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

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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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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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