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Udaya warns of longer power cuts as situation deteriorates further

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‘Electricity deficit growing due to continuing drop in hydro-power generation

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila says the country is paying a very heavy price for failing to enhance electricity generation capacity since 2014.

Attorney-at-law Gammanpila, who is also the leader of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) stresses ongoing unannounced power cuts are likely to be a regular feature due to what he called ‘system imbalance’ caused by sufficient power to meet the regular requirement.

The outspoken lawmaker warned that the duration of power cuts would be further extended sooner when the supply and demand gap widened.

Responding to another query, the Colombo District MP said that the CEB had no option but to switch off selected sections to avoid countrywide disruption of electricity. Whatever various interested parties say, power cuts were necessary and couldn’t be avoided, Minister Gammanpila said.

Minister Gammanpila said that he recently suggested a daily 90 minute power cut as there was no other option. Acknowledging that his proposal hadn’t received the required attention, Minister Gammanpila said that the situation would continue to deteriorate until all stakeholders reach a consensus on the issue.

According to the Minister, those who had been in authority since 2014 couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for the current crisis.

Asked whether the failure on the part of the political leadership and those who had been at the CEB’s helm as well as trade unions was deliberate, Minister Gammanpila declined to comment. The minister pointed out that all stakeholders should examine the full picture if the country was to address the issue at hand properly. It would be a serious mistake to believe that the issue could be addressed by operating thermal power stations alone, MP Gammanpila said. Those who propagated the lie that the entire power requirement could be met through thermal power generation obviously didn’t understand the contribution made by hydro-power generation, the PHU leader said.

Had there been a proper strategy, the government could have initiated tender procedures to secure electricity from private operators to meet the shortfall. However, in the absence of such a strategy, emergency power purchases could be quite costlier at a time the cash-strapped government was experiencing a financial crisis. Perhaps there should be a genuine dialogue involving all stakeholders at least now, Minister Gammanpila said, asserting the energy situation was in a dicey situation. “Do we have a realistic view of the developing situation,” Minister Gammanpila asked, underscoring the importance of reaching a consensus among all stakeholders.

Appreciating India providing USD 500 mn through a new Line of Credit for the purchase of Indian oil products in addition to extending foreign exchange support of over USD 900 million to Sri Lanka, Minister Gammanpila emphasized the fuel supply remained at a critical stage. “There is no point in denying that fact. We are struggling, really struggling with no permanent solution in sight. That is the undeniable truth. Perhaps, the government should take the public into confidence. The public should be told of the exact situation and urged to bear up difficulties.”

Minister Gammanpila said that the situation could further deteriorate.

The energy Minister said that Sri Lanka was also grateful to China for providing a six-month loan facility to procure oil products. That would come to an end at the end of February, Minister Gammanpila said, adding that one more diesel shipment was scheduled to take place in terms of this agreement.

The Minister admitted that their negotiations with several other countries to procure fuel at concessionary terms hadn’t been successful. “We shouldn’t expect other countries to respond or come to our rescue the way India and China do,” Minister Gammanpila said.

The PHU leader dismissed Opposition criticism. Perhaps, those who had been in power in the 2015-2019 period should explain their failure to enhance power generation to meet the annual increase in the requirement. According to him, Sri Lanka needs to increase power supply by six percent annually.



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Dhammika asks Ranil to resign as FM

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Minister of Investment Promotion, Dhammika Perera, yesterday told the media, in Colombo, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had to resign from his post as Finance Minister.

Minister Perera said that the Prime Minister was blocking all dollar earnings, borrowings, bridging finance, available essential food credit lines and other credit lines.

“I am joining the Aragalaya from today. I have been in the government for seven days. I have seen what happens. The Prime Minister must stop his political game as the Minister of Finance,” he said.

Perera added that Wickremesinghe had no plan to boost the cash flow, about feeding people, or bringing in dollars.

The Minister of Investment Promotion said that instead of describing the people’s economic woes, the Finance Ministry had to find solutions.

“For example, the proposal to give investors 10-year multiple visas was finalised some time ago. One month has since elapsed, but the Treasury is sitting on it. This is because Ranil is in the habit of stopping projects if they bring in dollars. More than 50 people have come to get the visa by paying 100,000 USD.

About 300 more are on the list. We can bring in 30 million dollars to Sri Lanka, this month, with the help of this visa scheme. Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister is inviting disaster,” Minister Perera said.

Perera added that while Wickremesinghe could continue as the Prime Minister, but as the Finance Minister, the latter had no desire to resolve the foreign currency crisis. All of Sri Lanka’s economic woes are linked to the dollar shortage, he said.

“I challenge Ranil and his economic experts to an open media debate. Maybe he can answer my questions. I challenged him to a debate in 2019, and he ran away. I am challenging him again,” Minister Perera said.

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JVP Leader accuses govt. of hatching plot against his party

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday said that the government was planning to suppress his party by levelling false allegations against the latter.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters, Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the plot hatched by the government could lead to bloodshed.

“A video has been released, on social media, instructing how to make Molotov Cocktails. The voice, in the footage, instructs the viewer to make bombs in a similar manner, and tie them to their bodies and explode themselves at the President’s House. The video says that after the explosion I would be appointed the President. Anyone would know that the JVP would not do anything stupid like that. This video is another attempt by the government to justify the use of violence against its critics. There have been similar instances in the past and this country has suffered heavily as a result,” Dissanayake said.

He said that his party lawyers would submit the video to the CID and demand an investigation from the police on who had created and uploaded it to social media. “There is a massive protest to be held in Colombo centering the Galle Face Aragalaya.

“We, too, will participate in it. The government’s response to the protests is to use the police and the army. In addition there are several other developments, including the creation of a para-military force against us. Each SLPP MP is given a chance to recruit five persons, loyal to him or her, as home guards to provide security to the MP. There was a letter from the IGP to Defence Secretary warning of possible bomb attacks. Our party’s name is there in that warning. I have queried this letter in Parliament, too, yet there is no explanation yet. It is in the same context some MPs have requested for personal firearms from the Defence Ministry. Taken together, these developments could indicate the plans of government suppression and what is there in store for us. We do not think that they could fool the people with these tricks. The CID is capable of investigating and finding the sources of any video against the President, in social media, within 24 hours. So we expect the same expedient action would be taken with regard to our complaint, too,” Dissanayake said.

He said that the JVP was prepared to stabilize the country and help bring it out of the current crisis in a short period of time.

Dissanayake said the JVP does not intend to do it alone and was confident that the citizens of the country, and Lankans overseas, would extend their support to the party for this purpose.

“This crisis cannot be resolved by changing posts or individuals, and especially not through a government that has lost the trust of the people,” he added.

When inquired about Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement in Parliament on his willingness to step down to allow Dissanayake to implement his economic plans, the MP said he was prepared to take up the task.

He said, however, that the President and Prime Minister must resign if he were to take up the challenge and implement JVP’s programme to save the country from the crisis.

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Move to set-up smoke-free zones: PHI union says member engaged in project harassed; Ministry says action in line with establishment code

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by Ifham Nizam

Public Health Inspectors’ Union has accused a section of the Health Ministry officials of working against a project to establish smoke-free zones in Sri Lanka.

The union alleged that a PHI who served the anti-tobacco campaign and went to the extent of sacrificing his personal leave for the same had been denied annual increments.

It said that the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) organised a project, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), to set up at least one smoke-free zone in each Medical Officer of Health Division countrywide. The union said that it played a significant role in the project.

The union alleged that PHI T. G. S. L. Prakash, of the Principal Public Health Inspectors’ Unit of the Ministry of Health, had been invited as a resource person as he innovated a 10-step process for establishing smoke-free zones for combatting second hand smoke.

However, the Deputy Director General (Public Health Services) of the Ministry of Health Dr. S. M. Arnold had obstructed the project by blocking Prakash’s participation, the union alleged.

Responding to The Island queries, Dr. S. M. Arnold said that he acted in terms of the Establishment Code and recommendations made by the relevant committee. Dr. Arnold said that the PHI concerned applied for leave for his PhD on Elephant Ecology study overseas, and work-related to NATA did not come under their purview. Dr. Arnold pointed out that the PHI Union President was also working for NATA.

Public Health Inspectors’ Union, President. Upul Rohana has previously asked the Health Secretary to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Dr. S. M. Arnold. According to the union for more than five years, PHI Prakash has conducted various research on the establishment of smoke-free zones in collaboration with NATA and the WHO and published and presented the research results at local and international fora.

The union said that the Chairman of NATA had requested that PHI Prakash to participate in the project as the outfit could benefit from his experience and expertise he had gained overseas in tobacco prevention.

The union claimed that the PHI concerned had participated in the project utilising his personal leave. The union alleged that Dr. Arnold had said that he wouldn’t recommend the annual salary increment for the particular PHI Prakash as his attendance was unsatisfactory.

PHI Chief Rohana emphasised that the concerned Deputy Director General continued to harass the officers who volunteered for their duties, abusing the power of his positio. He said although the union had complained to the health authorities, no action has been taken in that regard so far and their union would not hesitate to resort to trade union action seeking justice.

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