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Pohottuwa dispute: Corruption and Ingratitude

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Ingratitude is a trait common to mankind, more pronounced in this part of the world than anywhere else. Anyone who has read Shakespeare’s ” Merchant of Venice” would not have missed that part of Portia’s outburst – “I hate ingratitude more in a man than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness or any trait of vice where strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.” This beautiful and very apt quote seems to fit well to Sri Lankan politics, no less to the current “dog-fight” among some of the Podujana Perumana brethren, where Wimal Weerawansa has been made to stand in the dock. The trait of ingratitude, although given more prominence over vainness, babbling and corruption by Portia, seems to be well balanced with the section of the Podujana Perumana clan, which has emerged with daggers drawn against Weerawansa.

The whole country knows who the “kasakarayas” were in the run-up to the presidential election, and later eeneral elections in 2020. These “kasakarayas,” led by Weerawansa, included the likes of Gammanpila, Vasudeva, Dayasiri J, Tissa Vitharana, Dinesh, Gunewardene, Roshan R and certain others, who, by their rhetorical and debating skills, had a Herculean task in camouflaging the Opposition allegations relating, inter alia, to drug offences where a VIP took the extreme step of taking a helicopter ride to smother the polluted air, the Malwana episode which stinks to high heaven, the dual citizenship issue, the motor races, and last, but certainly not the least, the Daisy Aachchie’s gem tale. Ironically, the helicopter beneficiary has been the most vociferous critic of Weerawansa. To now make “karapincha” out of them speaks volumes of the character of those behind the scenes of this sordid endeavour. It only provides chunks (not morsels) of food to appease the appetite of the mass media, the Opposition and enemies of the government. It would not be surprising if the “given-up for dead” UNP of Ranil W rises like Phoenix out of the ashes!

 

The Right of Expression

The right of expression is a fundamental right, more-so in a political outfit expressly formed as a Peramuna (a front) although it is simultaneously recognised as a political party. The NFF, headed by Weeraawansa, is a constituent member of this Peramuna, which backed the manifesto of President Gotabhaya and the SLPP in the General Election that followed. It is clear from the many blunders that have emerged, the contradictions so apparent in the recent past, that there is some hidden force which seems to go counter to the agenda of President Gotabhaya, and he is hamstrung without control of the Podujana Peramuna, but invariably has to face the music at the end.

It may be a far-sighted move for future prospects of designing individuals, which President Gotabaya has to be careful and mindful of. The tail should not be permitted to wag the dog! The victory of GR can also be mostly attributed to his own record as Defence Secretary. One may not always agree with the politics of Weerawansa, and his NFF, but in this instance he seemed quite right in his analysis that President Gotabaya needs to strengthen himself with some power and authority in the Podujana Peramuna. The SLPP certainly did not succeed on its own with its dwindling popularity and strength, although PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s image and record contributed, in no small measure, greatly assisted by the horrendous conduct of the yahapalana regime! Sri Lankan people forget everything in two weeks, as Prabhakaran quite rightly said not so long ago. Weerawansa’s comment is timely and worth serious thought.

Let ingratitude bring its retribution in good time.

 

I. P. C. MENDIS



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Opinion

President’s ‘order’ to produce 70% from renewable energy: A response

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Dr Janaka Rathnasiri (The Island, 1st March 2021) has not filled-up the relatively simple table of electricity costs, when the President’s order is implemented. I reproduce the table.

I gave him a clue (last column) by stating production costs approved and published by PUCSL for 2019. Wisdom acquired from internet on grants to reduce greenhouse gases may to be translated as reduced prices paid to electricity producers from renewable energy. Dr Rathnasiri may reflect them in production costs, as he fills-up the fourth column.

Filling-up the table needs no knowledge of electrical engineering, power system engineering, renewable energy technology or utility experience. It requires only elementary arithmetic. Dr Rathnasiri has to ensure 13% + A + B = 70% (equal to President’s order).

If 2030 is too far ahead to visualize, Dr Rathnasiri may fill-up the table for year 2021. The only number that he cannot change is 9.92, which also reflects another “order” from the government not to increase electricity prices. PUCSL, too, claimed credit many times over, for not increasing electricity prices. So, Rs 9.92 per unit has to stay.

 

Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya

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Imran Khan – rare blend of politics and sportsmanship

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By the time you read this, our nation’s Goose may have been cooked in Geneva, and only the bare bones are left for political pundits to chew on. I have been consistent in my belief that our performance from 30/1 onwards was unprincipled and reckless. I am less concerned about whether the UNHCR has the authority to take us further along to judicial prosecution or not, but I am more worried about the moral and ethical dimensions of how we have handled the matter of quelling the murderous LTTE and its supporters.

When the terrorists disdainfully rejected one of the several peace offers of the Kumaratunge-led Government, Kadirgamar eloquently summed up the situation and his disappointment, ending with “If it is War the LTTE wants, then War they will get”. And boy, did they not get it! I was reminded of the lines spoken by Julius Caesar to the emissary sent by the Senate, to walk him into a death-trap “Cannot is false, dare not falser, tell them that Caesar will not come”.

The usual political pundits and social media see sinister plans among other things, of the visit of Imran Khan, whose single speech I listened to, displayed a great command of English, depth and clarity of thought, and excellent delivery. Then it crossed my mind that he was after all a product of Oxford for his B.A?. He had also spent a significant part of his life in the UK. To captain Pakistan for a long time, displaying his talent as a formidable fast bowler, an outstanding captain, and an ambitious and persistent politician, he has literally won his place as PM.

It is my belief that quality in a field, different from competitive politics, generally makes for a good politician, rather than those who can boast only of political experience. Imran Khan is by nature, a “team man”. He deserves to be honoured and admired.

He has also been a humane philanthropist, endowing a hospital for cancer patients, reportedly to honour the memory of his mother, who had died of this dread disease. Still, Sri Lanka Cricket, SLC managed to further enhance its already filthy reputation by denying Michael Tissera and Arjuna Ranatunga to a felicitation event. This, once again reinforces my view that sports should not be of concern or interference of politicians. I wish I could have retrieved that memorable speech by Lakshman Kadirgamar, to our cricketers in London while on his way to New York. Sangakkara’s selection to be President of Lords, will keep our flag flying.

I have drifted somewhat from the title of this note. I have no doubt that our counterpart upheld our 2500 years’ Sinhala culture, by delivering his speech with his characteristic oratorical splendour, in “official” Sinhala. I hope that our honoured guest did not choose to match it by replying in Urdu.

I leave it to specialists to explain the links that bring in the East Terminal issue, the recent Modi speech in South India, and the Trinco Oil tanks. We could do with some complex chatter that will stamp us as masters of the art of seeing the sinister implications of even the most harmless exercise of our nations’ hospitality. We are devilishly clever, are we not?

 

Dr UPATISSA PETHIYAGODA

 

 

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Opinion

Electricity for all by year end:

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Prime Minister’s promise

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said at the Kerawalapitiya LNG Project inaugural ceremony, that at present 99% householders had electricity and by the end of the year every household would have electricity. The question is how electricity has been supplied to 99% households.

This brings to my mind the effort of the then Minister for Power and Energy, D. B.Wijethunga, who as far back as the 1980s, had a vision to provide electricity to rural areas. As the provision made available in the annual budget of the CEB was only to extend lines to those suburban areas which were considered profitable, and provision made available in the estimates of the Ministry was meagre, he directed the Secretary to seek foreign funding for rural electrification. It was then that the Asian Development Bank was approached and they agreed, on condition that only those rural areas which were profitable be selected.

On this requirement, the CEB did an exhaustive survey and the ADB, being satisfied, granted the loan. When work started, Members of Parliament rushed to have their villages supplied with electricity. When being told that only those viable are to be supplied, they agreed to fund such villages with their Decentralized Budget allocations. I handled this project at the Ministry level. Credit should be given to the engineer who was entrusted to carry out the project – Maxi Tissera – for his personal dedication. Since then, all successive governments continued to take great interest, as it turned out to be a political issue to entice the village voter. As for the negligible 1% yet to be supplied with electricity, it is due to being in remote places. It is hoped the houses in these remote villages will be provided with Solar panels.

Next, to the LNG plant at Kerawalapitiya which was ceremonially inaugurated, it has a very unpleasant repulsive history. This project should have been constructed about four years back, if not for the scandalous interference of the then Minister for Power Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and the Secretary to the Ministry, Dr. Suren Batagoda, by not approving the tender board decision to award the tender to the lowest local tenderer -Lakdhavani; instead to be awarded to a Chinese construction company, which had quoted higher. This was contested by the local firm. As there was no response to several appeals, the local firm filed action in courts to get redress.

Fortunately, with the defeat of the Yahapalana government, the present Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa intervened, and made the local firm withdraw legal action and awarded the tender to the legitimate lowest bidder – Lakdhavani. If this project was constructed earlier, the country would have saved billions. However, the culprits who delayed this project, for reasons, better not discuss, are free. It is left for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to probe and suitable action be taken, considering it a national crime.

As far as I am aware, subject to correction, a LNG terminal has not been built and when the construction of the LNG plant is completed, it will stand idle till terminal facilities are provided; hence it is suggested that immediate action be taken to have one provided in time, if not already done.

G.A.D.SIRIMAL

[Rtd. Asst, Secretary, SLAS

Ministry for Power and Energy]

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