Protests against NFE deal spreadacross country
By Saman Indrajith
Protests were held across the country yesterday with the workers of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ports Authority resorting to joint trade union against the government’s questionable deal with the US firm, New Fortress Energy (NFE) and the sale of strategic assets to foreign companies.
Protests were also held by the Railway and Health trade unions.
The protesting unions claim that the transfer of 40 percent of shares of Yugadanavi Power Station to NFE and awarding a contract to the same company to supply LNG to Sri Lanka’s power stations without any tender procedure would have a devastating effect on what the protesters call the country’s energy sovereignty.
A large number of protesters were seen opposite the CEB head office in Fort while employees of the CPC gathered in front of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery yesterday afternoon. The protesters alleged the NFF deal was the first step toward the privatisation of CEB assets.
Members of the Ports Unions Joint Alliance gathered opposite the Khan clock tower, and demanded that the government stop handing over the control of the West terminal to India and the South terminal to China. They also demanded an end to manpower agencies.
All Ceylon Railway Employees Union said the protests would be held opposite the Railway Headquarters.
Nurses too protested in all hospitals demanding a salary increase from Budget 2022.
Parents too gathered in front of many schools urging the government to rectify the long standing salary anomalies affecting principals and teachers and to increase budgetary allocations for the education sector.
Overtime gravy train for public sector back
Govt. MPs make contradictory statements on state of economy
By Shamindra Ferdinando
UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Sunday (26) disclosed the issuance of a circular by the Finance Ministry to restore overtime and other payments in the public sector.
The declaration was made in Galle soon after Transport and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardane lamented that the government was short of billions of rupees to pay public sector salaries, pensions, Samurdhi payments and meet recurrent expenditure.
Minister Gunawardena and UNP National List MP Abeywardena addressed the local media after the handing over of several buses to the Galle SLTB depot.
Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena said that the government needed as much as Rs 196 bn before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and its projected revenue was Rs 173 bn. In addition to that Rs 500 mn was required to settle what Minister Gunawardena called bilateral debt.
Minister Gunawardane said that a part of the first tranche of USD 333 mn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be utilised to pay public sector salaries.
Of the USD 333 mn received so far, USD 121 had been used to pay the first installment of USD 1 bn credit line secured from India early last year, according to State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in the second week of August last year revealed as much as Rs 3 bn had been paid as overtime to Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) workers for several months. This disclosure was made in response to a query raised by Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella.
One of the major demands of the public sector trade unions on the warpath over the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s new tax formula is the restoration of overtime.
Now, Opposition wants Finance Secy. hauled up before Privileges Committee
Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (27) urged Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to act speedily on the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) request to summon Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena before the parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
Addressing the media on behalf of the Freedom People’s Alliance, the former External Affairs Minister said that the Treasury Secretary had challenged the parliament by withholding funds allocated in the budget 2023 to the Election Commission thereby sabotaging the election.
Prof. Peiris said that there couldn’t be a far worse violation of parliamentary privileges than a government official undermining Parliament.
Instead of appreciating the intervention made by the Supreme Court to facilitate the delayed Local Government polls, the ruling party had sought to challenge the apex court, Prof. Peiris said, urging Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to fulfill his obligations.
Prof. Pieris said that if the government lacked funds, just one percent of USS 333 mn received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was sufficient to conduct the election.
The ex-minister said that the IMF wouldn’t oppose the utilisation of a fraction of the first tranche of USD 2.9 bn loan facility provided over a period of four years to guarantee the constitutional rights of the Sri Lankan electorate. (SF)
Cabinet nod for fuel distribution by three foreign companies
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera announced yesterday that the Cabinet of Ministers has granted approval for allowing China’s Sinopec, Australia’s United Petroleum and RM Parks of the USA, in collaboration with multinational Oil and Gas Company – Shell plc, to enter the fuel retail market in Sri Lanka.
The minister said that each of the three companies would be given 150 dealer operated fuel stations, which are currently operated by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). A further 50 fuel stations at new locations will be established by each selected company, he said.
They will be granted licences to operate for 20 years to import, store, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka, the minister tweeted.
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