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Suspension of costly private power purchase, Covid give relief to CEB



‘Quite baffling Rs 2.8 bn standing charge, Rs 300 mn rent undermined state enterprise’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The suspension of power purchases from three Independent Power Producers (IPPs) namely Ace Power Matara (20 MW), Ace Power Embilipitiya (100 MW) and Asia Power Sapugaskanda (50 MW) had contributed to the improvement of the financial situation at the CEB, authoritative sources told The Island.

Sources said that the CEB had suspended the agreements on 01 March pending re-negotiation with IPPs as it was felt the annual standing charge alone for three power stations amounted to Rs. 2.8 bn was unfair by the procurer. The decision had been taken at the behest of the then Power Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, who relentlessly pushed for measures required to ease the burden on the cash-strapped state enterprise, sources said, adding that the increase in hydropower output that automatically lessened the country’s dependence on private diesel plants and a significant drop in the demand for electricity due to the crisis caused by the raging Covid-19 epidemic had eased pressure on the CEB. The electricity regulator (PUCSL) is having negotiations with IPPs to finalise approval of a four-year extension of contracts.

Sources said that during Alahapperuma’s tenure as the Power Minister the government had taken the furnace-oil fueled power plants off the national grid, thereby greatly reducing toxic fumes emitted by them.

The three IPPs had strongly pushed for extensions on the basis that being furnace-oil-fired, they were much cheaper for the CEB than auto-diesel-powered plants.

The PUCSL didn’t respond to The Island query regarding the status of CEB’s agreements with Asia Power and ACE Power Embilipitiya as well as Matara? The PUCSL also didn’t explain its role in the discussions with the IPPs.

Gamini Lokuge, last wee, replaced Alahapperuma as the Power Minister, in a mini-cabinet re-shuffle. Alahapperuma received the media portfolio. Sources said that in spite of the ministerial change the Power Ministry was expected to continue with Alahapperuma’s initiatives to curb waste, corruption and other irregularities.

Sources said that two days after Alahapperuma’s exit, the ministry had launched a major building project at Narahenpita to bring all its offices located at different places under one roof. Sources said that the government spent staggering Rs 300 mn annually on renting 37 buildings in Colombo and its suburbs.

Power Ministry spokesperson Sulakshana Jayawardana was not immediately available for comment.

Sources said that though the government had suspended major construction projects due to severe financial constraints, the then power minister Alahapperuma had received the go ahead from Cabinet for the Narahenpita project after he had explained the long-term benefits of it.

Alahapperuma was shifted from the Power ministry to the Media portfolio the day before he was to complete one-year there. Several weeks before the Cabinet reshuffle, CEB Chairman Eng. Vijitha Herath was replaced by M.M.C. Ferdinando. Ferdinando served as the Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Energy during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure.

Major changes took place at the Power ministry in spite of significant improvements at the ministry with the CEB making a profit in the second quarter since 2010.

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Bandula undertakes to take over SLIIT



Bandula Gunawardane has, in his capacity, as the trade minister, assured the SLPP Parliamentary group that action would be taken to take over the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) divested through fraudulent means.

Political sources said that the assurance had been given at this week’s meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s House. Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, was present. Minister Gunawardane said so when lawmakers Premanath C. Dolawatta and Weerasumana Weerasinghe raised the issue.

Chairman of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) Prof. Charitha Herath, who called for taking over of SLIIT, too, was present at the meeting. Communist Party MP Weerasinghe said that they were really happy to receive such an assurance from Minister Gunawardane. Appreciating the manner in which the COPE under Prof. Herath’s leadership had handled the inquiry into the SLIIT acquisition, Matara District lawmaker Weerasinghe said the onus was on the government to take remedial measures immediately.

MP Weerasinghe said that denial of SLIIT ownership to the government was certainly not an isolated case. The way some officials and governments cooperated in daylight robbery of state property couldn’t have happened without the tacit understanding at the highest levels, lawmaker Weerasinghe said. (SF)

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SJB too demands prosecution of ex-President Sirisena and others over Easter carnage



By Saman Indrajith

The SJB yesterday demanded that the government allow the Attorney General to prosecute all those against whom the Presidential Commission of inquiry on Easter Sunday carnage wanted criminal proceedings instituted.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said that the Attorney General could not be forced by the government to spare certain individuals. “The report of the Presidential Commission recommends that legal action be taken against the former head of State Intelligence Service, senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena and the former President Maithripala Sirisena. But the government does not implement those recommendations.

“The Cardinal says that before the election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised to prosecute all those responsible for the carnage. After release of the PCoI report the Cardinal has been told by the President that he could not implement some recommendations therein because he would lose his popularity. That is wrong. He cannot do so, it is the job of the Attorney General. It is not the President who implements the law of this country but the Attorney General. The President has no powers to that. “Upon the receipt of the PCoI report the government appointed a cabinet subcommittee under Minister Chamal Rajapaksa to study the report. Now, the government implements the recommendations of that sub-committee which has recommended to select whom should be prosecuted and who should be left out from the original list of persons identified by the PCoI as responsible for the terror attacks.

“The PCoI recommendations are not being properly implemented. We demand that the government should implement all recommendations of the PCoI. Victims demand the same. The Church and the Cardinal demand the same. The AG should prosecute all identified by the PCoI and let the judiciary decide who is guilty and who is not. The President cannot interfere in selecting the list to be prosecuted. That amounts to the Executive interfering in the matters of the judiciary.”

MP Kiriella said that consequences of the October 2018 constitutional crisis and 52-day government had paved the way for the Easter Sunday terror attacks. “That crisis started on 26 Oct., 2018. Thereafter, the then President Sirisena sidelined the UNP, which was the main party in the Yahapalana government. The National Security Council met without anyone representing the UNF government. The NSC was even attended by some SLFP MPs. President Sirisena took over the Ministry of Law and Order under him in addition to the Defence Ministry. The first move against the Yahapalana government was the 52-day government; the second was the Easter Sunday attack. Nilantha Jayawardena received all information and intelligence from India with exact dates, places and even the names of the attackers. He says that he did not pass that intelligence on to President Sirisena, who was the Minister of Defence. That was an offence. When the PCoI asked Jayawardena to surrender his mobile phone, he did so after deleting all its records. That too is an offence. Former President Sirisena says that he did not know anything about the matter because he had not been informed of it. Yet, the PCoI determined that he was responsible. The government should let the Attorney General implement the recommendations of the PCoI by prosecuting all who have been identified as persons responsible for the Easter Sunday carnage.”

SJB Kurunegala District MP JC Alawathuwala also addressed the press.

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BIA rapid testing PCR lab back in action



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The rapid testing PCR lab at the Bandaranaike International Airport, which was non-operational for several weeks, resumed accepting samples yesterday (27.)

Earlier, the Director General of Health Services authorised the PCR lab, SASL Hospinorm, to operate.

The lab can provide a PCR test report within three hours.

Those who test positive for COVID will be sent to quarantine centres.

Since passengers can get PCR report in three hours, they need to arrive at the airport six hours before departure. Passengers are provided with all facilities until the reports are issued.

The first passengers to benefit from the lab were those who arrived in QR 668 of Qatar Airways. The flight landed at 2.15 am yesterday (27).

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