 50% and will become standard within a decade.

Unlike in 2009 when these ideas were first suggested (see to officials of the Presidential Secretariat by the author, today an even stronger case exists for running a pilot project.

In conclusion, with solar cells at 10%-50% efficiency, a mere 14%-3% coverage of the available reservoir surfaces with floating solar panels would be sufficient to meet ALL of Sri Lanka’s future power needs, at a per capita consumption of 2000kWh per annum, even when the population peaks in 2039, assuring even an EU standard of living.

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It’s the economy, again



There is a report in the Lankadeepa of 30 September, 2023 that thousands (‘dahas ganang’) of university graduates in biotechnology (and engineering technology) languish without employment. There is a comment that even if all of them were employed as teachers in state schools (in fact, there is no money to do so), the pool of unemployed graduates in biotechnology, which is filled yearly,

would not dry up; not dissimilarly (the reporter comments) from the fate of graduates in Arts. That graduates in biotechnology are unemployable in this economy as graduates in Arts are, validates a position that I have repeatedly brought up in these pages: university graduates and other young people are unemployed in this economy because this economy is arid and sterile and not because the education system, at whatever level, is fundamentally flawed.

The moment they land in a vigorously growing economy, they become the output of an excellent education system. Not that the education system (school and university) cannot be improved: Cambridge University has improved since 1215; Harvard University continues to improve since 1635. China (Mainland and Taiwan), Malaysia and many other economies did not await reforms in their education systems to grow rapidly as during the last several decades. It is a bit like the truism about savings and investment in the total economy: you don’t have to save to invest; if you invest savings will accommodate investment. It might be apt to say, ‘it is the economy stupid’.

The report in the Lankadipa highlighted that it was Dr. Bandula Gunawardhena, who, when he was the Minister of Education in 2012, with great enthusiasm, installed these branches of learning in schools and universities. And, he earned a Ph.D. degree in Economics!

Our erudite president of the republic, who goes around the world from one conference to another, preaching to the rest of the world, shows great enthusiasm about digitizing this economy. He is falling into the same trap as Dr. Gunewardhena fell into. You digitize a growing economy, not a moribund and bankrupt one.

It is the economy, again.


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Tribute to Dr. Nilanthi Cooray



I have known Dr. Nilanthi for more than 40 years since her marriage to my cousin Frank.Dr. Nilanthi was born in Moratuwa to a middle-class Catholic family. Her siblings include an older sister and a younger brother, and all three of them were studious. Her parents, especially her father. was a devout Catholic who was a frequent visitor to St. Sebastian’s church in Moratuwa.

Up to grade eight, Nilanthi attended Our Lady of Victories Convent in Moratuwa and then joined the Holy Family Convent in Bambalapitiya. She was accepted to the Medical College in 1972 after her successful results at the A-levels. She traveled daily from Moratuwa to the Medical college until such time she was able to get a place at the medical college hostel. During her final years at the medical college hostel, she succeeded in her studies and graduated as a doctor in 1976.

Her career began as an intern at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital Colombo for six months and another six months at the Castle Street Hospital, Borella working with leading qualified senior doctors. In 1977, she got married to her lifelong friend, Frank Cooray, who was working as a Technical Officer in the Irrigation Department. Her first appointment as a fully-fledged MBBS doctor was at the Narammala Base Hospital. Thereafter she got a transfer to the Lunawa Hospital.

After serving the required number of compulsory years (five or six years) she gave up the government job and started her own private practice. This decision seemed a calculated risk as at that time Moratuwa had enough and more reputed and recognized senior doctors such as Dr. Festus Fernando, Dr. Winston Perera, Dr. Cramer, Dr. Muthukumaru, Dr. Keerthisinghe, Dr. Guy de Silva and so on. However, within a short span of time, Nilanthi was able to establish herself as a remarkable young doctor and by the time the senior doctors retired or left Moratuwa, she had become one of the highly recognized doctors in Moratuwa with diagnostic excellence.

The demands of work and the up bringing of two little daughters made it difficult for Nilanthi to cope with everyday life. To support her, her husband gave up his job and went on voluntarily retirement after serving for 18 years at the Irrigation Department. He was just short of two years to qualify for the government pension.

In her prime of life Nilanthi was diagnosed for cancer. More time was spent in rest and prayers. Nilanthi and Frank would have prayed to God and all saints for a miracle healing. This was proved, when she went to Lourdes in France, a place known for Marian worship, to fulfill a vow, after receiving the good news from Dr. S. R. Jayatilleke, who was her oncologist, that her cancer has disappeared. This was the first thing she wanted to upon receiving the miracle healing. She got the green light from the doctor to fly. After her cancer Nilanthi slowed down in her practice and limited the number of patients per day.

Nilanthi was never interested in having a luxurious life or extra comforts like luxury cars or overseas holidays. Her life was centered around her family and her medical profession. She was a loving wife to her husband and devoted mother to her two daughters. As time passed, spending time with her four grandchildren brought her great happiness.

Only after her death that most of the people came to know about her charitable acts of kindness and in treating the poor without charging a fee. During her funeral service, a priest who gave the homily mentioned how students and staff of St. Sebastian’s College Moratuwa benefited by her treatment during their illnesses.

It was only a matter of telling her husband who was now attached to the staff at the College and he made arrangements for them to consult Dr. Nilanthi on a priority line. There was no difference between a priest, staff member, minor staff or a student (of course the student had to wear the uniform to identify their school), all were treated free of charge.

Attending the funeral service were several priests (including Bishop Anthony who was a past Rector of the College) and Christian brothers who served the college. I am certain that they came not only to pay their last respects but also to express their gratitude for taking care of them during their time of illnesses.

In the latter part of her life, her health deteriorated and with the help of her domestic aid, she had chosen a saree and a blouse for her final journey, which she did not disclose to her family members. However, when Frank came to know about it, he was upset and he had asked Nilanthi what this is all about. But she had not given any answer to that.

However, taking that opportunity she had given one more instruction to Frank, and that is after she is gone to give the gold chain round her neck to the domestic aid. For her final journey she was dressed with that particular saree and when everything was over the gold chain was given to the domestic aid.

She leaves so many special memories and a legacy of love. May her soul rest in peace.

-Ralph Gunawardena-

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Full implementation of 13A: Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state? – Part IV



By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director

Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

(Part III of this article appeared in The Island yesterday (28 Sept. 2023)

President Jayewardene stands up against Ranil Wickremesinghe

President J. R. Jayewardene, on the occasion of the Opening of Parliament on 20 Feb., 1986 said: ‘‘Permit me to speak on the government’s attempts since 1977 to seek a political solution to the problems arising in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

‘‘Our first attempt to do so was outlined in the UNP Election Manifesto of 1977. These proposals were prepared in consultation with some of the TULF MPs at that time. I have in my Address to Hon. Members on 23rd February 1984 outlined the steps taken to implement them as follows:

‘‘Since 1977 the government has made Tamil a National Language in the Constitution; amended rules governing entrance to universities and removed any racial bias governing those rules; removed the regulations prescribing racial considerations governing entry to the Public Services and promotion in the services.

‘‘District Councils have been created and District Ministers appointed. The TULF accepted them and worked for them for two years and contested elections. Last year they withdrew from them as sufficient powers and finance had not been allotted to them.

‘‘The search for a political solution was the profound concern of the government of SL. It was this commitment to reach a peaceful solution to the problem that led SL to take the unprecedented step on the part of any Sovereign State of sending her accredited representatives to explore the possibility of reaching a settlement at two Conferences held in Thimpu, Bhutan in August 1985 … arranged with the Tamil groups through the good offices of India.

‘‘However, neither the TULF nor the groups who attended these talks showed any serious inclination to discuss any of the proposals placed before them by the Govt. of SL. Their final response was an outright rejection of the government proposals and an invitation to the Govt. of SL to make new proposals that would accord with the so-called cardinal principles which they enunciated, which were no more than a re-statement of the demand for Eelam.

‘‘On 12th July 1985 the 6 Tamil groups made a statement of the ‘Four Principles’ on which they were working. On 13th August 1985 the leader of the SL Delegation, Dr. H.W. Jayewardene responded to it with a statement on the ‘Four Principles’ mentioned by the Tamil groups.

‘‘He dealt with the (i) recognition of the Tamils as a distinct nationality, (ii) a separate homeland and (iii) self-determination for the Tamils; and (iv) the linkage of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a reaffirmation of the demand for a separate state and could not be the subject of discussion and acceptance by the SL govt.

‘‘The SL delegation also submitted an outline of the structure of the sub-national units of a Participatory System of Governance on 16th August, but this too was not considered by the Tamil groups though it indicated areas on which discussion and agreement were possible.

‘‘The Accord reached in Thimpu and New Delhi were to be the basis of any future discussions. Such discussion would not reopen the Four Principles mentioned earlier in any form whatsoever. This was the basis of the understanding of both the Govts of India and Sri Lanka ….

There are certain principles which we cannot depart from arriving at a solution. We cannot barter away the unity of Sri Lanka, its democratic institutions, the right of every citizen in this country whatever his race, religion, or caste to consider the whole Island as his Homeland, enjoying equal rights, constitutionally, politically, socially, in education and employment are equally inviolable.”

“At present the Sri Lanka Tamils are in a minority in the Eastern Province while the Sinhalese and the Muslims together constitute nearly sixty per cent of the population. Since the Sri Lanka Tamils constitute more than ninety per cent of the population in the Northern Province, the object of the amalgamation of the North and the East is clear – the Sri Lanka Tamils will after amalgamation become the majority group in the combined unit of administration. Once the amalgamation is achieved the concept of the traditional homeland of the Tamils which has been a corner-stone of agitation in the post-independence period will be revived as this is the only ground on which the T.U.L.F.

denies the legitimate rights of the Sinhala people to become settlers in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Nor does the traditional homelands theory recognise any rights for the Muslims either except as an attenuated minority in the amalgamated territory. So, on the one hand while professing to urge the case for all Tamil speaking people in fact the T.U.L.F. is covertly seeking to secure the extensive areas for development, especially under the accelerated Mahaweli Program, for exploitation by the Sri Lankan Tamils alone. This in short is the duplicitous motivation behind the demand for amalgamation.

‘’ Quite candidly, the Sinhala people do not regard the demand for the amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces as a bona fide claim but as one motivated by an ulterior purpose, namely, as a first step towards the creation of a separate state comprising these two Provinces. The recent outrages by Tamil terrorists against the Sinhala civilian population settled in the North and East killing vast numbers of them, ravaging their homesteads and making thousands of them refugees in their own land has only made their apprehensions seem more real than ever before.

Even the most naive of people could not expect a single Sinhalese to go back to the North and/or East if the maintenance of law and order within those areas becomes the exclusive preserve of the political leaders and patrons of the very terrorists who chased them out. Could one for instance expect the survivors of Namalwatta to go back to their village if the leader of the Tamil Terrorist gang that murdered their families is the A S.P. of the area? Not only would those poor refugees not go back but those Sinhalese, including those in Ampara and Trincomalee, who are still living in the North and East, would necessarily leave their lands and flee to the South, if these proposals are implemented.”

These proposals are totally unacceptable. If they are implemented, the T. U. L. F. would have all but attained Eelam. It need hardly be said that even if the demand for a Tamil Linguistic State is granted, further problems and conflicts are bound to arise between that Tamil Linguistic State of the North and East and the Centre. Water, hydropower and the apportioning of funds are some of the areas in which conflicts could arise. A cause or pretext for a conflict on which to base a unilateral declaration of independence could easily be found.

There can be little doubt that what T.U.L.F. seeks to achieve by its demands is the necessary infrastructure for a State of Eelam, after which a final putsch could be made for the creation of a State of Eelam, comprising not only of the North and East, but of at least the hill country and the NCP as well.” (quoted in the Judgement of Wanasundara J in the 13th Amendment Case, Pp. 377 – 379)

With all our criticism of JR for the harmful consequences the country had to face with his open economy and executive presidency introduced after 1977, from the above statement it clearly appears that JR was not a traitor to this country, but a patriot who had some genuine concern for the country and its people. He had the wisdom to see through the danger posed to the very existence of this country as a unitary state by giving into unreasonable and crafty demands of the Tamil political leaders in the North-East.

President Jayewardene not only refused to accept these proposals of the TULF and other Tamil groups; he was not even prepared to discuss them. His firm response was that they are totally unacceptable.

(To be continued)

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