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Johnston: Govt. did not let pandemic hinder road development programme

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando says the bane of this country is an Opposition that is in the habit of criticising the government for the sake of doing so.

Speaking at the Mandaduwa Grounds in Weeraketiya where the government opened 1,500 roads after being newly constructed or rehabilitated on Saturday, Minister Fernando said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and incumbent government would be known in future as the only administration that delivered all its promises to the people. “Despite the pandemic we continued to work and deliver what we pledged to people. The President in his manifesto promised to develop 100,000 km of roads. We have identified 68,000 roads for development and of them work is in progress in 14,000 roads. Today we declare open 1,500 roads completed within three months. Within the next three months we’ll complete the work of 2,500 more roads. It is of paramount importance for economic development to enable people to go within a couple of hours from one end to the other. These roads will help agriproducts coming to the market and children to go to schools as well as patients to go to hospitals. They will increase connectivity and they would serve as a springboard promoting development,” the Minister said.

“Three months after the inauguration of President Rajapaksa, the country was affected by the pandemic. Our detractors said that we would not be able to get vaccines. Now we have completed vaccinating almost 70 percent of our population. Sri Lanka is among the top ten countries in the world in vaccination success. Despite criticism we continued to work. Despite the effects of pandemic, our government continued to pay our loans while we developed the country.

“We have launched projects to give water and improve other infrastructure to develop this economy.  In the meantime, the process of converting this into a green economy is in progress. We will provide organic fertiliser instead of chemical fertilisers. The Opposition could go on shouting but when the time comes people will understand who did what. The second phase of the Central Expressway and the New Kelani Bridge would be opened by the end of this month.

“I thank World Bank Vice President for South Asian region Hartwig Schafer and Asian Development Bank’s country representative Dr Chen Chen who are with us today to witness the opening of new roads. Our thanks go to the World Bank for giving us USD 500 million to develop the road network of this country.

“There is one Opposition party which cannot find anything good in what we do. They pose themselves as the guardians of suppressed people and instigate people against capitalism. Leaders of that party of the proletarians have billions of rupees in their bank accounts. People have realised their duplicity and double games so their number of seats came down from six to three. Such bankrupt Opposition parties are the bane of this nation,” the Minister said.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and other ministers were also present on the occasion.



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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