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Power Blackout Committee Report:Recommendations run counter to President’s policy

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By Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri

The Minister of Power, four days after assuming duties, had to face an island-wide power blackout which commenced around 12.30 pm on the 17th August and lasted up to 7-8 hours. The following day, he appointed a committee, comprising Ministry officials and power experts, to investigate the matter and submit a report within a week.

 

COMMITTEE APPOINTED
BY THE MINISTER

The Committee comprised two administrative officers, including an Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Power, serving as the Chairman, a Retired Professor of Mechanical Engineering, an Engineer who is a Chairman of a Corporation, two Senior Lecturers in Electrical Engineering, one senior official from the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and one senior official from the Ministry of Power responsible for Renewable Energy Development. The Director General of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) was also nominated but did not serve as there was a separate investigation being undertaken by the PUCSL. With two members from the Ministry, including one in the Chair, and another from CEB, the Committee cannot be considered as independent.

The Committee had met on the 18th and submitted an interim Report, to the Minister, on the 24th, which was also tabled at the Cabinet meeting held on the 26th. The Report was also made available at a press briefing held by the Ministry and the contents herein are taken from this Report. According to the Report, the Committee had visited the Kerawalapitiya Grid Substation (GSS) where the initial fault occurred claimed to be due to a human error, Lakvijaya Power Station (LVPS) at Norochcholai, Protection Branch of the CEB and the System Control Center of the CEB at Pelawatta, and had interviewed the staff on duty at these stations with a view to elicit information on the following.

The key reasons for the nationwide power interruption on the 17th August 2020 at 12:30 pm onwards.

Whether the CEB has taken precautionary actions and measures to prevent recurrence of interruptions that had been encountered in the recent past for which recommendations have been extended by similar committees that could have influenced the present incident.

Recommendations for remedial measures that need to be taken by the CEB to prevent recurrence of the same and similar incident.

Whether the CEB has taken the best professional practicing measures in handling the incident and the conditions that led to it employing proper planning, operational and administrative elements and had any constraint encountered CEB’s intended professional actions.

Whether the CEB had encountered similar incidents in the past and how the situation had been then handled.

Whether the CEB could have handled the situation judiciously to minimize the implication and how this could be avoided in the future.

 

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF THE
REPORT

The Committee, in its Interim Report ,has given a set of preliminary findings, among which are the following:

Routine maintenance work on the 220 kV isolators of the Bus Coupler Bay had been carried out on the day of the incident by the Electrical Superintendent-In-Charge at Kerawalapitiya GSS, who apparently has been attending routine maintenance work at the Kerawalapitiya GSS for the past five years. The power in the Bus Bar 01 had been turned OFF for the maintenance, while the power of the Bus Bar 02 was ON. The Earth Switch 01 at Bus Bar 01 side had been OFF while the Earth Switch 02 at Bus Bar 02 side had been ON as shown in Fig. 1.2(a) at the time of incident.

Under normal operations the Earth Switch and the relevant isolator are interlocked, so that the isolator cannot be turned ON while the Earth Switch is turned ON. However, during maintenance, this interlock had been bypassed, so that isolator can be turned ON even with the Earth Switch is turned ON. At the end of the maintenance work of the 220 kV Bus Coupler Bay, while the interlock is bypassed, the Isolator on the Bus Bar 02 side had been turned ON as shown in Fig. 1.2(b), creating a 3 Phase to Ground fault.

The key reason for the nationwide power interruption on the 17th August 2020 is due to the 3 Phase to Ground busbar fault due to incorrect operation of the Bus Bar 2 Isolator of the Bus Coupler Bay by the Electrical Superintendent -in-Charge at the Kerawalapitiya Grid Substation busbar at 12:30 Hrs.

Kerawalapitiya Grid substation tripping was due to not following the correct maintenance procedure by the relevant officials including the Electrical Superintendent. The Committee also observed that there was no written maintenance protocol for this maintenance job in-line with the current best practiced maintenance protocols.

The Committee is of the view that due to the Kerawalapitiya Grid substation tripping, the system frequency has increased beyond the current setting of the rate of frequency tripping relay of the Lak Vijaya Power Station (LVPS). As a result, the generator-transformer circuits breakers of all three units of the LVPS which made LVPS unavailable to the grid, subsequently the system failed in cascade.

CEB’s recent failure to avoid a country-wide blackout and the longer duration taken to restore power to Colombo City in particular, indicates significant lapses in implementation of critical measures outlined in the previous Expert Committee Reports.

 

AUTHOR’S COMMENTS ON THIS
PROCEDURE

The cardinal mistake done by the Electrical Superintendent (ES) during the maintenance work was that he had disabled the interlocking system which prevents switching on the 220 kV line to the GSS while it is earthed, which is a protective mechanism incorporated into the system to prevent blunders by maintenance staff as happened. It is certainly not an “Ath Wereddak” as claimed by a senior official of the CEB. As a result, the ES was able to connect the high voltage line to the substation already earthed which created the havoc.

The question which arises is what was the necessity to disable the interlocking system to carry out the routine maintenance? The Report does not seem to have queried the ES on this. If the ES has done such an irresponsible act, deliberately, in any other organization, he would have been interdicted forthwith or at least sent on compulsory leave. But, the CEB Management thought otherwise, possibly for fear of trade union reaction.

The tripping of the 220 kV line at Kerawalapitiya apparently has caused a sudden increase in the system frequency at LVPS, resulting in the three generating units there to trip. A sudden increase in the frequency means that the speed of the generator rotors has increased suddenly. Isn’t there a mechanical device called a governor in the generator which helps in maintaining the rotor speed at a constant value? Is it a characteristic of a coal power plant to allow its rotor speed to vary suddenly in response to a disruption in the line? Was it that this governor did not function properly when this incident took place?

The CEB management should be faulted for not making available to the maintenance personnel proper maintenance manuals. It was alleged that even for the Norochcholai coal plant, the manufacturer never made available to CEB the operation manuals in English. That may be the reason for having Chinese technicians to attend to O&M functions even today. It seems that during the last 6-7 years since commissioning the plant, CEB personnel have not been able to learn the O&M functions from the

Chinese technicians. Though, the CEB staff at Norochcholai are unable to handle the O&M functions of the coal power plant by themselves, Sri Lankan personnel are managing three combined cycle power plants, two at Kelanitissa and one at Kerawalapitiya. This is one more reason why Sri Lanka should not build any more coal power plants.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS OF
THE REPORT

Among the recommendations made by the Committee are the following among others:

The committee strongly recommends a standard compliant, systematic, foolproof, safe procedures and maintenance protocols to be instated in the CEB during operation and maintenance (O&M). The implementation of these procedures will have to be continuously monitored and supervised by adequately qualified, professionally trained, knowledgeable, experienced and skilled personnel. The committee would like to propose a performance evaluating annual appraisal system which will help to improve the above attributes of the CEB staff.

The committee understands that there is no Operations & Maintenance related risk management mechanism in place. Therefore, it is recommended to establish a risk management mechanism in order to determine the proper mix of preventive measures, mitigation levels, shift or retention of risks and consequent level of robustness of Operations & Maintenance protocols that would indicate the positive impact on the overall system

The committee strongly recommends to implement the 2018-2037 CEB Long Term Generation Expansion Plan, as given in the plan, which clearly specifies the correct blend of technologies for the future requirements of the Sri Lankan power system to improve the system stability and reliability.

The committee recommends to review the existing protection strategy for frequency instability.

 

2018-2037 LONG-TERM GENERATION
EXPANSION PLAN

 

The first two recommendations are in order. One would expect that an organization like the CEB has already following proper standard procedures for O&M. But if they are lacking, priority needs to be given for the training of staff adequately. It has been alleged in the media that all foreign training programmes are given to engineering staff while the middle level technical staff who actually carry out the O&M work are given only local training. Perhaps, there is a case here and if it is true, it should be rectified.

Since the Committee has made a strong recommendation that the CEB’s 2018-2037 Long-Term Generation Plan be implemented, it is necessary to examine what this plan is. The CEB prepares biennially a long-term generation expansion (LTGE) plan outlining the least cost options of generation plants that need to be added to the system annually for the next 20 years to meet the forecasted demand. The latest plan is in respect of the period 2020 – 2039 but it is still in the draft form yet to be approved by the PUCSL as required by Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 31 of 2013.

The CEB 2018-2037 LTGE Plan released in June 2018 provided for adding 2,700 MW of coal power capacity between 2023 and 2035 and 1,500 MW of natural gas capacity between 2019 and 2036, along with several gas turbines and diesel power plants as well as a large number of small renewable energy plants comprising mini-hydro, solar, wind and biomass systems, under Base Case scenario. However, the PUCSL did not approve this plan but recommended an alternative plan incorporating natural gas power plants in place of coal power plants included in the CEB Plan.

The CEB refused to accept this recommendation, particularly with objections raised by its Engineers’ Union (EU), and the dispute between the PUCSL and the CEB kept dragging for over a year, and the matter was finally referred to the President who gave a directive to the PUCSL to approve the CEB Plan, fearing disruption to the power supply in the country after the CEB EU threatened to resort to industrial action if their demand for coal power plants is not acceded to. This is something not expected from a body of professionals and unheard in other countries.

Also, the LTGE Plan is highly flawed. It is supposed to determine which power technology will be the cheapest in 20 years hence based on current prices. With the cost of generation depending on plant capital cost and fuel prices both of which could vary widely within a span of 20 years, it is futile to make forecasts now as to which technology is the cheapest in 20 years hence and to adopt it. Although the CEB 2018-2037 Plan has recommended building 2,700 MW of coal power plants on grounds that coal power is the cheapest option, a report by World Bank Group study on Sri Lanka Energy Infrastructure Sector Assessment Programme (InfraSAP) released in February 2019, says in p. 18 that “coal ceases to be the least cost source of power generation, as cost of power from LNG and NCRE could potentially be lower than US cents 9 / kWh” which is the estimated coal power price.

It is therefore obvious that the 2018-2037 Plan is not a plan approved after considering engineering and economic aspects properly but approved on political grounds. Hence, the Committee’s strong recommendation to implement such a flawed plan is an attempt to take the power sector development in the country along a wrong path. It is not surprising that the Committee has made such a biased recommendation when two senior officials from the Ministry and one from the CEB are in the Committee. In any case, building more coal power plants is not a solution to a possible blackout in the future. This is the second attempt when the Ministry tried to get building of coal power plants inserted into a policy document on the sly. The first attempt was when the Cabinet took a decision on post-Covid activities to be undertaken urgently in view of the “emergency” situation in the country, building a 300 MW coal power plant at Norochcholai was inserted as one activity in the Cabinet decision.

It is also mentioned that the implementation of the CEB 2018-2037 Plan with more coal power plants is recommended to improve the system stability and reliability in the future. The Committee has not justified that the system stability and reliability would be better with coal power plants than with natural gas power plants for the Committee to make such a statement. However, it was shown in this instant that it was the instability of rotor speed of the coal power plants resulting in raising the frequency suddenly that caused the three coal power plants to trip. Hence having more coal power plants will not be of any help to maintain the stability of the system. On the contrary, it will make it worse.

Further, it is noted that with a coal power plant once shut down, it is necessary to wait several days until it cools down before it can be re-started. On the other hand, with a natural gas operated combined cycle power plant, there is no such delay and the plant can be energized within a few hours.

 

RECOMMENDATION VIOLATING THE
PRESIDENT’S POLICY

 

In the President’s policy document, “Vistas of prosperity and splendour”, he says “We also anticipate that hydro and renewable energy together would account for 80% of the overall energy mix by 2030”. The State Minister for Renewable Energy said during his assumption of duties that the Ministry’s target is to use renewable energy resources to generate at least 80% of the total generation of electricity by 2030. The Power Minister has also made a statement to that effect in the Parliament. However, it is not possible to achieve this target if the CEB 2028-2037 Plan is implemented.

The LTGE Plan has worked out the average generation from each plant type annually and the values obtained for 2030 are given in Table 1, extracted from the data given in Annexes 7.4 of 2018-2037 LTGE Plan. It is to be noted that it is not possible to forecast exact values for generation from each category in the future because it depends on many extraneous factors, such as rainfall, cloud cover, wind regime, fuel prices and demand which are not known accurately in advance. Annex 7.4 gives average values after considering several scenarios.

It is seen that according to the CEB’s LTGE Plan for 2018-37, generation from renewable sources could reach only 36% by 2030, which is far below the 80% target given in President’s VPS Policy Document, assuming what is intended by “total energy” appearing in this document is total electricity generation.

Therefore, the Committee’s strong recommendation that the CEB’s 2018-2037 Plan be implemented is a gross violation of the President’s Policy. It is surprising that a learned Committee including several officials in the Ministry, are not aware of the President’s policy. The Power Minster should call for explanations from the Committee Members why they overlooked the President’s Policy when they made their recommendation.



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Features

Investigative Journalism?

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I usually end up totally exhausted when I finish reading the local newspapers from the Pearl. There are so many burning questions and so much is written about them but there are no conclusions and definitely no answers. For example, we seem to have three burning issues right now and this is not in order of importance.

We have a lengthy report that has been published on the Easter Sunday carnage. Everybody knows what I am talking about. However, no one, be it an editor, a paid journalist or a single one of the many amateurs who write to the papers, has reached a conclusion or even expressed an opinion as to who was responsible. At least not a believable one! Surely there are energetic and committed young people in the field of journalism today who, if asked, or directed properly will go out and find a source that would give them at least a credible hypothesis? Or do conclusions exist and has no one the courage to publish them?

At least interview the authors or should I use the word perpetrators of that report. If they refuse to be interviewed ask them why and publish an item every day asking them why! Once you get a hold of them, cross-examine them, trap them into admissions and have no mercy. It is usually geriatrics who write these reports in the Pearl and surely a bright young journalist can catch them out with a smart question or two, or at least show us that they tried? The future of the country depends on it!

We have allegations of contaminated coconut oil been imported. These are very serious allegations and could lead to much harm to the general populace. Do you really believe that no one can find out who the importers are and what brands they sell their products under? In this the Pearl, where everyone has a price, you mean to say that if a keen young journalist was given the correct ammunition (and I don’t mean 45 calibres) and sent out on a specific message, he or she couldn’t get the information required?

We are told that a massive amount of money has been printed over the last few months. There is only speculation as to the sums involved and even more speculation as to what this means to the people of the Pearl. Surely, there are records, probably guarded by extremely lowly paid government servants. I am not condoning bribery but there is nothing left to condone, is there? There are peons in government ministries who will gladly slip you the details if you are committed enough and if you are sent there to get it by a boss who will stand by you and refuse to disclose his sources.

I put it to you, dear readers, that we do not have enough professional, committed and adequately funded news organisations in the country. We can straightaway discount the government-owned joints. We can also largely discount those being run by magnates for personal gain and on personal agendas. As far as the Internet goes, we can forget about those that specialise in speculative and sensationalist untruths, what are we left with O denizens of the Pearl? Are there enough sources of news that you would consider willing to investigate a matter and risk of life and limb and expose the culprits for the greater good of society? Can they be counted even on the fingers of one hand?

In this era when we have useless political leaders, when law and order are non-existent when the police force is a joke, it is time the fourth estate stepped up to the mark! I am sure we have the personnel; it is the commitment from the top and by this, I mean funding and the willingness to risk life and limb, that we lack. Governments over the last few decades have done their best to intimidate the press and systematically destroy any news outlet that tried to buck the usual sycophantic behaviour that is expected from them by those holding absolute power.

Do you think Richard Nixon would ever have been impeached if not for the Watergate reporting? Donald Trump partially owes his defeat to the unrelenting campaign carried out against him by the “fake news” outlets that he tried to denigrate. Trump took on too much. The fourth estate of America is too strong and too powerful to destroy in a head-to-head battle and even the most powerful man in the world, lost. Let’s not go into the merits and demerits of the victor as this is open to debate.

Now, do we have anything like that in the Pearl? Surely, with 20 million-plus “literate” people, we should? We should have over 70 years of independence built up the Fourth Estate to be proud of. One that would, if it stood strong and didn’t waver and collapse under pressure from the rulers, have ensured a better situation for our land. Here is Aotearoa with just five million people, we have journalists who keep holding the government to account. They are well-funded by newspapers and TV networks with audiences that are only a fraction of what is available in the Pearl. Some of the matters they highlight often bring a smirk of derision to my face for such matters wouldn’t even warrant one single line of newsprint, should they happen in the Pearl.

Talking of intimidation from the rulers, most of us are familiar with the nationalisation of the press, the murder and torture of journalists, the burning of presses to insidious laws been passed to curtail the activities of Journalism. These things have happened in other countries, too, but the people and press have been stronger, and they have prevailed. We are at a watershed, an absolutely crucial time. It is now that our last few credible news sources should lift their game. Give us carefully researched and accurate reports with specific conclusions, not generalisations. Refuse to disclose your sources as is your right, especially now that the myopic eye of the UNHCR is turned in our direction.

All other ways and means of saving our beloved motherland, be it government, religion, sources of law and order and even civil society leadership seems to have lapsed into the realm of theory and rhetoric. Our last chance lies with the Fourth Esate and all it stands for. I call for, nay BEG for, a favourable reaction from those decision-makers in that field, who have enough credibility left in society, DON’T LET US DOWN NOW!

 

 

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The world sees ugly side of our beauty pageants

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Yes, it’s still the talk-of-the-town…not only here, but the world over – the fracas that took place at a recently held beauty pageant, in Colombo.

It’s not surprising that the local beauty scene has hit a new low because, in the past, there have been many unpleasant happenings taking place at these so-called beauty pageants.

On several occasions I have, in my articles, mentioned that the state, or some responsible authority, should step in and monitor these events – lay down rules and guidelines, and make sure that everything is above board.

My suggestions, obviously, have fallen on deaf ears, and this is the end result – our beauty pageants have become the laughing stock the world over; talk show hosts are creating scenes, connected with the recent incidents, to amuse their audience.

Australians had the opportunity of enjoying this scenario, so did folks in Canada – via talk show hosts, discussing our issue, and bringing a lot of fun, and laughter, into their discussions!

Many believe that some of these pageants are put together, by individuals…solely to project their image, or to make money, or to have fun with the participants.

And, there are also pageants, I’m told, where the winner is picked in advance…for various reasons, and the finals are just a camouflage. Yes, and rigging, too, takes place.

I was witnessed to one such incident where I was invited to be a judge for the Talent section of a beauty contest.

There were three judges, including me, and while we were engrossed in what we were assigned to do, I suddenly realised that one of the contestants was known to me…as a good dancer.

But, here’s the catch! Her number didn’t tally with the name on the scoresheet, given to the judges.

When I brought this to the notice of the organiser, her sheepish reply was that these contestants would have switched numbers in the dressing room.

Come on, they are no babes!

On another occasion, an organiser collected money from the mother of a contestant, promising to send her daughter for the finals, in the Philippines.

It never happened and she had lots of excuses not to return the money, until a police entry was made.

Still another episode occurred, at one of these so-called pageants, where the organiser promised to make a certain contestant the winner…for obvious reasons.

The judges smelt something fishy and made certain that their scoresheets were not tampered with, and their choice was crowned the winner.

The contestant, who was promised the crown, went onto a frenzy, with the organiser being manhandled.

I’m also told there are organisers who promise contestants the crown if they could part with a very high fee (Rs.500,000 and above!), and also pay for their air ticket.

Some even ask would-be contestants to check out sponsors, on behalf of the organisers. One wonders what that would entail!

Right now, in spite of the pandemic, that is crippling the whole world, we are going ahead with beauty pageants…for whose benefit!

Are the organisers adhering to the Covid-19 health guidelines? No way. Every rule is disregarded.

The recently-held contest saw the contestants, on the move, for workshops, etc., with no face masks, and no social distancing.

They were even seen in an open double-decker bus, checking out the city of Colombo…with NO FACE MASKS.

Perhaps, the instructions given by Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, and Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, mean nothing to the organisers of these beauty pageants…in this pandemic setting.

My sincere advice to those who are keen to participate in such events is to check, and double check. Or else, you will end up being deceived…wasting your money, time, and energy.

For the record, when it comes to international beauty pageants for women, Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Earth and Miss International are the four titles which reign supreme.

In pageantry, these competitions are referred to as the ‘Big Four.’

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Better use of vanity projects; Cass apologises, and New Year graciousness

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A wise one, with the interests of the country at heart, calling himself ‘A Member of the Silent Majority’, wrote in The Island of Friday, April 9, offering an excellent solution for the better and genuine use of the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport which was built at a stupendous cost to both the Treasury, and wildlife abundant in the area, to satisfy an ego and sycophants’ cries of Hail to the King. Even sans Covid and lockdowns and shut downs of airports, the Mattala Airport was a white elephant, endangering and displacing the black elephants, roaming along their familiar corridors; receiving such few airplanes. Thus, as the writer Cass mentions says, convert the airport to a super hotel with excellent and sure-fire access to wildlife watching, like referred to hotels in Kenya and elsewhere. Yes, it will definitely be a bigger money earner than an airport waiting for a plane to land. Expensive equipment going rusty could be transferred to smaller airports being developed all over the island. There was such a hue and cry when storerooms, within the deserted airport, were used for paddy storage, but not even a whimper of concerted protest when the vanity projects were being built. We also heard that on the rare occasions a plane was to land/take off, peacocks in the area were shot at to prevent them flying into the planes. Aney, what a sin, just to have a name on a nameboard! Use the Suriyawewa Cricket Stadium too for a better purpose and less costly to water and maintain green in near desert climate conditions. What about a residential training institute for youth, perhaps in small industries? If the king-sized ego demands the name be present, OK, leave it. What’s in a name?

Any matter, financial or economic, with benefit to country buttressing it – refer to Dr Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickremaratne. Likewise, anything pertaining to fauna, flora and preservation of natural habitats ask Devani Jayathilake. Cassandra would give two years of her life (she does not have 10 left, she suspects) to know what the answers of the three wise and sincere ones mentioned would be to the proposal to convert the Mattala Airport, oops sorry – Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport – to a 7 star hotel for wildlife watching and then tourists proceeding to Yala and other places that were touted to be reached easier if planes brimful of tourists, landed in Mattala. Pipe dream even sans Covid-19.

The thought of the millions, nay billions, our country was indebted to China to construct these vanity projects aka white elephants of the Rajapaksa fiefdom sends Cass’s blood racing in her contracting veins. And now another hair-brained scheme is being exposed, not new but re-exposed: that of the stupendous amount sent direct from the Central Bank with no nod, as reported, from the then Cabinet or Parliament, to an American-resident con-man to improve our appearance on the world stage or at least American stage. My word!! Cosmetics of creams and colours and such like can improve the face of an already beautiful woman. But a country that was once beautiful, glorified, accepted internationally and then politician-spoilt, cannot be redeemed by PR work, however expensively. Nivard Cabraal was the then Govenor of the CB. Of course, as every Banda, Singho and their women say, nothing will come of this. Powerful political sweeping under the carpet in the presence of cardboard administrators and sycophantic hosanna singers, makes the matter disappear and not merely hides it. Unless of course there are enough intrepid outers-of-truths and persistent protestors, brave and national minded enough to continuously tease the matter like a cat its caught rat. Ranjan is locked away in hard labour for four solid years, losing his Parliamentary seat for misusing the gift of his gab, while convicted murderers of the right colour attend Parliament, escorted and all.

Cass apologises

To the reigning Mrs World, Mrs Caroline Jurie, for crowning, uncrowning and recrowning of the winner of the recent Mrs Sri Lanka contest. Caroline Jurie took this stride because the winning contestant was four years on the way to being a divorcee, which status forbids a woman from attempting to wear the crown of Mrs…. (country) with a view to becoming Mrs World. This title and honour is bestowed on a woman who promotes, holds sacred the institution of marriage and is a married woman. Cass castigated Caroline Jurie without knowing then the fact that Jurie had protested about this candidate being considered due to her impending divorce; and allowed to contest. She said she withdrew from the panel of judges since her point was not taken by the others. WHY is the Q. Easy to answer. The new beauty queen of shaky married status was a loud speaker in favour of Presidential Candidate Gotabaya R in Polonnaruwa (captured on social media) and probably spoke on stages for SLPP Parliamentary candidates. So of course she was slated to win; vision impaired over rules and future probabilities, She has her height – one advantage. Beauty can always be dexterously rubbed and painted in. But honesty is important and cannot be cloned or grafted in.

Cass now definitely faults the new Mrs Sri Lanka. She should not have contested, having her papers sent in for divorce and not retracted. What happens when she wins the divorce (or her husband wins it, however the divorce was first mooted). Another local contest? And if the divorce was still pending and she went overseas at great expense and won THE crown or a lesser one. To be returned forthwith when she has to remove the present gold band from her third finger, which probably she has already removed but hastily wore for the contest and when preparing for it? This is why Cass avows that many young women particularly, are so very selfish and forward and uppity and even dishonest now. In Cass’ time and even a decade or two later, a girl would never do what this new beauty has done, flipped aside a core rule and necessity of the contest, just to win by honest means or foul. Way the country’s going, my friend.

Post – Aluth Avurudhu

Cassandra is stuffed gill-high with kavun, aluwa and crunchy kokis, preceded by kiributh and lunumiris. She is fending for herself because a dip in Covid numbers and having had the jab, her domestic wished to enjoy a family new year having missed the last one, locked down as we were. Cass made her own kiributh – tasting somewhat like it should, but the sweets were all gifted her. So, also the offers of help, sleep-ins at others’ homes and solicitous frequent inquiries of ‘how are you?’ Kind and gracious relatives and friends, acquaintances too are thanked; and the most appreciated being neighbouring kitchen helps and care givers. Three-wheeler drivers who spin Cass around on errands too make enquiries. And thus her thoughts when resuming work at the nekath time and word processing this article. Sri Lankans are such good people: kind, caring, willing to share and genuine. And then specters themselves on this very sunny landscape: the dishonest, selfish, revengeful and disgraceful. Shrug them off, clear the mental picture and pronounce thank goodness for goodness around.

May all of us (decent people) have a very good year to follow today –Subha Aluth Avuruddhak!

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