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Showdown looms in CEB over big guns targeting engineers opposed to backdoor deal with US firm



By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union yesterday warned CEB General Manager Eng. M.R. Ranatunga to refrain from transferring two Additional General Managers who had expressed concerns about a questionable deal with US energy company, New Fortress Energy.

A senior engineer told The Island that they had warned the General Manager against any action taken to transfer targeted Addl. General Managers from their posts.

“We have informed him of intention to intervene as a trade union in such an event and engage in trade union action to protect the rights of our members, the purpose for which trade unions are established. Further if any such transfer is effected,” he added.

CEBEU President Eng. Saumya Kumarawadu told The Island that when they asked CEB Chairman M.M.C Ferdinando not to force employees work against their conscience, the latter had said they were looking for people who were flexible with the rules.

In a letter to the General Manager the Union has said: “You have callously disregarded our request and executed transfers of two of our members by way of your letter DGM (P)/ HRM (RP&DM)/RPI/62 Vol.II dated 16th November 2021, thus confirming the pre warnings received by the CEBEU well in advance from various sections about the clandestine move afloat to remove from posts very senior engineers, who are giving their honest opinion against the disgraceful New Fortress Energy deal.

“We have also noted that you have completely disregarded the existing Transfer Rules of CEB as established since 1995, and merely communicated the transfers of two AGMs, “as decided by the Board” to them, whereas it is you as the GM who has the authority to carry out transfer orders as per the Transfer Rules of CEB. We wish to remind you that it is the General Manager of CEB who was given the administrative control of the employees of CEB by the CEB Act. It appears that you are merely acting under the dictation of the Board, probably to please the present Chairman, to secure any benefit beyond your scheduled retirement on 12thJanuary 2022, and thereby undermining the position you are holding and in violation of the Rules you need to uphold.”

Engineers also said that the motive behind this AGM shuffle is to get rid of Eng. G.J. Aluthge, the most experienced special class officer in CEB on matters pertaining to transmission business, system operations, and IPP power purchases, all valuable knowledge to take a proper decision pertaining to supplying LNG to the country, from the post of Addl. GM Transmission, and replace him with another senior engineer who has zero experience on transmission related matters.

“It is no secret that you support the illegal NFE deal, undermining the efforts of the own organization you are heading to procure LNG competitively. However, by taking further steps in violation of established Rules in CEB that also adversely effects our individual members, you have extended your conduct to a level that we cannot tolerate any further”, CEBEU told the General Manager.

They also informed that they were taking trade union action against transfer of the two AGMs and directly instructing them not to carry out instructions as contained “in your illegal transfer letter dated 16th November 2021, which is nothing but a mere communication of a decision of the Board ‘’.

“we have instructed two of our members not to carry out the instruction as contained in the General Manager’s letter and hold on to the status quo as at present until the matter is resolved.”

The union demanded the General Manager to immediately recall the transfer letter and cancel the same as it is unlawful, arbitrary, carried out with ulterior motives and in bad faith.

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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials



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



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



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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