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The convoluted LNG–NG story: What do we need? LNG or NG or neither?

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By Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe

parajaysinghe@gmail.com

I am not a fan of natural gas either in its gaseous state NG or the liquefied state LNG, both of which are very much under discussion now locally and at COP 26 in Glasgow. At the same time, I would like to consider myself a realist with the wellbeing and needs of Sri Lanka receiving the highest priority.

Natural gas, mostly Methane (CH4), is present in deep underground strata in large pockets or closer to the surface in a more dispersed manner, emanating from decaying biomass and also unfortunately emitted by ruminating bovine.

Those who enjoyed this natural but diminishing fossil fuel resource in their own territorial land mass or with access to neighbours in the same land mass could do so in it’s gaseous state, commence exploiting by laying extensive gas pipe lines sometimes running thousands of kilometres

But in recent decades , with larger volumes being discovered (with the USA and Canada exploiting environmentally disastrous tar sands and fracking practices), the lure of this seemingly economical and decidedly less polluting fossil fuel, has attracted even those countries not endowed with any indigenous gas resources on their own or neighbours with such resources accessible by pipelines. This has led to the development of the process of liquefaction of the NG by cooling down to about – 160 degrees under high pressure, purely for the purpose of economically acceptable logistics for transport mainly by sea, creating the LNG concept and market.

However, since NG can be used only in its gaseous form, at the recipient’s end re-gasification facilities are required and were implemented on land close to the point of use or in logistical distribution terminals. The oil and gas industry using their ingenuity came up with a further twist by development of the Floating Storage and Re Gasification Units (FSRU), designed to serve those who could not deploy the land based re-gasification facilities located on land as these could be quite expensive. As the name suggests, these are designed as floating vessels moored close to the point of use, and the LNG is delivered to the FSRUs by bulk NG carriers. The re-gasified NG is delivered in relatively short pipelines to the land based consumption units for example power plants.

This is decidedly a simple explanation for the understanding of laymen. There are extensive and detailed explanations given in several articles by Eng. Nalin Gunasekera, a renowned international expert on the subject, in the Daily News of 3, 4 and 5 November and the Sunday Island of 7 November 2021, for those interested in gaining a more in depth understanding of the issues associated with these systems.

However, my purpose in writing this comment is not to discuss such technical intricacies but to examine how Sri Lanka should evaluate the options and the best approach for our benefit if we are to consider either LNG or NG. As already mentioned, given the choice, I would not like having to use NG in any form. It is a fossil fuel and it is now recognised as a very significant contributor to Global Warming, being 80 times more potent than CO2 in the short term. But it has the advantage of being a cleaner burning fuel, devoid of a plethora of dangerous and toxic pollutants released to the entire exosphere.

What are Sri Lanka’s Options ?

Some important issues must be recognised prior to seeking a reply to this query. Viz:

We have now firmly established the target of 70% renewable energy contribution for power generation by 2030

The current forecasts the 30% contribution by fossil fuels in 2030 is 8997 GWh Vs the current contribution of 9000 GWh ( CEB 2020 statistics), which leaves no room for any additional fossil power plants, except as replacements for any due to be retired shortly. The 350 MW Sobhadhanawi plant can be justified only in this context.

The 900 MW Lak Vijaya coal power plant may have a residual economic life of about 25 years.

The price of coal has sky rocketed, reportedly to over $ 240 per ton at source and no suppliers even at that price to Sri Lanka

The price of crude oil too has shot up to $ 85 per BBL and seems to hold at that level.

As such, using NG to meet the 30% gap appears to be an option and environmentally less damaging at least at point of use, provided the cost of generation is acceptable.

The comparison between the CEB tender for the FSRU only, without considering the LNG supply cost and mechanism, with the NFE proposal, which includes a monopoly on supply of LNG at unknown prices, is most illogical and has no meaning, at all. Talk about comparing one rotten apple with an even more rotten orange.

In spite of the grave doubts cast by Eng. Nalin Gunesekera, there is a possibility of attracting investors to develop the Mannar gas resource due to reasons given later on

Where does that leave us? Have we no options at all?

To start with, there can be no justification to continue with this love affair with LNG, given that it will compel Sri Lanka to continue purchase of a fossil fuels with scarce Dollars and at prices on which we have absolutely no control. The attraction of $ 250 Million for the sale of a valuable national asset is no justification, however tight the present foreign exchange situation is, a hollow relief as it will result in draining out several billions of dollars in a few short years.

Next, an FSRU is an inevitable appendage to go with the LNG supplies. Eng. Gunasekera has gone to great lengths to explain the complexities of this system and the high degree of expenditure required for its implementation and operation as well as the great many risks involved in the whole deal. He comes from an expert with decades of experience in this sector, and we will indeed be fool hardy to ignore his warnings and fall into a trap, from which we have no escape.

The whole process of this attempt to get NG as an alternative source of fuel, without anyone competent, establishing the possible means of supply, and compounding the problem by awarding a contract for the construction of a power plant is laughable, if not for the tragic mess that has landed Sri Lanka in. This is even more tragic considering that there has been no in depth re-evaluation on financial and economic feasibility based on current supply and price issues, done before deciding to make an award for a project tendered for in 2016. Sri Lanka having painted itself into a corner, the solution is not to get blackmailed but to dump the LNG and FSRU options even at this late stage. It has been calculated by the SLSEA that even with the most optimistic assumptions on current prices of LNG the cost of generation with LNG will be of the order of Rs 35.00 per kWh. This can only go up with continued depreciation of the rupee and the price trends of the LNG.

Just for comparison, the Siyambaladuwa solar project is expected to generate electricity at Rs 11.00 per kWh and the Mannar Wind Plant is generating at less than Rs 10.00 per kWh. The current cost of adding batteries to make these firm sources of electricity generation is only Rs 8.50 per kWh and is expected to decline sharply in the coming years to Rs. 3.50 per kWh by 2025.

What about Yugadhanawi Power Plant and the supposed share sale of 40% shares to the New Fortress Energy ( NFE)? If this deal is already confirmed and the $ 250 Million is already received, then this share deal on its own would be carried out. But there cannot be any additional conditions such as a monopoly of supply of LNG, attached to this sale. Such conditions are totally illegal and we can only hope that the present litigation will support this point of view.

At present, the Yugadhanawi plant operates at about 30% plant factor. Let it continue to do so using the furnace oil, even though the cost of FO also may have gone up in recent times. The impact on the national economy and the CEB cash flow would be much less worrisome than the proposed misadventure with LNG.

What is the fate of Mannar Oil and Gas Resource?

Although Eng. Gunasekera is of the view that its proven potential is far too little to attract any investors, he has hedged his bets by a surprising comment on the possibility of this resource being supplementary to FSRU and LNG. Given the dire warnings he has sounded against any attempt to implement the FSRU, perhaps he may have an inkling that the Mannar resource may stand on its own.

However, I would like to take a more optimistic view of the possibility and the need for a successful development agreement (taking due notice of warnings given on this count too due to Sri Lanka’s poor record of international negotiations) for two reasons:

It is now becoming impossible to operate the Lak Vijaya coal power plant due to cost of coal.

We don’t seem to have the courage to look beyond the 70% RE target and therefore should look for a least damaging solution, both economically and environmentally.

Both these objectives are served by successful development of the Mannar gas field with the potential of gaining both more economically and financially as the estimated potential of 9 Trillion Cubic Feet of Gas from the currently explored blocks; this is many times our own potential consumption and will yield a substantial surplus.

The World Scene on Natural Gas

I must justify my claim to be a realist in hoping for an acceptable agreement for this development in spite of my opposition to any form of fossil fuels. The fact remains that it is only now that the CEB has accepted the 70% RE goal. So, we need to look for the least damaging means of meeting the balance 30%. In the world scene, in spite of the agreement that NG is a very potent GHG due to leakages at points of extraction, storage and transport, it remains a highly sought after fuel. While there is a widespread agreement to eventually end the use of coal, in some countries even as early as 2025, there is no such agreement in respect of NG.

Even at the current COP 26 summit dubbed as the Green Washing Festival by Greta Thunberg, the commitment is only to reduce the methane emissions by 30% by year 2030, that too with out several major producers and users of NG including India, Russia and China

So, the demand and use of NG shall remain high and even escalate as replacement of coal in the foreseeable future. The largest increase is also expected to be in the Asian region. Coupled with this is the fact that there is a great gap between the quoted prices in different NG markets such as Henri Hub and the Japan Korea Market as shown in the graphs.

As such, developing our own resource is attractive and very much in centre stage of the high demand area.

So, while Sri Lanka has committed to reach Zero Carbon status by 2050, there is no reason why we should not aim at the least environmentally damaging and potential economically attractive option of opening up this resource as the transition solution.

The Worst Case Scenario?

What if we are not successful in getting an acceptable agreement and have to do without any gas?

This may be a reality considering the discussions going on at COP 26 against funding for any new fossil fuels. Many including me would view this as the best option in the long run.

Sri Lanka has enough and more indigenous RE resources and the 100% RE option is not impossible. The issue would be more of a financial problem than technical with the need for capital to import the necessary capital goods. There is hope generated at COP 26 on this count too. The project is already at the planning or implementation stage and such as the 100 MW solar and Wind Projects up to some 177 MW of major hydro projects would help bridge this gap in addition to the projected wind, biomass and solar potential .

The tantalising potential of doubling the generation capacity of the Victoria project on which feasibility studies have already been done needs urgent consideration.

Conclusion

The bottom line is clear. There are more than enough reasons for dumping the FSRU option before any more ill-considered commitments are made.

The possibility of attracting credible investors to develop the Mannar resource is reported to be very real and imminent. Therefore, a short sighted commitment to implement FSRUs and therefore the import of LNG would be most foolhardy.

There is the need for much more proactive measures to harness our own RE resources, not limiting such actions to mere rhetoric. The only ingredient lacking is the confidence as well as foresight of the energy authorities, blind to the world trends, both technically and commercially.

A time-targeted action plan towards the 70% RE is urgently needed with much greater emphasis on the next few years’ goals and activities. These would be invaluable in making adjustments to the plans for the next stage, say up to 2027. It is most likely that much more challenging targets could be set with the technical advances and the learning during the first stage.

Can we adopt this “Can Do” attitude at least now?



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Standoff between Church and State

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The 1962 coup – Part II

A group of senior Police and Military officers attempted to overthrow the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government. They were driven by three critical events in the years leading up to January 1962. The coup participants belonged to the Westernised urban middle class who were alarmed at the undermining of the secular plural state and government.

By Jayantha Somasundaram

(Part I of this article appeared yesterday)

The first trigger was the anti-Tamil violence of 1958. The second trigger was the growing confrontation between the regime and the Christian community, particularly the Roman Catholic Church.

As soon as he took office S. W. R. D Bandaranaike had 21 CID and Special Branch gazetted officers resign or retire. Half of them were non-Sinhalese and the majority were reported to be Christian. Despite that, in 1957, 29 percent of the gazetted police officers were Burghers and about 65 percent were Christian. The situation in the military was no different during British times while the officers in the Army were mainly British, Burghers accounted for half the troops.

This anomaly goes back to 1902, when a Cadet Battalion was set up as part of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers with companies initially in Royal College and then in the Christian public schools S. Thomas’ and Wesley in Colombo, Trinity and Kingswood in Kandy and Richmond in Galle. Buddhist and Hindu schools were late in introducing cadetting because of their adherence to ahimsa. When the Ceylon Army was established in 1949 the initial Officer Cadets sent to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for training were also largely from the ethnic and religious minorities. “Buddhist parents did not like their sons in the army … Perhaps there is something of the Buddhist aversion to killing in this prejudice …. There is an ancient tradition among the Sinhalese of employing mercenaries: Malays, Moors, Malabars, Tamils,” speculates Horowitz.

Despite their huge influence, the Protestant Christians in Sri Lanka were numerically small, a metropolitan minority making up one percent of the national population. By contrast, the Portuguese religious impact had resulted in a Roman Catholic community in the country that comprised seven percent. And unlike the Protestants who were split among numerous denominations, the Roman Catholics were united in a single church and fiercely loyal to their faith.

Neil Quintus Dias

The majority community as well as the regime feared what was termed ‘Catholic Action’, the attempt by lay Catholics to spread Catholic influence in a host society. “‘Bauddha Balavegaya (Buddhist Force) formed by L. H. Mettananda former principal of Ananda College, Neil Quintus (NQ) Dias, PM Sirimavo’s Defence Secretary and several other prominent Sinhala Buddhist nationalist leaders’ stand against ‘Catholic Action’ was well known. However, the existence of such a secretive campaign remained a mystery,” writes K. K. S. Perera (The Nation 4/11/12)

“N.Q. Dias was well known for his strong stand against ‘Catholic Action’ as it was then called,” wrote Bradman Weerakoon in Rendering Unto Caesar. “His actions in regard to the defence establishment and police were also being watched by the upper echelons of the three forces which were then largely manned by non-Buddhist officers.”

First the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Regime removed both local and foreign Catholic nursing nuns from state hospitals. This was followed by a decision to nationalise the assisted schools.

The school system was three-tiered. First, a small number of fee-levying public schools run mainly by the Anglican Church; they received no state financial support. Second, fee-levying denominational schools, mainly Roman Catholic, called assisted schools; they received government funding. Third, state owned schools which levied no fees.

The Catholic population is concentrated along the coastal belt stretching from Chilaw to Kalutara. In November 1960, the Army was brought in for internal security duties relating to the schools takeover; the 1st Battalion the Ceylon Light Infantry (1 CLI) covered Aluthgama, Ja-ela, Katunayake, Panadura and Kalutara. “There were demands in the Cabinet to … move forcefully against Christians protesting the takeover of the denominational schools,” explains Horowitz.

On the motive for the Coup, Sidney de Zoysa former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) said, “The great issue then was the schools take-over. N. Q. Dias was a Buddhist chauvinist, and determined to take everything over into a Buddhist state. And Felix Dias was talking about a dictatorship and arguing that it would be a good thing,” wrote K. M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins in J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Vol II.

A Christian education for their children is vital and critical to Roman Catholics and the takeover of denominational schools was bitterly opposed by the Church. Parents occupied the schools and a siege mentality developed. Finally, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had to request Cardinal Garcia of Bombay to go to Sri Lanka and mediate between the Church and the government to defuse the standoff. The final outcome however was that many denominational schools were taken into the state system with a minority in the cities being allowed to remain the property of the churches, but the latter could neither levy fees nor receive government assistance.

Tamil Satyagraha

When she became Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike proceeded to implement the Official Language Act. And in January 1961 Sinhala became the country’s operative official language. “Army officers who were Sinhala Christians retired under the language Act because they thought their careers had no future,” writes Patrick Peebles in The History of Sri Lanka. “The police had been about three-fourths Christian. In 1962 police and military officers staged a coup attempt led not by Tamils but by Sinhala Christians.”

K. M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins in J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Vol II conclude, “N. Q. Dias was suspect to them as the leader of a powerful religio-political force in the government – the Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya – intent on establishing control over the machinery of government for themselves by championing the cause of the Sinhala Buddhist majority. He was seen as the evil genius behind the government’s policies since Mrs. Bandaranaike came to power, directed against the minorities – Christians and Tamils.

“A former Cabinet Minister in Mrs. Bandaranaike’s Government reported tremendous pressure from Sinhalese Civil Servants to enforce strict language requirements on their Tamil colleagues in the hope of forcing them out,” says Horowitz, “N.Q. Dias is said to have made life difficult for Tamil Civil Servants, helping to push some out because of disqualification in Sinhalese.”

These events led to the Federal Party launching a Satyagraha, a civil disobedience campaign across the northern and eastern provinces, bringing government administration to a standstill. The third trigger for the coup participants was the use of the Army against the Tamil Satyagraha.

One of the coup participants who had been assigned to Jaffna found the
Satyagraha peaceful and advised against the use of force. But when he sat in on a Cabinet discussion he found that the Government wanted to use the Army in the North to “teach the Tamils a lesson.”

The government therefore ordered the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment to Jaffna.
But when it was time to entrain, the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Willie Abrahams MBE, and his second in command Major Ignatius Loyola, who were Tamil Catholics, were barred from accompanying the regiment. Instead, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Udugama MBE, an infantry officer who was a kinsman of Mrs. Bandaranaike was placed in command. The troops protested at the station, refusing to entrain without their commanders until Colonel Abrahams prevailed upon them to proceed without him.

Army occupation of

North and East

Leaders of the Federal Party were arrested and detained at the Army Cantonment, Panagoda. Lt Col Richard Udugama was appointed Coordinating Officer Jaffna District, with Lt Col Lyn Wickremasuriya (Trincomalee), Lt Col P. D. Ramanayake (Batticaloa), Major S.T.B. Sally (Mannar) and Major C.F. Fernando (Vavuniya). And a state of emergency was declared.

“The Army brutalized the peaceful protesters … (and) began a two year long occupation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces,” writes Brian Blodgett in Sri Lanka’s Military: The Search for a Mission 1949-2004. The government also began to establish “several permanent camps in the northern and eastern sectors of the country.” N. Q. Dias wanted to increase the armed forces deployed to the north and east and the creation of new military bases in Arippu, Maricchikatti, Pallai, Thalvapadu, Pooneryn, Karainagar, Palaly, Point Pedro, Elephant Pass, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee.

The deployment of the Army to deal with what was essentially a civil political issue was viewed by many Ceylonese with a liberal secular outlook, as deliberately provocative. And this sentiment, though more latent, was also shared by both the cosmopolitan Tamils living in Colombo who considered themselves essentially Ceylonese as well as the more conservative Tamil-speaking people of the North and East. In Sri Lanka: Political-Military Relations Prof K. M de Silva wrote, “The attitude of the Tamils to the police and the security forces stationed there began to change in the 1960s and with it their view of the role the forces played. In the Jaffna peninsula, the principal centre of Tamil residence in the island, the police began to be seen as part of the state security network devised to keep the Tamils down.”

These developments were compounded by what Blodgett believed was Mrs. Bandaranaike’s desire for more Sinhalese Buddhist officers in order to “give them greater influence in running of the armed services”, when Mrs. Bandaranaike took over as Prime Minister in July 1960. He quotes K.M. de Silva who says that with the new government there was a major shift in “the ethnic and religious composition of the officer corp.

“Interpreters frequently note that ‘all but a few of the accused were Christians, mostly Roman Catholics.’ And they generally view the coup as a Christian reaction to the Buddhist resurgence and ascendency of the several years preceding 1962,” writes Donald Horowitz. “The heavily Westernised English-speaking, urban elite felt itself under stress. So did the ethnic and religious minorities: Tamils, Burghers, and Sinhalese Christians. The urban elite and the minorities were well represented in the officer corps of all the armed services and among the conspirators as well.”

Horowitz goes on: “‘The politicians were treating the country as if it belonged only to the Sinhalese who were Buddhists and no one else,’ argued a Sinhalese Christian Police Officer. Other Sinhalese officers, Christian and Buddhist, agreed.”

Felix Dias

“Although dispirited, those adversely affected by the post-1956 changes had not given up. Among Tamils there was some tendency to espouse the federalist solution…excluded from all the opportunities Colombo afforded at least they could return to administer their own areas in Jaffna … For non-Tamils, this course was not open. They dreamed not of an Asian Switzerland, where ethnic groups might coexist in an amicable territorial separatism; their model was rather of a tolerant, cheek-by-jowl cosmopolitanism in which a person’s origins might affect what he ate or where he worshipped but would have no public importance. The potency of these ideals … were held … because it was known that they were the ideals of the wider world beyond Sri Lanka’s shores,” concludes Donald Horowitz.

The Coup participants realised that Udugama was being groomed to take over command of the Army by promoting him over his seniors. He had organised a Buddhist Association within the Army, and officers including Buddhists who refused to be drawn into his Association regarded him with disdain.

For those who launched the coup the personification of the growing authoritarian-theocratic trend was Felix Dias, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and nephew of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. At their trial they asserted that the coup was a pre-emptive move to thwart a dictatorship by Felix Dias. According to one of the Coup participants “If Felix Dias had established himself in power … his regime would have rested on Sinhala Buddhist sentiment.”

By now military commanders were convinced that their authority was eroding and being replaced by an insidious dictatorship. “Felix Dias had at a meeting … in reference to conditions in Russia, stated that a little bit of totalitarianism might be of benefit to Ceylon.” (Trial-at-Bar)

“Felix Dias had antagonised many of the senior police and military officers by his interference in details of administration and by a hauteur which they found insufferable in one so young and inexperienced.” (K. M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Vol II)

“The majority of the conspirators reserved their most extreme animosity for Felix Dias … Because of his political position and personal style, the conspirators distrusted and disliked him …” explains Donald Horowitz. “Their characterisations of him were unflattering in the extreme: ‘the most arrogant bastard you ever met … pompous … revengeful … untruthful … a bit mad.”

To be continued

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Region-wide war seen as looming over Europe

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The fear among sections of Western opinion is that a region-wide war is looming over Europe, basically on the lines of the two world wars of the 20th century. Two of the most immediate triggers to this belief are the seemingly non-interventionist military exercises being carried out by some 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukraine-Russia border and the reaction by the US to place 8,500 of its troops on high alert in the face of the development, besides getting together its Western allies in case Ukraine is invaded by Russia.

US President Joe Biden has been quoted as saying that ‘Russia would pay a heavy price’ in the event it invades Ukraine, in addition to warning of a ‘severe coordinated economic response’ on the part of the West in case of such a development. The results would be ‘disastrous’ for Russia and the Ukraine, the US President reportedly stated.

In a development of considerable significance, meanwhile, the US and Britain have bolstered Ukraine’s defense capabilities through the provision of some crucial military hardware. Britain, it is said, has already gone to the aid of Ukraine by sending to the country some of its military advisors and other key personnel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has dismissed the above Western reactions as ‘hysterical’. But he is on record as saying that Russians and Ukrainians comprise ‘one people, a single whole’. Thus, is he trying to acquire some legitimacy for the Russian military exercises on the Ukrainian border. That is, Ukraine is being seeing as part of Russia and taking back Ukraine should be perceived by the world as perfectly in order.

However, the stark reality is that Cold War type divisions are re-emerging in Europe. Russia made its intention clear to carve out Eastern Europe once again as its exclusive sphere of influence through its joint operations with Belarus a couple of months back against the backdrop of thousands of migrants from around the world flooding Belarus. It was believed at the time that Russia’s gameplan was to flood Western Europe in general and Germany in particular with migrants with a view to creating a refugee crisis in the traditionally Western sphere of influence.

As to whether there would be war or peace in Europe over Ukraine is seen to depend by some, entirely on Russian President Putin’s strategic thinking. What is he planning to do? This has emerged as the question of first importance in this connection. Whatever course of action the Russian leader may opt for, it is abundantly clear that he cannot afford to be seen as withdrawing tamely and faint-heartedly from the Ukraine border, now that he has sanctioned a heavy Russian military involvement in the region.

For Putin, ‘chickening out’ of Ukraine at this juncture is unthinkable. He will need to look over his shoulder constantly at those sections of the Russian public who see Ukraine as an inseparable part of Russia and are solidly behind the re-taking of Ukraine project. However, Putin is also obliged to consider the daunting consequences for particularly Russia from a military incursion into Ukraine.

At present except for Eastern Ukraine, which is within the Russian sphere of influence, the rest of Ukraine seems to be quite determined to fight a Russian invasion to the finish. This much is made clear by international media coverages of the Ukrainian crisis. In this effort, Ukrainians in general are bound to have considerable Western backing, militarily and otherwise, although it is difficult to say currently whether this would mean that Western military ‘boots’ would be on Ukrainian soil in the event of a Russian military incursion.

Considering that there will be no extensive Ukrainian backing for Russia in the event of an invasion, the latter would need to take their minds back to the 1979 USSR invasion of Afghanistan, which cost Russia very dearly. Is Russia opting for a military quagmire of like proportions? This question would need to figure prominently in Russian strategic calculations at this juncture.

However, the West has its share of problems as well. At present, it is not at all clear whether the US and Britain will be having West-wide, unanimous and ready backing for any military involvement in the Ukraine. Over the past few days, the US has been in consultation with the principal political and military formations of the West, such as NATO and the EU, but the US cannot rest assured that it would have their solid backing for a military riposte to a Russian invasion.

Germany, for one, has made no such unambiguous commitment and German backing is crucial to the success of a Western military response to Russia. Western countries would need to carefully factor in their economic links with Russia in particular prior to making any substantive military responses. For example, there is Germany’s high stakes gas pipeline project with Russia, ‘Nord Stream 2’, which needs to be taken into consideration. Would it compromise its energy needs for the sake of Ukraine’s sovereignty? This too is a poser to ponder on.

Moreover, President Biden has not been absolutely unambiguous on what he has meant by Russia being called on to pay ‘a heavy price’. Does he have in mind military repercussions by the West or collective economic sanctions? Besides, some of the President’s recent statements have led observers to believe that the US would not mind some minor military incursions into Ukraine by Russia. This has the West guessing but it could lead Russia into believing that it could get away with some violations of International Law in the Ukraine.

Accordingly, although war clouds may seem to be gathering over the Ukraine, there is no certainty as to whether we would be having a full-blown war on the lines of the First World War, for example. However, the existence of two antagonistic alliances, though loosely formed, tempts the observer into inferring that a region-wide war in Europe is within the realms of the possible. Nevertheless, the sides are in the process of talking somewhat and the hope of the sane is that Jaw-jaw-jaw will prove more potent than war-war-war.

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Remembering Pathi

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The Department of Fine Arts of the University of Peradeniya honours the memory of Dr. Dharmasena Pathiraja with a Memorial Lecture by Dr. Laleen Jayamanne on The Relevance of an Alternative Film Culture Today at 5.30 pm on the 28th of January, 2022 at the Arts Faculty Seminar Room and via Zoom

Dr. Pathiraja graduated with an honours degree from the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya in Sinhala, with Western Classical Culture in 1967. He obtained his MA in Sinhala, working in the field of drama at the University of Peradeniya in 1992 and obtained a Phd. in Cinema Studies, from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, in 1999, with a dissertation on early post-independence Bengali cinema of Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen.

In honouring him with a doctorate posthumously in 2018, the University in its citation hailed him as a “renaissance man.” The citation continues with “in the fifties and sixties when Sri Lankan cinema was coming into its own with Lester James Pieris making a signal contribution to its stylistics, Pathiraja enters the scene with a distinctive style of his own that shares little with Pieris either in style and subject matter. More concerned with the lower middle class than with the decadent aristocracy, whom Pieris focused on, Pathiraja’s early films also capture an emerging ethos in cultural production: a language of the ‘masses’. This language‑ idiom‑ is expressly at the cross roads of a consciousness about the texture and complexities of the postcolonial state of Sri Lanka and of reaching out to an international audience. This consciousness has been his strength, what the audience has instinctively realiSed as new, as part of a new wave. Critics and the public have hailed him as the enfant terrible of the ‘70s, comparing him to the European Avant Garde of the 70s, especially trends emerging in Poland, Czechosolvakia and others.”

The memorial lecture at the event will be delivered by another illustrious alumna of the University, Dr. Laleen Jayamanne, who read classics at the University Peradeniya, and went onto become a major theorist in cinema studies. She taught at the Department of Cinema Studies at the Univ. of Sydney for several years and her publications include The Epic Cinema of Kumar Shahani and the more recent, Poetic Cinema and the Spirit of the Gift in the Films of Pabst, Parajanov, Kubrick and Ruiz. Her film, A Song of Ceylon (1985) is a dramatic and daring reworking of Basil Wright’s The Song of Ceylon. Jayamanne has written of Pathiraja’s films as visionary and ahead of their time.

The event will be in the hybrid mode and will be available to those interested via zoom on the link:

https://learn.zoom.us/j/7253908656?pwd=bUtvQk92N0NIQlpvTkQ1VlVXbjNnUT09

Meeting ID: 725 390 8656

Passcode: Pathi@123

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