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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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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine



Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours



Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today



by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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