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Eminent scientist says SL consumers unlikely to see benefits of going green sans independent regulation



In the renewables sector

by Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka’s energy sector needs major revision based on a plan to ensure there are no black or grey areas, and there is stability in the grid to take renewables at scale, says a top Sri Lankan scientist based in the United Kingdom.

“I believe it is entirely possible for Sri Lanka to move towards 50% solar within a decade with the help of policymakers in terms of a credible master plan integrated to the country’s energy needs”, said Professor Ravi Silva, Director, Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, who has been awarded a CBE for his services to Science, Education and Research.

CBE (Commander of the British Empire) is the highest ranking Order of the British Empire award, followed by OBE and MBE. It ranks just below a knighthood or dame-hood.

The son of Roland Silva, a former Commissioner of Archaeology in Sri Lanka, the eminent scientist stressed the need for consistency in government policy and alignment of all stakeholders to achieve a common objective or goal such as a realistic 70% renewables target, which includes hydro.

For private sector involvement, there needs to be a clear and transparent framework. This will encourage FDI in the renewables sector, particularly with potential changes to the current electricity and regulation acts. Without independent regulation in the sector, it is difficult to envisage the consumers seeing the benefits of going green, the professor said in an email interview with The Sunday Island.

“Maybe an independent PPP for a one-stop-shop for investment in the power sector may open the doors for more private sector involvement with FDI”, he suggested.

Prof. Silva further said that Sri Lanka, as an island, is blessed with a wonderful geology with central hills surrounded by plains extending to the sea. There is also significant rainfall and a well developed hydroelectricity system in the country, with already established dams to store water that can be converted to electricity.

As a country situated close to the equator, Sri Lanka enjoys maximum solar irradiation that potentially provide all energy needs with a combination of solar, wind and pumped hydroelectricity as storage to run base load, he noted.

At prevailing market costs, solar is provided to major facilities at less than two US cents per kWhr by companies such as ‘8 Minutes’. There is no reason to stick to fossil fuels that harm the environment and costs more to the consumer in the longer term, he continued.

Prof. Silva said he delivered a talk to the National Trust in July 2019 on: “Clean, Green and Free: Solar Electricity for 2035”; where it was shown that with the help of minimal disturbance to human settlements, a distributed network of 10 solar farms of around 200MW each, (taking up in total of 100 acres) can power the nation with the help of the existing hydroelectricity network (this was based on the peak energy demand of 2016 of 2453 MW).

The idea is that pumped hydro can be used to ensure the base load is covered, and there is enough solar/renewable capacity to fit the peak power demand during the day via the solar installations, he remarked.

“My talk to the National Heritage Trust in Colombo in July 2019 was based on preserving the “heritage” of free light from the sun to the people of Sri Lanka so they can enjoy their rights much like the vistas of stupas and archaeological sites given to us by our forefathers. I strongly believe we are defined by the unique culture to which we have been born and blessed in Mother Lanka”, he noted.

“As a product of D. S. Senanayake College, I passionately believe in “country before self”, much like many of my brothers at DSS and all citizens”, he emphasized.

On Covid-19, Prof. Silva said, “Sri Lanka can define its destiny and come out of the pandemic stronger and more self-sufficient if we all believe in our nation, and develop our available resources with Sri Lankan ingenuity that exists in all sectors. We must believe and trust in evidence-based decision-making, and place faith in our industry to bring high-value products through science and technology to the markets.

“We must be proud to wear the “Made in Sri Lanka” label on both consumables and technology, and help build a better and more sustainable world for the generations to come”, he added.

Professor Silva was honored with a CBE for his outstanding services to Science, Education and Research over the past three decades with contributions that cut across the world.

CBE is awarded to individuals for playing a prominent role at national level, or a leading role at regional level and also for distinguished and innovative contribution to any area.

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Foreign Secretary sounds ‘consensual resolution’ as pressure mounts in Geneva



by Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage on Monday (25) night revealed that the government was having discussions with the UK-led Sri Lanka Core Group in a bid to explore the possibility of reaching a consensus on what he described as a ‘consensual resolution’ ahead of the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled for Feb-March this year.

Admiral Colombage acknowledged that an agreement on a consensual resolution was a politically challenging task. FS Colombage said so in conversation with Faraz Shauketaly on ‘News Line’ on TV 1.

Asked whether the government was under pressure to co-sponsor the new resolution or face a vote in case Sri Lanka rejected the UK-led move, the naval veteran said there was dialogue between the two parties in this regard. Talks have to be concluded today (27)

Prof. Colombage ruled out the possibility of Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the new resolution. The top Foreign Ministry official also dismissed the interviewer’s assertion the government was under pressure to accept the new resolution.

Admiral Colombage said they were also studying some suggestions made by the Core Group.

Asked whether the government would try to convince the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led political grouping that had demanded an international war crimes investigation in addition to a range of punitive measures to reverse its decision, FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka waged war against an internationally proscribed terrorist group.

The interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s assertion of retired justice C.V. Wigneswaran, MP, who signed Jan. 15 dated petition, in his capacity as the leader of Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kutani (TMTK). Altogether, 13 lawmakers represented the three political parties that called for external intervention.

Declaring that serious war crimes hadn’t been committed during the war, FS Colombage questioned the motives of those continuing to harp on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. Referring to the failure on the part of the Northern Provincial Council to spend the funds allocated for the benefit of the public, FS Colombage asked whether an agenda detrimental to post-war national reconciliation was being pursued.

In the wake of Sri Lanka quitting in Feb 2020 Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the previous government against one’s own country in Oct 2015, Geneva has warned Sri Lanka of serious consequences. In addition to freezing assets and travel bans slapped on those who had been ‘credibly accused of human rights violations,’ Geneva recommended the launch of criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court and an international mechanism to gather evidence.

Referring to the US travel ban imposed on Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva in Feb 2020, the interviewer sought the Foreign Secretary’s opinion on the Geneva report. Refuting allegations, Admiral Colombage alleged serious shortcomings, including factual errors.

Asked whether the recent appointment of a three-member Commission of Inquiry (CoI) chaired by Supreme Court Judge Nawaz to examine previous CoI reports et al wasn’t too late as well as insufficient just ahead of the 46th sessions, Admiral Colombage explained how eruption of first Covid-19 wave that resulted in the postponement of general elections scheduled for April 2020 caused serious setback to government efforts.

Commenting on simmering controversy over the Sri Lanka-India agreement on the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo harbour, Admiral Colombage expressed confidence the issue could be resolved soon. The former Navy Chief categorically denied India’s valuable support to Sri Lanka at Geneva et al would be linked with agreement on ECT.

Responding to criticism directed at India over a spate of issues, including the forced imposition of the 13th Amendment thereby creating the Provincial Council system, Admiral Colombage pointed out the Tamil Nadu factor. Admiral Colombage, having reiterated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s foreign policy statement, assured Sri Lanka’s commitment to friendly ties with major powers.

FS Colombage emphasized that Sri Lanka’s bilateral relations wouldn’t be at the expense of another country.

Admiral Colombage regretted the recent mid-sea collision involving an SLN Fast Attack Craft and an Indian fishing trawler that resulted in the deaths of four fishermen. The FS emphasized that the incident happened well within Sri Lankan waters near Delft Island.

Navy headquarters last week alleged that the Indian vessel collided with FAC while trying to flee a naval cordon.

Admiral Colombage said that the SLN vessel would have suffered serious damage if the Indian trawler happened to be one with a steel hull.

Asked whether US, India, Japan and Australia would take a common stand vis a vis Sri Lanka in respect of accountability issues, Admiral Colombage asserted that wouldn’t be the case. “Sri Lanka is important to them” Admiral Colombage said, while describing them as the four pillars of the Quad-a security alliance.

Commenting on the disclosures made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, Admiral Colombage appreciated the British politician’s efforts to set the record straight as regards war crimes accusations. The Foreign Secretary said that the revelations were made on the basis of genuine and accurate sources.

The British Lord used classified wartime British HC cables (Jan – May 2009) obtained following a legal battle to counter Geneva accusations. Sri Lanka is yet to officially request Geneva to revisit the 2015 resolution on the basis of Lord Naseby’s revelations.

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UK takes up forced cremation of Covid-19 victims



The UK has raised human rights concerns with Sri Lanka including forced cremation of COVID-19 victims.

High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton OBE said in Tweeter message that the UN report in this regard is to be published next week and she would inform the approach to UN Human Rights Council.

“UK raising human rights concerns with Sri Lanka, including forced cremation of COVID19 victims. UN report to be published next week, will inform the approach to @UN_HRC,” she tweeted.



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Electors unaware of electoral register revision process – CMEV



Text and pictures by PRIYAN DE SILVA 

National Coordinator of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Manjula Gajanayaka, who visited the polling districts of Puttlam and Vanni, last week, to look into allegation that more than 7,000 voters in the  polling division of Mannar were to be struck off the electoral register, said that electors were unaware of the electoral register revision process. He called upon the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to educate the public on what actually is taking place; he urged the political parties not to capitalise on the situation. 

 Additional Commissioner of Elections Rasika Pieris said that electoral registers had been revised annually in accordance with the Registration of Electors Act 44 of 1980 to make voting more convenient to the electors by assigning them to the polling stations closest to residences.

 Pieris added that in addition to convenience there were many more advantages to be registered as an elector in the district one resides in.

 Retired Irrigation Engineer A. L. Burhanudhdheen is a chief occupant that has received the Revision of Electoral Register Notice sent by the Assistant Election Commissioner, Mannar. 

Burhanudhdeen had been a resident of Akaththimurippu, Mannar until being driven out by the LTTE in 1990. After being displaced he took refuge in Puttalam and at present lives in a modest house at Nagavillu, Puttlam.

 Burhanudhdeen said that he visited his property in Mannar whenever it was possible, but was unable to construct a new house there due to financial constraints. He also said that whenever possible he and his family had exercised their right to vote in the polling district of Mannar up to the 2020 Parliamentary election. At the last presidential election they had been provided with transport while the Election Commission arranged for a cluster voting facility in Puttlam for the last Parliamentary election, he said.

 Voicing his fears Burhanudhdeen said that he and his family might be struck off the electoral register in Mannar if their appeal was not accepted and added that they had not registered as voters of the Electoral District of Puttalam even though they were resident there.

Assistant Commissioner of Elections Mannar J. Jeniton said that taking action based on reports submitted by Grama Seva Niladharis nearly 10,000 revisions of election register notices had been sent by registered post to electors in the Mannar polling division. 

Jeniton said that the majority of them were known to be persons who were forced to flee from their homes in 1990 due to the conflict. It had been found that they were not resident in that area, he added.

 Jeniton said that about 700 persons had been requested to attend the inquiries and bring with them documents to prove their residence, but only 15 persons had been present.

 Chairman of the Musalee Pradeshiya Sabha A.G.H. Subeeham said that 3,542 constituents in Musalee had been served with Revision of Electoral Register notices requesting them to explain why their names should not be struck off the electoral register. Subeeham said that he did not understand the basis on which the list had been compiled as even persons who had been resident in Musalee for the past 10 years had received such notices. He appealed to the authorities to give the IDPs a grace period of two years to resettle.

The polling districts of Mannar, Mulaitivu and Vavuniya make up the Vanni Electoral District and six Members of Parliament represent the District.

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