(Excerpted from the Memoirs of Senior DIG (Retd.) Edward Gunawardena)
With a month to go for my confirmation as an ASP, Police Headquarters thought it fit to assign me to the important police district of Gampaha. Western Province North was the SP’s Division. The office of the Supdt. of Police Western Province North was located in Gampaha. The other ASP’s districts in the Division were Peliyagoda and Negombo. The ASP Peliyagoda was T. Thalayasingham and K.V. Ramanathan was the ASP Negombo. The DIG in charge of the WP North Division was C.C. Dissanayake, DIG Range I.
The Gampaha Police district had six police stations at the time. The officers in charge were Tharmarajah, HQI Gampaha, SI P. Vedamuthu, OIC Weliweriya, SI Percy Wijesuriya, OIC Kirindiwela, IP Hamid, OIC Veyangoda, IP Alex Abeysekera, OIC Nittambuwa and IP Michael Schokman, OIC Mirigama.
Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike was the Prime Minister and Horagolla Walawwa was located in the Nittambuwa Police Station area. This country residence of the PM was not even guarded by the police then. She did not want the field police to be hanging round at Horagolla. Whenever she visited the mansion, her security division headed by ASP Rajasooriya managed without taxing the local police. She had immense faith in her two bodyguards, IP Chandrasekera and SI Wewala. However, I did not fail to realize that the security of Horagolla was my prime responsibility. Apart from the Prime Minister, every state guest visited Horagolla, some even over nighting there.
The other politicians that mattered were the MPs with their electorates, or part of them, in the Gampaha police district. They were all cultured, honourable gentlemen with whom I could empathize with ease. There were no Provincial Councilors or Pradeshiya Sabha members at that time – the tinpot political scum of today. In that respect the sixties were wonderful years. At that time MPs had high respect for public servants; they got on excellently with each other with mutual respect for one another.
Of the MPs representing Gampaha at the time, the majority are no more. S.D. Bandaranayake and Lakshman Jayakody (LJ) are the only two living as I write this account today. The former was the MP for Gampaha and latter was the MP for Divulapitiya. The other parliamentarians were: Felix Dias Bandaranaike ( Dompe – Kirindiwela police area), Wijayabahu Wijesinghe (Mirigama), S. K. Sooriarachchi (Mahara – Weliweriya Police area) and M.P. de Z. Siriwardena (Minuwangoda). There was also JP Obeysekera (Attanagalla).
The friendly experiences I had with some of these MPs are worth recalling. The first of them I met was J.P. Obeysekera. After I had received my transfer order to Gampaha, one day I dropped in at the Fountain Cafe for lunch. I was in uniform. My father, who was the Asst. Manager there, sat at the same table and was chatting to me. Most of the senior waiters dressed in immaculate white were round my table chatting. Some of them had even carried me as a child. I still remember the names of a few of them – Cornelis with a ‘konde’ and a crescent turtle shell comb, Alphonso, Ambrose, Bhatia and Kitta. The last was the waiter who brought our meals from Fountain Cafe to St. Joseph’s College during the war years. Martin and Simon the cooks also joined the group.
As I was finishing my lunch a lean, tall man dressed in white slacks and white long sleeved shirt walked in smiling. My father greeted him warmly and guided him to a table. After he was seated, father introduced me to him. Only when I got talking to him that he realized that I was to be the new police chief of the district; and it was only then that I came to know the MP for Attanagalle. JPO was a gentleman to his finger tips. After the initial meeting at Fountain Cafe, I seldom met him. He belonged to the cream of the low-country aristocracy, was well endowed with wealth and had graduated from Cambridge. He became a friend of mine but did not want the police by his side to boost his ego. What a contrast to the politicians of later years!
After I left the Gampaha District on transfer I had the opportunity of meeting him on several occasions. Long after my retirement from the police, I wrote a novel ‘Blood and Cyanide’ published in 2001 when I was a Director of Lake House. On reading the reviews of this novel in the newspapers, JPO telephoned to congratulate me. I felt guilty about not having invited him to the book launch at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute and I sent him a copy. He reciprocated by sending me his book on his solo flight to Ceylon from Britain after he completed his studies at Cambridge.
As I write these memoirs today S.D. Bandaranayake is alive and one of his sons, Pandu, is an MP. Before I went to Gampaha I had heard much about SD, more as a troublesome character who did not like the police very much. As he was the MP for the electorate of Gampaha I decided to make contact and took the initiative by telephoning him on a Saturday morning. He was surprised. “This is the first time a police officer has contacted me and wanted to call on me. Mr. Gunawardena, you are most welcome. My wife and I will be delighted to have you for a little dinner with us this evening”. I kept the appointment. It was quite a sumptuous dinner considering the austere times, preceded by vodka, caviar and a lively conversation. SD had many contacts in the Russian Embassy. Hence the repast!
A few days later, the Gampaha police raided an illicit liquor den in Yakkala. SD telephoned me and told me that the man under arrest was known to him and that he was not a kasippu dealer or seller. In spite of protests by the HQI Gampaha, the suspect was released by me. However, I told SD that there was good evidence against the man. Emboldened by the leniency shown by the Police this man recommenced his trade and I decided to lead a raid. It was successful. Several bottles were seized. Other than the seller, three others who were consuming illicit liquor were also arrested.
All these people together with the productions were bundled into a Land Rover and driven straight to Madugas Walawwa, SD’s residence. He was on the verandah. When I told him what happened, he was most embarrassed. He angrily walked up to the Land Rover, got his friend to alight, gave him two thundering slaps and told him to stop this business forthwith. The gentleman he was, SD did not hold this against me.
Lakshman Jayakody (LJ) was a well to do proprietary coconut planter and a full blooded Trinitian. A large part of his electorate fell within the Mirigama Police area of which the OIC was Michael Schokman. Jayakody and Schokman had both played cricket for Trinity, the latter the senior of the two. They got on very well and as a result the ASP Gampaha had very few problems from the Mirigama Police area!
Lakshman J being a descendant of John de Silva was a lover of the Tower Hall Sinhala Music. He himself was fond of singing these famous old songs. One day in 1961 he invited me to a musical evening with an exclusive audience, mainly from the diplomatic corps. It was held at the Tower Hall and lasted for about three hours. Some of the singers were H.W. Rupasinghe, Eddie Master, Allen Ratnayake, A.M.U. Raj, Latiff Bhai and G.S.B. Rani. The only instruments were the tabla, serapina (harmonium) and the violin. The violinist was W.D. Albert Perera who later changed his name to W.D. Amaradeva.
Lakshman Jayakody and I have remained friends ever since. In the 70s when I was the Director Planning and Research and P.A. to the IGP, I had occasion to work with him closely particularly during the JVP uprising of 1971. When two Cessna light aircraft were acquired by the SLAF at that time, it was he and I who travelled in the inaugural flight to Palaly. Apart from Palaly, where we were entertained to lunch by Col. Bull Weeratunga, we visited the Karainagar Naval base which was in charge of Commander Neville Andrado. Lakshman J. was the Junior Minister of Defence at that time.
Felix Dias Bandaranaike was a friendly sort when I first met him in 1961. He was the MP for Dompe and the Kirindiwela police station came within the Gampaha police district with SI Percy Wijesuriya in charge. Whenever FDB visited his electorate he functioned from the Weke Walawwa which was in the Kirindiwela police area. I still remember the day he wanted me to stay for lunch with him. He had got the caretaker to prepare his favourites, jak curry and a dry fish bedun which I too enjoyed. A heavy smoker, FDB smoked a pipe and cigarettes. At the end of the meal, he was looking for a cigarette as he had finished all he had brought. Accepting a Bristol cigarette from me he joked, “no harm sharking a punt from a Peradeniya junior.” Perhaps the Peradeniya connection helped us to get on well.
With FDB’s meteoric rise to dizzy heights in the political firmament, lesser mortals like me quite naturally faded away from his reckoning. However, I consider it my good fortune to have known him well even fleetingly. He indeed has a unique place in Sri Lanka’s history. It was he by his courageous and decisive conduct that saved the nation when democracy was in peril in 1962 and 1971.
Wijebahu Wijesinghe and S.K.K. Sooriarachchi were also easy to get on with. The former once visited the United States on an official visit with fellow MPs Wijepala Mendis and I.A. Cader. As they were to visit Texas A and M, I made arrangements for them to stay with my brother, Irwin, who was doing his Master’s degree there.
M.P. de Z Siriwardena, the MP for Minuwangoda was the Deputy Minister of Labour. Very much unlike the other MPs of the Gampaha district, he was abrasive in his ways and often rubbed the police on the wrong side. I soon realized that he was a man who could easily be outwitted. His main support group in the electorate was the large scale illicit distillers and he was determined to protect them from police action. He even encouraged them to resist and obstruct police raids.
Once a police party from Gampaha led by IP Buhary was obstructed. Buhary, acting in self defence, had used a police baton on a violent thug. This man had died of head injuries and a magisterial inquiry was in progress. One morning when I was in the HQI’s office M.P. de Z S walked in with a few others saying, “I say ASP, your people have killed my man.” I told him to sit down and requested the HQI to send for the Information Book. I calmly told the MP that as he appeared to know something about the death, that he is at liberty to make a statement. He got cold feet and left saying that he did not want to make a statement. Politicians are big talkers but discreetly avoid situations that make them witnesses in court cases. They shun cross-examination.
I remember, not long after, a strong supporter of the MP made a complaint against the police of assault. The complaint, made to the SP Jayakody, alleged that an Inspector had even spoken disparagingly of the MP. As my SP showed interest in this complaint, I fixed an early date for the preliminary inquiry in my office and notified the witnesses. Two days before the inquiry this MP had telephoned the SP and told him that the inquiry should be held in a school at Asgiriya. I told the SP that in that case it will take the form of a public inquiry. “Gune, do whatever you want”, was his response.
I told HQI Tharmarajah to arrange a school and fixed the date for the inquiry. I also told him that at the request of the MP this will be a public inquiry and told him to arrange for a few people to come forward and volunteer evidence favourable to the police. Tharmarajah, the seasoned policeman, was amazed at the suggestion. After recording the statements of the formal witnesses I announced that any person who wished to give evidence could do so. Three out of many who came forward were selected. Their evidence (well coached by the police) was most convincing. My SP had no alternative but to agree with my findings. M.P. de Z S certainly went through a learning exercise. Distraught and defeated he had told my SP, “your ASP is a hard nut.”
Funeral of Singho Mahattaya alias Wickramarachchi of Attanagalla
One morning IP Alex Abeysekera, the OIC Nittambuwa telephoned me that Singho Mahattaya of Attanagalle had died; and the Governor -General and Prime Minister were due to pay their respects at his residence. I had never heard of Singho Mahattaya and told the Nittambuwa OIC to have some police presence at the residence and also along the route. On second thoughts I asked Tharmarajah the HQI Gampaha about the deceased. He told me that it was this man, who was rich and influential, who had always been the proposer of the name of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike at elections.
After the discussion I had with Tharmarajah I decided to visit the sprawling residence of Singho Mahattaya at Maligatenne. OIC Nittambuwa was there and he introduced me to Singho Mahattaya’s two sons, Nagasiri and Kithsiri who warmly received me. Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike had already visited the funeral house once with her children and was expected to visit again. Nagasiri and Kithsiri were awaiting the arrival of Sir Oliver Goonatilleke, the Governor-General. When he arrived in his Austin Princess I saluted him and received him. I was the most senior public official present.
Having introduced the two sons, I accompanied him into the house and remained close to him. Soon I realized that he was comfortable with me by his side. Before leaving the funeral house the G.G. whispered to me that he would like to visit the Bandaranaike Samadhi that was being constructed at the time. I conveyed this information to the HQI and went ahead of Sir Oliver, having instructed the pilot officer to stop behind my car that will be parked on the road opposite the Samadhi site.
Although my intention was to take him to the site by car, he preferred to walk. The G.G. was received at the site by the most senior officer of the Public Works Dept. who was present, Peter Jayawardena. Peter explained the difficulties to meet the completion target of September 26, 1961. Sir Oliver saw for himself how the work was going on day and night. There were several temporary tea kiosks that had come up on the roadside to cater to the workers. He walked with me to all these places and told the boutique keepers that they should unfailingly supply the workforce with their requirements. Before getting into his car he told me to get these kades to supply whatever the workers want and send the bill to Queen’s House! A tall order indeed from a man who had even been the country’s Auditor-General. I passed this information to Peter Jayawardena. That’s all I could have done.
During my meeting with Sir Oliver at this funeral he even addressed me as ‘Sonny’. Showing great interest, he asked me about crime in the area and troublesome characters. He asked me about the MPs and the relations I maintained with them, specially asking me whether they interfere in my work. He was also keen to know about the popularity of each of them in their respective electorates. The significance of this conversation with Sir Oliver dawned on me only after the attempted coup d’etat which took place a few months later.
Singho Mahattaya had been a great admirer of SWRD Bandaranaike. Because SWRD had gray hounds, he (Singho Mahattaya) had also thought of bringing up dogs. He had imported a pair of Great Danes and named them Barnes and Barney. Barnes Ratwatte was the father of Sirimavo! Nagasiri, the elder son of SM who became very friendly with me, gifted me with a full grown Great Dane that had shown affection to me whenever I visited him. However, after about eight months I had to put him down because he became fierce and even growled at me. Nagasiri was a great friend indeed. Whenever I visited him he treated me with the best of food and drink. He died young. I remember attending his funeral at Attanagalle with Stanley Senanayake, the IGP, who also had known Singho Mahattaya and his family.
Twenty-five years of private sector-led renewable energy development
by Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya
A policy change in 1995 to allow private investments in electricity generation into the grid, a standard agreement and a standard price for electricity produced, enabled such investments to pick-up faster than in other countries. The first mini-hydro power project with entirely private sector funding and private ownership commenced operations in May 1996.
The agreement and the price
Dubbed the “most investor friendly agreement in the world”, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy developers were offered, since 1996, a non-negotiable 15-year agreement (20-years for projects signed after 2008). The agreement says, literally, “I will buy all your electricity produced for the next 15 years, any day any time; I will not penalize you for delays in your project or for not producing electricity at all or producing less electricity than you promised; I will not ask you to start or stop your power plant”. There is no other agreement in the business world 25 years ago or now, where such agreements are offered to a seller.
Then the price. The agreement carries a price, which too is not negotiable. It says: “I will pay you a price that reflects the fuel saved in major power plants; in case fuel prices go down, I will not drop the price below 90% of the price when you signed; if the fuel prices go up, I will keep on increasing the prices without any limit”.
I shall buy all your all your product at the following price for 20 years. If you do not produce too, even when I need it badly, I will only greet you with a smile !
Government procurements have to be on competitive basis. This policy of competition was further reinforced by the Electricity Act 2009, required to be implemented by the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL). The legal validity of such renewable energy agreements and price offers, that make a mockery of rules of “competition”, has been debated in many quarters over the past 25 years.
Has it been good ?
Well, yes and no, depending on whom you speak to and your convictions. To the credit of the program, Sri Lanka’s renewable energy development accelerated after 1996. These are smaller power plants using hydropower, wind, wood and more recently, waste. If the government attempted to develop them through a state entity, excessive overheads and inefficiency would most likely creep-in. There would have been a politically appointed Chairman and a fleet of vehicles going up and down, to run a tiny minihydro.
On the other hand, had the state rigidly controlled what is developed and where, renewable energy projects developed would have been more efficient, well-engineered and certainly more environment friendly. Stories are many, where a private mini-hydro project agreed with the Central Environmental Authority to release water for downstream users, but later blocked it 100%. As the saying goes, “Sri Lanka’s streams and rivers are now flowing in tubes”, but we are proud about a vibrant renewable energy industry !
Renewable energy from such smaller private investments reached 1% of total in year 2000 and 4% by 2006. Buoyed by another policy change in 2007 that offered a contract for 20 years and an even more attractive prices, renewable energy from small power plants raced toward a 10% policy target for 2015. It reached the target indeed, with 11% of electricity produced in 2015 from the combined production in 147 minihydros, 15 wind and 3 each of grown biomass, wood waste and solar parks. Unlike many countries who make headlines by stating their renewable energy contribution in megawatt, Sri Lanka’s targets and achievement are stated in kilowatthour, honestly reflecting the true benefits to save fuel and to reduce emissions.
Continuing its race for development, by 2020 (provisional figures) electricity produced from smaller private renewable energy power plants reached 12%. Adding major hydros, the energy share from all renewable energy was 37% by 2020, a share unmatched by all countries and expatriate Sri Lankans that preach Sri Lanka on how to develop renewable energy.
Has the price been good to the investor?
The policy of paying renewable energy projects signed over 1996-2016 was to pay the value of fuel saved in the grid, calculated and published in advance every year. Agreements signed after 2007 enjoy an even more attractive pricing formula: a technology-specific, cost-reflective price. That means minihydros are paid a price to make that a profitable investment; wind power is paid to make that technology, a profitable investment.
Once signed, price paid does not change. If costs go up or down after signing, or bank interest rates go up or down, the price remains the same. Fortunately for all who signed in 2008-2009 or later, equipment costs and bank interest rates both have been on a downward trend. Projects that borrowed at 18% in 2018 possibly borrowed at 8% this year, but still enjoy the price paid calculated at 18% interest. By way of equipment costs, solar power has seen the deepest reduction in costs. More on that later.
What was the benefit to the public?
Why did the government offer such attractive rates and terms to private investors? Sri Lanka did not throw Rs 10 at renewable energy investors and say “do it if you can”. The key principle in the pricing policy was: price paid makes investments profitable (not just profitable but excessively profitable). The agreement still remains the “most investor friendly agreement” in the world.
In other words, the public of this country, through their electricity bills and through taxes, have paid for the investments, bank interest, and profits (above market rates), to make privately-owned renewable energy an excessively profitable venture. Other benefits of renewable energy need not be repeated here; they are all well known. So what is the benefit to the public who fully paid (and continue to pay) for these investments, of which the ownership is private?
It should be the longer-term benefit of cheaper renewable energy. That’s why the 2008 announcement on the revised policy said as follows: “Renewable energy, which is a natural resource, belongs to the State. Developers are provided with a high tariff to cover their expenses and to earn reasonable profits for an adequately long period (in this case the first fifteen years). Thereafter, the benefit of the resource should flow to the electricity customers, while continuing to provide an operating fee to the small power producers and full recovery of maintenance costs”.
The closest example is the CEB-owned fleet of hydropower plants, which are bigger. The familiar ones are Laxapana, Kotmale and Victoria, among a total of 15 power plants. The public of the country paid for those too, starting from 1950. How? Through electricity bills (because loans and government investments were apportioned between CEB and Mahaweli Authority), taxes and benefits foregone. The major hydros today produce at a cost of Rs 3.35 per unit of electricity. True, that except for Upper Kotmale, all are 20 years or more of age. The fleet of minihydros, too, as they mature into their contracts, after 15 years of good profits to investors, should deliver benefits to electricity customers. That’s why the 2008 announcement said: Therefore, once the developers’ costs and profits are paid, it is inevitable that in the long-term, renewable energy should flow into the national grid at prices significantly lower than the cost of thermal energy.
However, information published indicates that the principles on which small power producers were enabled in 1996 and then enhanced in 2008, are indeed being followed. CEB produces electricity from mature hydros at Rs 3.35 per unit (PUCSL assessment 2019). The price for mature hydropower in the private sector was Rs 5.38 per unit (CEB publication 2019), precisely following the principle of fairness: good profits to investor for 15 years, benefits to electricity customer in the longer term.
As more and more minihydros mature, later wind, biomass and solar projects mature, we should be seeing finally, that ALL renewables produce electricity at prices very significantly lower than all the alternatives. Renewables replace thermal power and we should be paid the same price, will not be an argument, now or then, or in the future. “My power plant is not so good, it does not have water, is not an argument”, because no one defined where to build the minihydro; the investor selected it.
The argument that private renewables can produce below the price of oil, gas or coal does not hold, then, now or in the future. Renewables were allowed because fossil fuels were expensive and bad. The price of fossil fuels comprise royalties, production and delivery costs. If one needs a comparison, royalties for renewables have to be paid to the “republic” (the treasury) and production costs paid by electricity customers. Since royalties are not charged for renewables, both CEB and private, then renewable energy prices should be compared only with production costs. The investment has already been fully paid by the republic.
I conclude with a quotation from the 2008 announcement: “Small power producers opting not to migrate to the new agreement by 30th April 2008, will be offered the tier 3 tariff announced for the relevant technology in the year in which the existing agreement expires, after its full tenure of 15 years is completed”. That means, retiring minihydros should be offered prices in the range of Rs 6 per unit.
It is yet to be seen whether the PUCSL and consumer rights groups are willing to fully and comprehensively understand the issue, step-in, and ensure that “renewable energy belongs to the republic”, as stated in the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Act 2007.
The country’s streams are now flowing in tubes, but do benefits flow to the public who have fully paid the investors with profits?
Danger of disregarding Geopolitical Realities
Negotiating Agreements for Foreign Investments:
By Dr. S.W. Premaratne
Foreign Policy decision-maker, of a state, have to take into consideration the prevailing geopolitical environment of the international system, and of the region concerned, at a given time, when there is a foreign policy aspect involved in the decision that has to be taken regarding any issue Omission, or failure to give consideration to this aspect of the issue, can lead to disastrous consequences. Several examples from the recent political history of Sri Lanka can be given to illustrate this point.
Sri Lanka’s conduct of foreign policy, in the 1980s, is a clear example of the serious consequences of ignoring India’s concerns regarding Sri Lanka’s pro-West tilt in its foreign policy. Sri Lanka’s declared policy was non-alignment in maintaining relations with other states, specially the Big Powers in the West and the East. However, the J.R. Jayewardene government, that came to power, in 1977, sought to develop a closer relationship with the Western countries, led by the USA. The nature of the interactions between the diplomats of the USA and Sri Lanka, at the time, had given the impression to India that Sri Lanka was seeking the assistance of the USA for suppressing the Tamil militant movement in Sri Lank, fighting for the rights of the Tamil community. There were also reasons for India to suspect that there was an understanding between the Sri Lankan Government and the USA to allow the Trincomalee harbour to be used by the USA. It was this perception of India that Sri Lanka was following an anti-India foreign policy, endangering the security of India that motivated India to intervene militarily in the year 1987 to thwart the progress of the Vadamarachchi operation, aimed at militarily defeating the Tamil militant movement.
After aborting the progress of the Vadamarachchi operatio, the Indian government proceeded to compel the Sri Lankan Government to sign an Agreement – the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987 – to ensure that Sri Lanka respected India’s security concerns and other interests when seeking assistance from outside Powers for Sri Lanka’s economic development or national security.
India’s concerns regarding China’s excessive involvement in Sri Lanka’s development projects
Sri Lanka’s political leaders and diplomats, whenever they get an opportunity, express their affection for their Big Brother, India, and express the need for further strengthening the friendship for the mutual benefit of both countries. India’s perception, however, is that, especially after the change of government in 2005, there is an evolving special relationship between Sri Lanka and China posing a serious threat to the national security of India.
Sri Lanka felt intensely isolated from the international community after adopting the Resolution A/HRC/46/L. Rev. 1 against Sri Lanka, at the UNHRC, in Geneva, in March, 2021, especially because India also decided to support the core-group indirectly by abstaining from voting.
The only consolation for Sri Lanka now is China’s expression of willingness to further strengthen its strategic relationship with Sri Lanka by extending further development assistance to Sri Lanka, within the framework of the Belt end Road Initiative. Subsequent to a telephone conversation between the two leaders, the President of China and the President of Sri Lanka, in a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, on March 30, 2021, it was stated that “China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral ties and stands ready to work with Sri Lanka to determine the strategic direction and achieve steady growth of the relationship. China stands ready to steadily push forward major projects, like the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, and promote high quality Belt and Road Co-operation, providing robust impetus for Sri Lanka’s post pandemic economic recovery and sustainable development”. China projecting Sri Lanka as an intimate partner of the Belt and Road strategy indicates that Sri Lanka is distancing itself from the path of non-alignment and adopting an anti-Western and anti-India approach.
In the matter of obtaining foreign investments for development projects, Sri Lanka has failed to foresee the foreign policy implications of overreliance on China. The two massive development projects, initiated during the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, which came to power in 2005, were the Hambantota sea port and the Port City Project in Colombo. The amount of money invested for these two projects, by China, was so massive that Sri Lanka happened to sign an agreement for permitting the management and control of the Hambantota Port by the state-controlled company of China, under a 99-year lease agreement. The Management and control of the Colombo Port City area also has been granted to the Chinese construction company, under a 99-year lease agreement. Not only India, but also the USA and other Western countries have expressed serious concern regarding the involvement of China in strategically significant massive development projects in Sri Lanka. India’s perception now is that Sri Lanka is an aircraft carrier of China, stationed in the Indian Ocean, close to India. Hambantota Port is viewed as another pearl in the string of pearls maintained for containing India by China.
India is also concerned over the lack of interest on the part of the Sri Lankan Government to go ahead with the development projects regarding which agreement had been reached with India, during the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe coalition government. In May, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Japan and India proposing the development of the East Container Terminal jointly, Sri Lanka and Ports Authority retaining 51 percent shares. However, the present Government deviated from that understanding and decided to nominate one Indian investor, Adani Group, disregarding Japan. But, the attempt of the Sri Lankan Government to involve the Indian Company in this project by offering 49 percent of the shares of the ECT was thwarted by the trade union action of the port workers, supported by an influential section of the Buddhist priests and also a section of the ruling alliance. The Sri Lankan government had no alternative but to respond to the demand of the trade unions by getting the Cabinet approval for developing the ECT only by the Colombo Port Authority, without involving India or Japan.
India has also expressed concern over the attitude of the Sri Lankan Government concerning the development and management of the Trincomalee oil tank farm. The lower farm has been managed jointly by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) via Lanka IOC Private Limited. The 2003 tripartite agreement signed by the Sri Lankan Government, LIOC and the CPC covers the entire tank farm. India is now concerned about the excessive delay in granting the Sri Lankan Government’s approval for commencing the development of the Upper Tank Farm, comprising 84 tanks.
Another joint venture, regarding which Sri Lanka sought the involvement of India’s Petronet LNG Ltd. Company, and also a Japanese investor, was the proposed liquefied natural gas LNG terminal that was to be set up near Colombo. Although Indian and Japanese Investors had indicated their willingness to join this project, as partners, the Sri Lankan Government has not yet given its final approval for commencing the construction work.
India is also very much concerned over the lack of progress in the reconciliation process initiated after the end of the war. India’s concern in this regard was expressed very effectively and in very clear language in a statement made by the Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar in the course of a media conference during his two-day visit to Sri Lanka in January, this year. In his statement the Indian Foreign Minister said: “As we promote peace and wellbeing in the region, India has been strongly committed to the unity stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Our support for the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is long standing as indeed for an inclusive political outlook that encourages ethnic harmony. It is in Sri Lanka’s own interest that the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity, within a united Sri Lanka, are fulfilled. That applies equally to the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government on meaningful devolution, including the 13th Amendment to the Constitution”.
Sri Lanka should not consider that India’s interest and involvement in the post-war reconciliation process as a case of a foreign country intervening in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka illegally. India is guided by a mindset that there is a moral responsibility on her part to intervene and bring about a final settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Colombo Port City Economic Commission
Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill which was challenged in the Supreme Court, purported to establish an Economic Commission for the administration of the Port City, built by a construction company of the Chinese Government, adjacent to the Colombo Port. This Bill seeks to grant extensive powers to an institution called the Colombo Port Economic Commission, whose members will be appointed by the President of Sri Lanka. According to the provisions in the Bill, the supervisory power of the Parliament of Sri Lanka has been excluded, both regarding the manner of exercising the powers granted by the proposed legislation to the Commission, and also regarding the selection of persons to be appointed as members of the Commission.
Moreover, regarding the activities that take place within the Colombo Port City area, some institutions of the Government of Sri Lanka are excluded from exercising their authority. Dr. Wijedasa Rajapaksa, in his written submissions submitted to the Supreme Court, in connection with the petition filed challenging the Bill, makes specific reference to the Customs Ordinance. He gives the warning that there may be importation of prohibited substances such as drugs, weapons, etc. He points out that in the event of any violation of International Treaties and Conventions, within the Port City area, it is not the Commission but the Sri Lankan Government that is responsible.
In view of the intense power struggle between China on the one hand and India and other partners of the Quad, led by the USA on the other hand, for dominance in the Indian Ocean area, the Parliament of Sri Lanka passing legislation for permitting such a high degree of autonomy to an administrative authority that can be controlled by the Chinese government will be considered by India as a serious threat to its security. This pro-China foreign policy orientation will also be an obstacle for Sri Lanka to promote friendly relations with democratic countries in the West determined to thwart Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean region.
The Philippines and SL combine
Singer Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), who was a big hit in this part of the world, singing with the group Friends, continues to make her presence felt on TNGlive – the platform, on social media, that promotes talent from all corners of the globe.
She made her third appearance, last Saturday, May 1st, but this time she had for company Sean, from the Philippines, who, incidentally, was in the finals of The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
Their repertoire, for TNGlive, on the evening of May 1st, including hit songs, like ‘Something Stupid,’ ‘Let Your Love Flow,’ (Sean), ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love,’ ‘Your Man,’ (Sean), ‘Crazy,’ ‘Great Pretender,’ (Sean), ‘Amazing,’ and ‘Stand By Me.’
It was a very entertaining programme, and Sean certainly did prove why he needed to be a finalist at the prestigious The Voice of Switzerland 2020.
You can take in the TNGlive scene, on a regular basis, by joining the Public Group TNGlive, on social media (Facebook).
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