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Fate of Rs 25 billion CEB consumer deposit fund in doubt – Activist



By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

There was a possibility that over Rs. 25 billion in consumer deposits with the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) would not be refunded due to the dissolution of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), Secretary of the Union of Electricity Consumers (UEC) Sanjeewa Dhammika told The Island yesterday.

When a person obtained an electricity connection from the CEB, he or she had to place a deposit at the regional CEB Engineer’s office. As per Sri Lanka Electricity Act, No. 20 of 2009, the CEB has to pay consumers an interest on those deposits, Dhammika said.Section 28.3 of the Act says ‘(3): Where any sum of money is provided to a distribution licensee by way of security in pursuance of this section, the licensee (CEB) shall pay interest on such sum of money at such rate as may from time to time be fixed by the licensee with the approval of the Commission (PUCSL), for the period in which it remains in the hands of the licensee.’

Dhammika said: “None of the governments has paid this interest although the PUCSL annually declares the interest rate that has to be paid. Now, there is about Rs. 25 billion of our money with the CEB. Since the PUCSL is to be dissolved, who is there to keep an eye on this money?”

Dhammika said that with Rs. 25 billion the government could construct a 100 megawatt power plant. The CEB should not be allowed to swindle the Rs. 25 billion that belonged to the electricity consumers, he insisted.

“The PUCSL was the only place we could go to over issues related to electricity. It has already resolved over 6,000 cases. If the PUCSL is dissolved what are we to do? Are we to take legal action? How many of us can afford to go to court?”

Certain sections were trying to create the impression that PUCSL didn’t let the CEB work. After the present government came to power, the PUCSL was asked to approve three LNG plants and two were approved within a month, he said.

“The problem with the remaining project is that the tender process has not been followed. The PUCSL can’t approve a project that didn’t follow a tender process. It’s against the Act.”

From 2016, the PUCSL has approved the construction of power plants that could have added 1,450 megawatts to the national grid, Dhammika said. Those plants however were not constructed by the CEB.”

Dhammika warned that once the PUCSL was gone it was likely that electricity tariffs would be increased. “As long as the PUCSL existed, it determined what the price of a unit of electricity was. Without a regulator, the CEB could quote any price they want.”

The PUCSL had commenced giving certificates for electricians and so far about 20,000 had received accreditation, Dhammika said Dhammika said, adding that there were around 45,000 electricians in the country and that 90% of them did not have professional certification.

“They only have experience. The PUCSL has commenced an initiative to provide them with accreditation. The PUCSL was also to introduce a scheme that allowed electricians to study and sit for NVQs. Electricians from 20 districts have already been identified for the programme. If the PUCSL is dissolved, all this will stop. We urge the government not to go ahead with this disastrous policy.”

Minister Alahapperuma was not immediately available for comment.

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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  



Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo



China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits



By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.



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