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Importing of liquefied natural gas – Past efforts and future prospects



By Dr Janaka Ratnasiri

The Island of 29.12.2020 carried a write up by Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe in which he queried about the “very severe uncertainty of the source and the means of supplying the LNG necessary to operate the 300 MW LNG plant and the necessity for pursuing options for more LNG plants with India and Japan and now with the USA”? Though the term “LNG” appears here, it is something new to people in the country. Hence this write-up is published to apprise the readers what LNG is and highlight the progress made so far in procuring the gas, based on information available in the public domain.



Natural gas (NG), though a new energy source yet to be introduced in Sri Lanka, has been in use world-wide since the middle of the last century. NG has been used in a variety of applications such as power generation, space heating, household cooking, thermal energy generation in industries, running motor vehicles and as a feedstock for a wide range of industries including fertilizers. Today, natural gas has a share of about 27% in the overall global energy supply and 23% in the generation of electricity.

Natural gas is the preferred fuel today for generating heat and power because of its many benefits. It does not produce any ash or particulates or smoke or toxic gases such as Sulphur Dioxide or toxic heavy metals like Mercury, Arsenic, Cobalt, Chromium or radionuclides, on combustion like in the case of coal or oil. Even the Oxides of Nitrogen produced is minimal and Carbon Dioxide produced is no more than 50% of what a similar capacity coal power plant produces. Hence many countries switch from coal to NG with the objective of reducing the emission of Carbon Dioxide which the countries have committed to under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Though nearly 100 countries have been producing NG world-wide, amounting to about 4,000 Billion cubic metres in 2019, only about 65 countries have produced more than 1 Billion cm each annually. Among the Indian Ocean rim countries, NG is produced in Qatar, Malaysia, Brunei, Tanzania, Myanmar, Indonesia and Australia. Natural gas is transported across continents in pipelines extending thousands of kilometres. For transporting across oceans, the gas is first converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG) by cooling down to -162 oC when its volume reduces to 1/600 of the original value.

Transportation of LNG across oceans is done in purposely built carriers with capacity between 150,000 and 250,000 cubic metres (cm) of LNG. Loading and unloading of LNG require special terminals having deep jetties which are costly to build. Once imported, LNG is converted into gas and stored under pressure for distribution among consumers in pipelines or as compressed natural gas (CNG) in cylinders. For distant consumers, LNG itself is transported in insulated containers by road trucks to consumer points.



During the past 20 years, there were several unsolicited proposals received for importing LNG, some through the Board of Investment (BOI) and others through political entities. Most of them were either rejected or withdrawn for various reasons, one being lack of transparency, but a few are still awaiting the green light from the Government. Though the Ministry of Petroleum had the authority to consider these proposals, they appeared to be rather reluctant to venture into a new area unknown hitherto, and took no action.

In the meantime, a representative of an Indian Gas Company visited Sri Lanka in mid-2016 and offered to bring LNG from their terminal in Kochin, Kerala. The terminal was being operated below capacity and the Company wanted to sell their surplus gas to Sri Lanka at the same rate they are paying for the imported gas with a slight mark up. They too did not receive any positive response.

When Sri Lanka PM met Indian PM in New Delhi in April 2017, the two heads of states entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for collaboration in several sectors including the power sector, under which importing of LNG and building a 500 MW gas power plant were included. The same Indian Company who offered to bring LNG was named as the Indian counterpart.

In 2016, Japan also had offered to build a 500 MW coal power plant which the Sri Lanka Government had accepted. However, with the government’s change of policy to shift from coal to gas for power generation, the government requested Japan to change its offer to a gas power plant of same capacity which Japan agreed to. The Cabinet of Ministers (COM) on 11.07.2017 accepted the two proposals to build gas power plants each with capacity 500 MW offered by India and Japan.

This was followed up by a decision taken by the COM on 27.02.2018 to grant approval for Sri Lanka to establish a tripartite joint venture (TJV) comprising 15% equity held by Sri Lanka, 47.5% by nominee of India and 37.5% by nominee of Japan for the purpose of implementing the project.

The COM also decided to vest authority with the newly established Sri Lanka Gas Terminal Company Ltd. (SLGTC), a fully-owned subsidiary of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), to enter into Agreements with the Indian and Japanese parties. The SLGTC was also nominated as the Developer for the Project. It is surprising why SLPA was authorized by the Government to import LNG when it has no mandate for it.

A MOU was signed among foreign members of the TJV and the SLGTC on 09.04.2018 probably confirming the responsibilities and commitments of each partner, which are still not made public. It is not known whether India and Japan would share the cost of the project and if so, in what ratio or jointly undertake its operation and maintenance or make in-kind contribution of transferring technology.



A pre-feasibility study (PFS) was undertaken in 2017 by one of the Japanese partners of the TJV, which had recommended setting up a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) moored initially in the South Port breakwater of Colombo Port. According to the PFS, the FSRU will have a draught of 12.5 m. The cost is expected to be around USD 225 Million and can be set up in 2.5 years.

A report by ADB on the proposed National Port Master Plan– Volume 2 (Part 5) released in February 2020, includes a section on FSRU to be located within the Port premises and gives details of its design and operation. ( According to this study, the gas pipelines will connect the FSRU to the existing power plants at Kelanitissa and Kerawalapitiya laid part under water and part over land through the city and that the maximum send-out capacity of the of the terminal will be around 3.8 Mt LNG annually, which is on the high side.

Having found the project feasible, the TJV engaged the Environmental Resources Management (ERM) of Japan, to undertake an EIA study for the project which was completed in August 2019. The EIA Report was open for public scrutiny during December 2019. It is the general practice and a legal requirement to conduct a public hearing on the EIA report based on public comments received on it. However, there was neither a public hearing nor any announcement made as to whether the EIA Report was accepted or not, though almost one year has lapsed since closing of public comments.

The Writer responded highlighting shortcomings in many areas including discrepancies in capacity estimates, alternative supplies, exclusion zones, impact on Port operation, lack of mechanism for issuing operator licences and monitoring, issues with the site, safety aspects, lack of fire-fighting facilities, issues on routing the pipeline along city streets and issues on procurement of LNG, but received not even an acknowledgement or an invitation for a hearing.



In March 2019, the GoSL requested ADB for technical and financial assistance to conduct a detailed feasibility study on establishing the FSRU. The proposal named the CEB as the implementing agency and wanted the Technical Assistance Package (TAP) to include building the capacity of CEB to undertake the assignment. The ADB, in June 2009 approved an allocation of USD 225,000 as a grant to implement the feasibility study, including training of the CEB staff. The ADB study is expected to be completed by May 2020. (

The package envisaged hiring on short-term basis experts on LNG Infrastructure Design; Marine Engineering; NG Pipeline Planning & Design and Financial & Commercial aspects to work out the optimal capacity for meeting the demand for using the gas for operating the existing and proposed new gas turbine power plants. The package also included holding training workshops to build the capacity of CEB engineers to handle the operation of the gas supply to the power plants.

Though the consultancy requires initial assessment of capacity of CEB staff to handle LNG import, being electrical engineers, one may safely assume that their capacity to undertake this assignment is almost nil. It is expected that the operation of the FSRU itself will be the responsibility of the supplier. It is surprising why ADB agreed to train a set of electrical engineers who are not qualified to work with LNG when LNG importing is outside the mandate of CEB.



The findings of the feasibility study are not available in the public domain yet, though supposed to have been completed more than six months ago. The ADB report is expected to include draft of request for proposals (RFP) from prospective suppliers for establishing the FSRU. This needs Cabinet approval before announcing, appointment of Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) and Cabinet appointed Negotiation Committee (CANC). Once bids are received, it is necessary to have them evaluated by the TEC and approval by the CNC and finally by the Cabinet before the award of the contract is made. All these will take a minimum of two years going by the past experience.

Once the contractor is selected, CEB will have to negotiate the financial package with the contractor and considering the country’s poor credit rating internationally, it will be difficult to raise the finances through commercial banks, unless a multi-lateral financial institute like IMF or World Bank comes to Sri Lanka’s rescue or the TJV partners will contribute and this process itself will take more than a year.

These negotiations including signing contracts and the lead time in securing a FSRU and setting it up will take a minimum of another 3 years. This means that the country cannot expect to have the benefit of LNG this side of 6 years.




During the Yahapalana regime, the function of importing LNG and its distribution was vested in the Ministry of Petroleum through a gazette notification announced on 15.09.2015. However, during the subsequent regime, this function was entrusted to CEB by a decision of the COM. In the interim Cabinet appointed under the current regime, the function of “importing, refining, storage, distribution and marketing, coordination and implementation of petroleum-based products and natural gas” was assigned to the Ministry of Power and Energy by the Gazette Notification No. 2153/12 of 10.12.2019. Subsequently, with the appointment of the new Cabinet after the general election in August 2020, the Ministry of Energy was assigned the above functions related to natural gas.

A separate ADB publication on “Sri Lanka Energy Sector Assessment, Strategy, and Road Map” released in December 2019 says with regard to building LNG delivery infrastructure that “Since the LNG terminal may be used by many stakeholders for importation and storage, the terminal need not be under the CEB or power sector utilities and a more suitable arrangement would be a multiuser terminal facilitated by petroleum sector institutions”.

Surprisingly, the recommendation of this ADB report contradicts what is included in the ADB’s TAP referred to earlier where ADB has agreed to build capacity of CEB staff to handle operation of the proposed LNG terminal. As a matter of fact, the establishment of SLGTC has already been authorized by the COM on 27.02.2018 to handle matters related to LNG and NG matters. Further, the CEB Act does not give CEB any mandate to import fuel.

It is therefore surprising that the Government has sought assistance from the ADB to build the capacity of CEB to import LNG for power plant operation, as described in the previous section. Regrettably, the two Government institutions, SLPA and CEB are moving in different paths to achieve the same objective.

While the Government has given clear directive that matters pertaining to natural gas should be handled by the Ministry of Energy, it is not prudent to allow the CEB to handle it on grounds that it is CEB who will be consuming natural gas. If this is allowed, next time CEB will want to import petroleum oil as well for use in power plants.




With the closure of the Public Utilities Commission, it is now necessary to have a separate body under the purview of the Ministry of Energy to serve as the regulator and monitor for the gas sub-sector in the country. This body should be responsible for granting approval for all LNG/NG projects, monitor their operation and ensure all safety aspects are complied with according to international classified society standards, grant licenses for LNG/NG system operators, maintenance and installation technicians and safety officers.

It should be granted authority to determine prices levied for selling LNG/NG for different purposes; power generation, industrial heating, commercial and domestic application and as industrial feedstock, and should have powers similar to what the PUCSL was granted. In order to make this body effective, it is necessary to recruit staff with good academic background and experience working in the petroleum field and given further training enabling them to undertake the expected assignments efficiently. However, if CEB is permitted to import LNG, it is doubtful whether CEB will want another body to regulate and monitor them, as happening currently.



The Government had received several proposals for importing LNG during the past 20 years, but none were considered seriously. Interventions by foreign governments in 2017 prompted commencement of negotiations with them for importing LNG through a Tripartite Joint Venture set up three years ago. During this period, a pre-feasibility study including environment impact studies was undertaken which has recommended setting up a floating terminal within the Colombo Port premises. Subsequently, a detailed feasibility study was also undertaken findings of which are yet to be published.

There is lack of clarity as to who should import LNG and distribute the gas. Calling for proposals from prospective suppliers, their selection, signing of contracts, raising finances, getting Cabinet approvals and actual construction of the terminal will take at least another six years going by the past experience, unless the President directs the relevant officials to fast tract the process, enabling early realization of the objectives given in the Saubhagye Dekma Policy Framework.

There are however, faster ways of getting LNG into the country at least to operate the first 300 MW gas fired power plant bypassing all these procedures, but their discussion will be kept for a later article to save space here.

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Rev Fr. Eugene Herbert’s loss should result in breaking down societal imbalances



The river we step in is not the river we stand on

By B Nimal Veerasingham

Years ago, when visiting New Orleans, Louisiana, I found myself wandering through the sprawling campuses of Loyola University. It is not far from the mighty Mississippi river flowing almost 6,000 km and economically powering significant parts of US Upper Midwest. In an unassuming quite corner under a well branched shady tree I noticed a memorial structure commemorating the killing of eight people in El Salvador, including six Jesuit priests in 1989. The six priests were also professors at the university of Central America in El Salvador at that time.

Peace memorial

This May, as per Loyola’s ‘Maroon’, at the memorial event held at the Peace Quad at Loyola university New Orleans, now dedicated as a memorial to this tragedy, Prof Alvaro Alcazar addressed the gathering. ‘The colonial power that is still very much in place in Latin America has created a ‘faith’ that is blind to or silent about injustice. It was this faith that inspired the Jesuit’s activism, but it cost them their lives’.The involvement of US in this tragedy was also addressed by Prof. Susan Weisher something the United States has never taken accountability for.

US Foreign Policy

The many contradictions and positivity of US foreign policy and its vast turns and switches in reaching many parts of the world is like the mighty Mississippi that prowls almost through or parts of 32 US States. The depth and power of this vast river cannot be estimated by mere width and length. Hurricane Catarina breaching the dikes nearly destroyed the entire city of New Orleans.

Fr Eugene Herbert memorial

Early this year a memorial statue of Rev Fr. Eugene Herbert SJ was declared opened by Rt Reverend Ponniah Joseph, Bishop of Batticaloa in the outskirts of Batticaloa town right by the shores of Batticaloa lagoon. The statue was placed midway between the Batticaloa town, where he lived and taught, and the town of Eravur, where he ‘disappeared’ along with one of his students at the Eastern Technical Institute, where he was a Director. He was on his way on the scooter to arrange a safe way for the nuns trapped in a convent in the nearby town of Valaichchenai engulfed by ethnic riots.

Rev Fr Eugene Herbert was born in Jennings Louisiana. He joined the Jesuits on 14 Aug. 1941, while still in his late teens. He volunteered to join the ‘Ceylon Mission’ and arrived in Sri Lanka in 1948. As in the traditions of Jesuits as providers of high-quality education from their founding of their first school in 1548, Rev Fr Herbert served particularly in two schools in the East, St. Josephs College Trincomalee and St. Michael’s College Batticaloa. It is well known that Education in the Jesuit tradition is a call to human excellence. It develops the whole person from intellect and imagination to emotions and conscience. It approaches academic subjects holistically, exploring the connections among facts, questions. Insights, conclusions, problems and solutions. It has succeeded in a variety of cultures because it adapts to the context of the learner.


Rev Fr. Herbert was a multi-talented genius excelling in music, science, technical studies, vocational studies and to be outdone of it all, in the basketball courts. In all disciplines, he brought a stricter structure that is besides excelling in the fundamentals, incorporating situational strategies encompassing critical thinking and adaptation. This was greatly visible none other than in the basketball courts where he injected exuberance and counter strategies to conventional wisdom. Saint Michael’s College Batticaloa up until his arrival in 1974 just was crawling in all Island Championships more so maintaining the status-quo. But Rev Fr Herbert revolutionised the outcome when Saint Michael’s started winning All Island Championships almost in all age groups against much more resourced Colombo schools.

Excellence in Basketball

Human excellence as we all know is not rocket science but striving to be the best with practice, discipline and endurance. But Rev Fr. Herbert’s presence provided the boys from the East who often lacked a concentrated leadership with clear and precise roadmap. The structural imbalance whether it be not so well built or barefooted at matches, didn’t determine the outcome. Rev Fr, Herbert provided energy and leadership both morally and corporally to the boys of the East who faced systemic roadblocks by not getting the direction and leadership. This was further evidenced by Rev Fr. Herbert’s active and emotional coaching that led the College teams to ignore opponent’s big city environments and large support base, but to keep concentrated on the final execution, the championship.

The referees in matches, where Saint Michael’s played paid greater attention to their decisions something that became standard when dealing with someone who knew the rulebook top to bottom. Rev Fr. Herbert quite often, if not in all matches, where St. Michaels College played could be seen challenging the referees for their inaccurate or missed calls. He always carried a basketball rulebook and could be seen feverishly waving the exact page of the rule and exclaims at top pitch when the referees failed to observe especially when the game was heated, and the difference between was swinging by one or two points.

Reaching the stars

I can remember that Rev Fr. Herbert once refused to participate in a Consolation Finals of a tournament. The team wanted at least to bring home a Consolation Finals Trophy, having failed to reach the finals. Rev Fr, Herbert looked at it differently. ‘We came here for nothing else but for the Championship trophy. Now that we couldn’t, we are catching the 8.00 PM night train tonight back to Batticaloa – and by the way, the practice for the next tournament will begin tomorrow evening, be on time’.

Rev Fr. Herbert’s humanity was visible in practically everything he exemplified, calculating the speed of the travelling train to explaining the mechanism of automobiles and the melodies from his clarinet. Between the matches and practices in Colombo he said mass at the Jesuit residence at Bambalapitiya. As teenagers with expectations we got confused sometimes with his message from the pulpit. ‘We strive to become the best and win. But at times that is not possible, and we have to accept defeat gracefully. But we have to rise again learning from our mistakes’.On another occasion, the security person refused to allow us to sleep on the floor of an enclosed classroom.

The train was late, and it was late in the evening; there was no one to instruct the security to open the classroom. He was ready to allow only the priest to the reserved quarter upstairs. ‘I will stay with the team and do not need any special arrangement,’ said Rev Fr without blinking, sleeping the entire night with us on the ground of an open but roofed half basketball-court, using his cassock as the bedsheet.

Rev Fr. Herbert exemplified through his life the true meaning of his calling and forging a future full of hope to a population that was at the receiving end of things for a longest while.

Last letter

In one of his last letters to his fellow Jesuit in New Orleans he wrote,’ Enough for our trials. The Lord continues to take care of us. I had really planned to write to USAID for another grant. We are running rehabilitation courses for ex-militants and other youth. Every four months we train 20 boys in welding, 20 in refrigeration repairs and 25 in house wiring. Every six months we train 15 in radio and TV repair. This is in addition to our regular three -year course in general mechanical trades’.

‘Pray for us. God willing the current instability and disturbances will be changed by the time I write again. We are used to vast fluctuations in fortune’.

Rev Fr. Herbert’s letter foretells several aspects of humanity that he was called upon to uphold.

The US continues to provide resources to ensure economic wellbeing, stability and peaceful existence across the Globe. The rule of law cannot be simply behavioral codes or identifying the cause or the culprit but ensuring resources and direction for the citizenry in general to break the cycle and rise above injustice. The rule of law cannot be applied differently to different set of people or on a best effort basis.

Breaking down societal imbalances

El Salvador and Sri Lanka were victims of a vicious violent cycle, where Jesuits lost their lives in obeying to their calls from above in their attempt to remake what it ideally should be. Many lost their lives in these cycles of hatred and violence both ordinary and clergy, including my well-liked and ever smiling classmate Rev Fr Savarimuthu Selvarajah. Fr Herbert’s disappearance galvanizes the distrust in our own destiny; many thousands were killed by fellow citizens than in the nearly 500 years of combined occupation by the foreign colonial powers.

The mighty Mississippi River, which travels almost 6,000 km is hardly comparable to a mere 56 km-long Batticaloa lagoon. Yet the son who was born on the shores of Mississippi became the true son by the shores of the Batticaloa lagoon.

This August 15th marks the 32nd anniversary of Rev Fr. Eugene Herbert’s ‘disappearance’. Ironically, at the time of his disappearance he was a year less a day from celebrating his Golden Jubilee in joining the Jesuits (14th August 1941). No one has been brought to date to justice or rather under the clauses of the ‘rule of law’. The one who held the rulebook up above his head is still denied justice.Batticaloa and the entire Sri Lanka lost one of its true sons, and he just happened to be born in the United States of America.


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Vijaya Nandasiri : Losing it in laughs



By Uditha Devapriya

Vijaya Nandasiri left us six years ago. The epitome of mass market comedy in Sri Lanka, Nandasiri belonged to a group of humourists, which included Rodney Warnapura and Giriraj Kaushalya, who redefined satire in the country. Nandasiri’s aesthetic was not profound, nor was it subtle. It was not aimed at a particular segment. Indeed, there was nothing elitist or pretentious about it; if you could take to it, you took to it. It was hard not to laugh at him, it was hard not to like him. Indeed, it was hard not to sympathise with him.

In the movies, Sri Lanka’s first great humourist was Eddie Jayamanne. Typically cast as the servant or bumpkin, Jayamanne could never let go of his theatrical roots. More often than not his laughs targeted a particular segment, so much so that when Lester Peries cast him as the father of the hero’s lover in Sandesaya, he still seemed stuck in those movies he had made and starred in with Rukmani Devi. Many years later he was cast as a close friend of the protagonist in Kolamba Sanniya, in many ways Sri Lanka’s equivalent of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Even there, he could not quite escape his origins.

In Kolamba Sanniya, Jayamanne played opposite Joe Abeywickrema. Hailing from a different background, more rural than suburban, Abeywickrema had by then become our greatest character actor. Dabbling in comedy for so long, he found a different niche after Mahagama Sekara cast him in Thunman Handiya and D. B. Nihalsinghe featured him as Goring Mudalali in Welikathara. Yet he could never let go of his comic garb. Cast for the most as an outsider in the cities and the suburbs – of whom the epitome has to be the protagonist of Kolamba Sanniya – Abeywickrema discovered his élan in the role of the man who falls into a series of absurd situations, but remains unflappably calm no matter what.

There is nothing profoundly or intellectually funny in Kolamba Sanniya. Like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the humour emerges from the characters’ imperfections and foibles: their way of looking at the world, their accents, their lack of polish and elegance. The dialogues are not convincing, and some of the situations – like the hero’s family discovering a bidet for the very first time – are downright silly, if not condescending. What strengthens the story is Joe Abeywickrema’s performance; specifically, his ability to convince us that, despite the situations he is being put through, he can stand on his own. Like the protagonist of Punchi Baba, left to take care of an abandoned baby, he is helpless but not lacking control. He often makes us think he’s losing it, but then gets back on track.

Vijaya Nandasiri was cut from a different cloth. In many respects he was Abeywickrema’s descendant, yet in many others he differed from him. Whereas Abeywickrema discovered his niche playing characters who could conceal the absurdity of the situations they were in, Nandasiri’s characters could only fail miserably. Abeywickrema convinced us that he was in control; Nandasiri could not. As Rajamanthri, the politician who for most of us epitomised the silliness and stupidity of our brand of lawmakers, he frequently parrots out that he’s an honest man. Abeywickrema could say the same thing and get away with it. Nandasiri could not: when he says he’s honest, you knew at once that he was anything but.

Nandasiri revelled in having no self-respect even when we ascribed to him some sense of honour and dignity. In Nonawarune Mahathwarune the ubiquitous Premachandra flirts with the woman next door (Sanoja Bibile), though we don’t get why the latter never returns his affections. As Senarath Dunusinghe in Yes Boss, the situation is reversed: he has to suffer another man flirting with his wife, the issue being that the man happens to be his employer who doesn’t know that they are married. The whole plot pivots on two things: the fact that his boss doesn’t like him, and the fact that he has to disguise himself as an older husband of his own wife to conceal their marriage from his boss.

In his own special way, Nandasiri went on to represent our contempt for womanisers, cuckolds, and politicians, by turning them into easily recognisable and easily mockable stereotypes. In Nonawarune Mahathwarune he was the womaniser, in Yes Boss he was the cuckold – though his wife only pretends to give in to their employer’s advances – and as Rajamanthri, easily the most recognisable comic figure here during the past 20 years, he was the politician. It was as Rajamanthri that he prospered, even when playing characters who only vaguely reminded us of him, such as the antihero of Sikuru Hathe.

Many years ago, I watched a mini series on Rupavahini revolving around a politician and his driver. Vijaya Nandasiri played the politician, Vasantha Kumarasiri’s driver. Early on I sensed something odd about them. Their voices were different. The dubbing team had synced one actor’s voice with the other, a trick that survived the first 10 minutes of the first episode, after which these two meet a horrible accident that (inexplicably) leaves onlookers and relatives confused as to whose body belongs to whom.

Both are near dying. A quick surgery is hence followed by a quick plastic surgery, in which the wrong face is placed on the wrong body. The voices now revert to the correct actor. In hindsight this was an unnecessary gimmick, but also a useful trick, since for the rest of the story the driver becomes the believer in authority and the politician the believer in Marxist politics. Crude, and rather one-dimensional, but fun. And it wasn’t just a change of voice: it was also a change of spirit, of two contradictory personalities transplanted to each other. That was Nandasiri’s charm. You could never anticipate anyone other than him when he was there. For the mini series to work, hence, he had to be himself.

If Joe was redeemable because he was at the receiving end of some confusing dilemma (like the baby he raises in Punchi Baba, or the lifestyle in Colombo he gets used to in Kolamba Sanniya, Vijaya was unredeemable because he was at the other end, always provoking if not unleashing some havoc. It’s not a coincidence that, in this respect, his characters were always middle class, consumerist, very often in professions that called for security, stability, and status: as a Junior Visualiser in an ad agency in Yes Boss, as the chief in a security firm in Sir Last Chance, and as a police sergeant in Magodi Godayi. These symbolised a lifestyle that Nandasiri’s antiheroes sought to subvert and to defy.

Where he was his own man – the magul kapuwa in Sikuru Hathe or Rajamanthri in so many movies and serials – he wasn’t a provocateur, but a lovable antihero. And like all antiheroes, he conceals goodness because he despises it: in Sikuru Hathe, for instance, he commits one deception after another for his family’s sake, especially his daughter’s.

Where he was paired with another actor, I think, Nandasiri failed. He was his man, so when in Methuma he and Sriyantha Mendis are mistaken for two lunatics by a veda mahaththaya in a village, he could not really shine the way he had in Ethuma. Even in Magodi Godayi, he was less than he usually was whenever he was opposite Gamini Susiriwardana. Yes Boss and Nonawarune Mahathwarune had him among a plethora of other actors, to be sure, but then he was on his own there. There are moments in Yes Boss when Lucky Dias nearly outshines him. But Nandasiri gets back on track; he exerts his dominance again.

In other words, Nandasiri could give his best only if his co-star was alive to his range, or if his character was of a lesser pedigree than his co-star. That is what happens in King Hunther, where he could be himself opposite Mahendra Perera for two reasons: because Mahendra was a fairly good comic actor himself, and because Nandasiri’s character, Hunther, hails from such a different world that the present (in which Mahendra is an escaped convict) appears outlandish to him. Hunther to get used to this world, and that means getting used to the first two people he befriends: Mahendra and Anarkali Akarsha.

Vijaya Nandasiri’s ultimate triumph was his gift at getting us to feel for unfeeling antiheroes. Sometimes he could trump us, as Abeywickrema often did, like in King Hunther, when he hears that the politician who befriends him to further his career has decided to kill him off, and surreptitiously escapes. You never thought he was capable of upping the antagonist, but he does just that, providing us with the final twist in the story.

He couldn’t behave this way as Rajamanthri because he was not reflecting our contempt for figures of authority, but downright embodying it. When, towards the end of Suhada Koka, he is killed off by an assassin acting on the orders of the second-in-command to the Prime Minister (the latter played by W. Jayasiri), the film preaches to us a homily on the corrupting influence of power, a warning for all politicians. But then, just as you come to terms with this conclusion, he wakes up; the whole scene, it turns out, was a nightmare.

Ordinarily, you’d think he would learn from such a nightmare. But he doesn’t. Even after that harrowing fantasy, he is soon back to being the pompous figure he always was. Yet in that brief sequence he told us everything that needed to be told about how the corrupt remain corrupt, and how irredeemable they are. Was it a cruel coincidence, then, that the only time Rajamanthri was killed off like that marked the last time Vijaya Nandasiri played Rajamanthri? We may never know, but perhaps it was more than a coincidence. Perhaps it was the only fitting end to such a career that could be filmed.The writer is an international relations analyst, researcher, and columnist who can be reached at

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22A: Composition of CC problematic; ensures government domination



By Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne
President’s Counsel

The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution Bill was presented to Parliament on 10 August 2022. The earlier Bill, which was published in the Gazette in June 2022, lapsed as it was not presented before the recent prorogation of Parliament.

The August Bill is an improvement on the June Bill from a Nineteenth Amendment perspective. Under 19A, Ministers and Deputy Ministers were appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. This was done away with by the Twentieth Amendment. The June Bill sought to bring back the requirement of the Prime Minister’s advice, but that provision would not apply during the present Parliament. The August Bill does not have such an exception.

According to the June Bill, where the President is of the opinion that the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the present Parliament, the Prime Minister can be removed. Such a provision is not found in the August Bill.

Under 19A, the Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were ex officio members of the Constitutional Council (CC), while the President would nominate one MP. Five persons were nominated jointly by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, two of them being MPs. In making such nominations, they were required to consult the leaders of political parties and independent groups represented in Parliament to ensure that the CC reflects the pluralistic character of Sri Lankan society, including professional and social diversity. One MP was nominated by the MPs belonging to parties other than those to which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition belonged. The three persons from outside Parliament shall be persons of eminence and integrity who have distinguished themselves in public or professional life and who are not members of any political party. Parliament shall approve their nomination. In practice, such approval was a mere formality as they were nominated jointly and after a consultative process.

The August Bill, like the June Bill, proposes the re-establishment of the CC but makes a crucial change. The five persons referred to are not appointed pursuant to the joint nomination of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. One MP is nominated by the Government Parliamentary Group, and the other MP is nominated by the party to which the Leader of the Opposition belongs. The three persons from outside are nominated not jointly by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition but by the Speaker in consultation with them. The smaller parties are not consulted.

This deviation from 19A gives rise to several issues. If the Speaker is partisan (and there have been several such Speakers), the Government could ensure that all three CC members from outside are their own nominees. The Government, by virtue of its majority, would have no difficulty getting Parliamentary approval. The smaller parties would have no say in the nomination of these three persons. Thus, in the current Parliament, parties such as the TNA, NPP, EPDP, TNPF etc., who together account for twenty-five MPs, would not be consulted.

The 22A Bill says that in nominating the two MPs and the three persons from outside Parliament, Members of Parliament shall ensure that the CC reflects the pluralist character of Sri Lankan society. This would be most difficult as they would be nominated by separate processes. Under 19A, on the other hand, that was ensured as the nomination was jointly by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition after consulting the leaders of all parties in Parliament.

The composition of the CC is of crucial importance for the achievement of a national consensus on high-level appointments. The approval of the CC is a pre-requisite for the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal and appointments to high positions such as the Attorney-General and the Inspector-General of Police. Appointments to independent Commissions are made on the recommendation of the CC. As the other seven members of the CC are all Members of Parliament and may be swayed by political considerations, the three members who are appointed from outside have a vital role to play. They should be persons acceptable to all and who can have a moderating influence on the politicians.

An argument that has been adduced by the Government is that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition may not agree on the to be nominated jointly. No such issue arose both under the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Amendments. Members of Parliament nominated jointly acted with responsibility. Distinguished personalities appointed by joint nomination included Justice Dr A.R.B. Amarasinghe, Professor Colvin Gunaratne, Dr Jayantha Dhanapala, A.T. Ariyaratne, Shibley Aziz, and Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy, Javid Yusuf and Professor N. Selvakkumaran.

That the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition may not agree is no reason to give the power of appointment to the Speaker. The writer proposes that the 19A provisions be re-enacted with the addition that if the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition do not agree on the nominees within a stipulated period, the Speaker will make the nominations in consultation with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the leaders of the smaller parties.

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