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SLPP rebels vow to scuttle New Fortress deal

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By Sirimantha Rathnasekera and Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

No one should abuse the mandate that 6.9 million people had given to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa said yesterday, addressing the media at Pita-Kotte, together with the representatives of constituents of the ruling SLPP coalition.

Weerawansa added that they would do whatever it took to ensure that the aspirations of the people were met.

“The Cabinet paper authorising New Fortress company to supply LNG was not discussed at the Cabinet. We are against this deal because we are ministers, and can’t ignore our conscience,” Weerawansa said.

The Minister added that although Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the President, others were misusing his mandate to their advantage. “I don’t know whether Dullas Alhapperuma lost the Ministry of Power portfolio because he was considered an obstacle to the New Fortress deal. But there is a reason for us to think so. According to the agreement, we will have to purchase LNG from the US company and pay for gas whether we use it or not.”

Minister Weerawansa added that the government had been elected for five years, and it was not possible to support an agreement beneficial to a nation that had been an enemy of Sri Lanka. “There are two other agreements signed with New Fortress Energy and the country has to be ready to oppose them too,” he said.

“We don’t want to topple the government or bring the Opposition to power.

We want the government to act in accordance with the mandate given by the people,” Minister Weerawansa said.

Leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that the agreement with the US energy company was highly problematic.

“This is a company that did not bid for supplying LNG. For the first time in Sri Lankan history a company that didn’t take part in the tender process has won a contract. This did not happen even under the governments of JR, Premadasa, CBK or Ranil Wickremesinghe.”

Minister Gammanpila said that the energy security and sovereignty of the country would be undermined by the agreement.

“The US said that it would impose sanctions on the country if we did not punish our war heroes or agree to federalism. Now, we are enabling the US to control one-third of our energy needs. What if the US turns off the power and demands that we punish our war heroes or make a federal Constitution? There is the real danger,” he said.

Minister Gammanpila added that the agreement at issue would also ruin the prospect of extracting natural gas off Sri Lanka’s shores.

“This will also lead to a diplomatic crisis. Chinese and Pakistani companies too have made bids. But we have given the tender to a complete outsider. We have chosen to embrace an enemy. This is a serious problem. We will lose our good friends.”

State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, representing the SLPP, said that all patriotic forces were against the agreement with New Fortress Energy.

Leaders of constituents including Vasudewa Nanayakkara, Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera, ALM Ataulla, Tiran Alles, Dr W. Weerasinghe and Gevindu Kumaratunga were also present.



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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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

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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

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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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