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‘Until water boils in pot, the crab plays on’



by Eng Parakrama Jayasinghe

The title of this article is from the Loweda Sangaraawa, which I think is most appropriate to the electricity sector in Sri Lanka at the moment. During the past couple of months, thanks to heavy rains, the months of multi-hour power cuts appear to have been forgotten. A recent speech by Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera in Parliament while predicting the possibility of 7-8 hour power cuts as early as 15th October highlights the short-sighted decision-making by the authorities in the electricity sector. The Minister spelt out the manipulations in the coal purchases which have placed Sri Lanka in a most vulnerable position; it is heavily dependent on a resource completely outside its control and the situation has been further complicated by unbelievable behaviour by officials and lack of oversight and governance by those who are supposed to be looking after the interests of the people.

A Coal Mafia to add to Diesel Mafia

In addition to the diesel Mafia, there appears to be a coal mafia, as openly stated by the Minister.

But are we to believe that the very same people who pushed us into this corner will come up with a viable solution in the near future? History certainly does not give us that confidence. Given the high prices of coal (US $ 328 per ton as per the tender) and the need for nearly $ 100 million per month to keep Norochcholai operational, it takes a leap of faith to believe that such a solution would emerge. Certainly not in the short term! As the war in Ukraine continues , there is no guarantee that the coal prices would remain even at these levels. They reached over $ 400 in the spot market recently.

What does these prices mean by way of the cost of generation of electricity using coal? It would be Rs 50.28 per kWh. So, the final generation cost,including the plant costs and other operating costs, etc., could easily reach Rs 70.00 per kWh. This is the source touted as the cheapest source of power generation for years by those who were responsible to push this unsustainable dirty fuel down the collective throats of the unsuspecting and ever docile helpless Sri Lankans consumers.

But while it is opportune at least now to be planning ahead to rid ourselves of this mill stone as early as possible, we have a much more daunting task to try and minimise the drastic impact that the lack of coal even at these exorbitant prices would cause to the supply of electricity as early as mid-October 2022.

The only way out

While it is far too late to make a significant impact in the short time available, the only short-term means of adding the gravely needed additional power generation capacity and the energy to the shortfall created by the lack of coal, and even otherwise due to slacking of the rainfall as beginning to be evident now is a most rapid expansion of the roof top solar PV systems. There is absolutely no other means or resource capable of doing so even in the next 12 months. But are we grabbing this opportunity? Unfortunately, judging from the behaviour of the State Officials this is far from the reality. For many months the solar power industry has been appealing for a revision of the feed in tariff under the Surya Bala Sangramya. The Minster must be thanked for the early appointment of a tariff fixing committee with officials with the required knowledge. Many discussions were held with this committee and it is understood that they have arrived at a feed-in tariff level which could retain the interest of the investors, and hopefully fast track the addition of as many installations as possible in the shortest possible time. It is believed that these tariff levels are much lower than the abovementioned cost of coal power and certainly less than half that would be needed to continue using any oil for power generation.

Before the dramatic devaluation of the rupee and the unbelievable rise in the interest rates, over 625 MW of rooftop solar, providing over 800 GWh of energy annually, had been added to the system.

Several weeks have gone by with the tariff committee making its recommendations, but no tariff has been announced. It is understood that some parties are trying to offer totally unviable levels of tariff, completely ignoring the inescapable reality of the prevailing financial parameters, on a purely ad hoc basis. This along with the possibility of declared intention of scraping the two systems of Net Accounting and Net Plus schemes, which attracted the larger private sector entities to enter the industry is tailor made to ensure we will face the projected 7 – 8 hour power cuts either in October but January 2023, when the drought season begins. They are like the crabs mentioned in the title of this article. Unfortunately, the helpless consumers also will be boiled along with them.

If Sri Lanka is to have any hope of minimising, certainly not eliminating the long hours of power cuts, an attempt must be made to add at least 500 MW of roof top solar in the next six months. This will be possible with the relaxation of some regulations by the CEB permitting large roof spaces to be brought in and the corporates owning such roof areas being ready to invest, provided the feed in tariff is workable.

The performance of the sector illustrated provides some credibility for this confidence.(See graph)

Of course, there are some other barriers such as the access to the necessary foreign exchange for the import of essential components and other issues to be settled with the CEB. But the most important starting point at which the private sector investors, with absolutely no burden on the beleaguered treasury, is the most urgent declaration of the viable feed in tariff to replace the now totally outdated tariff worked out in 2016. The willing and committed assistance by all the officials of the CEB and LECO who must at least now place the interest of the country first and be ready to resolve any technical issues, which are very much in their capacity to do so would make this goal that much easier.

The fact that every MW of solar added helps to rid Sri Lanka of the burden and the shameful dependence on imported coal and oil for which now we have to go begging for dollars. The value of this nondependence and relief from the continuing burden of debt cannot be assessed in rupees or dollars

It is hoped that the minister who in no uncertain terms spelt out the trap we are in would appreciate the need to resolve this tariff issue most urgently and pave the way for our none dependence on imported fossil fuels.

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Credibility in governance through elections and not security forces



Ranil Wickremesinghe

By Jehan Perera

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that he is prepared to declare a state of national emergency and use the military to suppress any public protests for change of government would reflect the pressures he is under. The manner in which he has used the security forces to deal with the protest movement has been unexpected. His words and deeds are contradictory to what he has previously stood for as a five-time former prime minister. This is especially true in the case of the ethnic and religious minorities who have consistently voted for him and his party at elections. They have felt safer and more secure under his governments which always sought to reduce the heavy hand of state oppression in which national security is given pride of place. He has always promised them much though he has been unable to deliver on much of what he promised.

Notwithstanding the unfortunate rhetoric and actions of the present time the belief still persists that President Wickremesinghe is the best of the available options. Recent pronouncements of the president have reignited hope that he will address the problems of the religious and ethnic minorities. He has stated that he does not want to leave this problem to the next generation. He has said that he wants to resolve this intractable national problem by the country’s 75th independence anniversary on February 4 next year. The hope that the president will make a fresh effort to resolve their problems has led the main Tamil party, the TNA, to desist from voting against the budget which passed with a relatively small majority. Their spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran said in Parliament that due to the president reaching out to them, stretching out his hand, they did not vote against the budget although they disagreed with it.

It is not only in words that the president has reached out to the ethnic and religious minorities. Reports from the north and east indicate that the Maveer (Heroes) Day commemorations this year took place without incident. During the past two years scores of people were arrested and a massive presence of security forces blocked the people from participating in public events. On this occasion the security forces did not get involved in any attempt to stop the commemorations. University students distributed sweets and even cut a birthday cake to celebrate slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s birthday. The analogy that the president drew to himself being seen as a Hitler who exterminated ethnic and religious minorities is misplaced. The release of those held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for engaging in similar acts in the past would further contribute to the reconciliation process.


In this context, the president’s use of militaristic rhetoric can only be understood in relation to the growing economic crisis that shows no sign of abating. The anticipated IMF bailout package is at risk of getting indefinitely delayed. It was initially anticipated to come in September then in November but now January is being targeted. Japan’s top brokerage and investment bank, Nomura Holdings Inc, has warned that seven countries – Egypt, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Hungary – are now at a high risk of currency crises. Sri Lanka is in third place on the table of risk. The next devaluation of the rupee could see another spike in inflation that will make the cost of living even more unbearable to the masses of people.

The president is on record as having said that the economic crisis will get worse before it improves. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates that it is indeed worsening. University teachers at the University of Sabaragamuwa reported that attendance in their classes was down by at least a quarter. Students who come from other parts of the country are unable to afford the cost of meals and so they stay at home. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies has shown that about four percent of primary, 20 percent of secondary and 26 percent of collegiate students had dropped out of school in the estate sector, which is the worst affected. The future costs to the country of a less well educated population is incalculable and inhumane.

As it is the situation is a dire one for large swathes of the population. Research from the University of Peradeniya has revealed that close to half of Sri Lanka’s population, 42 percent (up from 14 percent in 2019) are living under the poverty line. Professor of Economics Wasantha Athukorala has said there is a dramatic increase in the poverty level of over three-hold across the past three years. In 2019, nearly 3 million people lived below the poverty line, but that number has increased to 9.6 million in October 2022. In these adverse circumstances stability in a polity can be ensured either through legitimacy or through force. It would be tragic if the latter is the choice that is made.


President Wickremesinghe has been stressing the importance of political stability to achieve economic development. His recent statement that the security forces will be used to negate any unauthorised protest is a sign that the government expects the conditions of economic hardship to escalate. The general public who are experiencing extreme economic hardship are appalled at the manner in which those who committed acts of corruption and violence in the past are being overlooked because they belong to the ruling party and its cliques. The IMF has made anti-corruption a prerequisite to qualify for a bailout, calling for “Reducing corruption vulnerabilities through improving fiscal transparency and public financial management, introducing a stronger anti-corruption legal framework, and conducting an in-depth governance diagnostic, supported by IMF technical assistance.”

It is morally unacceptable even if politically pragmatic that the president is failing to take action against the wrongdoers because he needs their votes in parliament. As a start, the president needs to appoint a credible and independent national procurement committee to ensure that major economic contracts are undertaken without corruption. Second, the president needs to bite the bullet on elections. The country’s burning issues would be better accepted by the country and world at large if they are being dealt with by a statesman than by a dictator. Government that is based on the people’s consent constitutes the sum and substance of democracy. This consent is manifested through free and fair elections that are regularly held. Local government elections have been postponed for a year and are reaching their legal maximum in terms of postponement. These elections need to be held before March next year.

Elections will enable the people to express their views in a democratic manner to elect their representatives for the present. This would provide the government with guidance in terms of the decisions it is being called to take to revive the economy and place the burden in a manner that will be acceptable to the people. The provincial council elections have been postponed since 2018. Democratically elected provincial councils share in the burdens of governance. The devolution of power that took place under the 13th Amendment was meant to promote ethnic harmony in the country. The president who has taken the position that he is for a solution to the ethnic conflict should seriously consider conducting the provincial council elections together with the local government elections se their financial costs. By doing so he will also gain legitimacy as a democratic statesman and not a dictator.

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WEDNESDAY – Movie Review



The Addams Family is back with a new tale to tell! Originally created by Charles Addams as a comic strip published in The New Yorker, it offered readers a sarcastic take on the ‘typical nuclear family’ by substituting it with a more macabre bunch of strange and eerie individuals. Since then the titular family has been adapted on to the big screen many times, from live action movies to animated versions, the Addams Family has gained many fans throughout the years. Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton working on four episodes of the eight-part series, Wednesday is a welcoming tale for young fans, but unfortunately fails to think outside the box and remains anchored to the floor with a messy storyline.

Dead-eyed Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is a stubborn, independent and intelligent teenager in this new series. Her penchant for attracting trouble wherever she goes alarms her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán). With an already strained relationship with her parents (specifically her mother), Wednesday is enrolled at Nevermore, an academy for outcasts like herself. Having attended the academy themselves, Morticia and Gomez are hopeful that their daughter will ‘fit right in’. Caught between trying to build her own identity and other teenage complexities, Wednesday soon finds herself in the middle of a twisted mystery.

This is the first time audiences are introduced to a teenage Wednesday, which allowed the creators to build a new world on their own terms, but while keeping true to the original nature of the character. The creators do a fair amount of world building by introducing other outcasts like the Fangs (vampires), Stoners (Gorgons), Scales (sirens) and Furs (werewolves), among others. Nevermore Academy itself is beautiful and comes with the classic package of creepy crypts, hidden rooms and secret societies. The series also offers a decent amount of gore, although they could have added more given Wednesday’s proclivity for gore-related activities. The series deals with classic young-adult tropes which includes teenage crushes, bullies, relationships and even prom, among other things. The series navigates through Wednesday’s journey of self-discovery, which is a new avenue for both the character and the fans. From understanding and displaying her emotions to discovering her identity and understanding her peers, the series takes a deep dive into heavy material.

Ortega’s performance as the titular character plays a major role in keeping audiences glued to the screen. This is also the first time viewers are shown a teenage Wednesday Addams, which works to Ortega’s benefit as she depicts more dimensions to the ghoulish, morose character many are associated with based on previous renditions. Her facial expressions and ability to deliver on seriously emotional moments strengthens her role as the lead. The rest of the Addams Family, even with limited screen time, lack the eccentricities their characters should have. Hopeless romantics Morticia and Gomez seem incompatible in this version and Uncle Fester is far less crazy than he ought to be. The only member worth mentioning is the Thing—a severed hand— who brought more character and spirit to the series acting alongside Ortega. With barely any room to develop a majority of the characters are prosaic and tedious, even though they remain vital to the plot.

Apart from Ortega, Gwendoline Christie and Emma Myers deserve honorable mentions for their roles as Nevermore’s head teacher, Larissa Weems and the peppy Enid Sinclair respectively. Enid quickly became a fan favorite as the character was the polar opposite to Wednesday. Her character is vital to Wednesday’s character development and their journey to find common ground as mismatched individuals is amusing.

Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 90s returns as ‘normie’ teacher, Miss Thornhill and unfortunately barely stands out and this in large part due to the messy storyline. The series is bogged down with numerous subplots and overlapping tropes and the characters with potential for growth are completely overlooked. With love triangles, bullies and killer monsters on the loose, the series self-destructs and the climax sinks into disappointment.

At the end of the day, Wednesday plays to the beat of the new generation and touches on new themes, which is welcoming seeing as the character should grow up at some point. While not everyone may relate to Wednesday’s teenage perils, it is interesting to witness her growth and her journey as an ‘outcast’ or ‘weirdo’. And while Wednesday doesn’t exactly offer a distinctly unique story, it gives audiences a small taste of what Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday is capable of. Creating a story around a well-established franchise is a difficult task, and in this case the creators fail to add value to their visions. If the series continues, the creators will have the opportunity to think further outside the box and push the limits to Wednesday’s character and give audiences a bone-chilling experience. Wednesday is currently streaming on Netflix.



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Stage set for… AWESOME FRIDAY



The past few weeks have been a very busy period for the new-look Mirage outfit…preparing themselves for their big night – Friday, December 2nd – when they would perform, on stage, for the very first time, as Donald Pieries (leader/vocals/drums), Benjy (bass), Niro Wattaladeniya (guitar), Viraj Cooray (guitar/vocals), Asangi Wickramasinghe (keyboard/vocals), along with their two frontline female vocalist, Sharon (Lulu) and Christine.

They have thoroughly immersed themselves in their practice sessions as they are very keen to surprise their fans, music lovers, and well-wishers, on opening night…at the Peacock, Berjaya Hotel, in Mount Lavinia.

Action starts at 8.00 pm and, thereafter, it will be five hours of great music, along with EFFEX DJs Widhara and Damien, interspersed with fun and excitement…for the whole family!

Yes, opening night is for the whole family, so you don’t need to keep some of your family members at home – kids, especially.

Working on their repertoire for Friday, bassist Benjy says “what we will dish out will be extra special, with lots of action on stage.”

It would be interesting to see Sharon (Lulu) doing her thing with Mirage, after her early days with the Gypsies, and, I’m told, a dynamic performance from Sharon is what is in store for all those who make it to the Peacock this Friday

Edward (Eddy) Joseph (centre) with Donald and Benjy

While the band was at one of their practice sessions, last week, they had a surprise visitor – Edward (Eddy) Joseph, a former member of the group Steelers, who is now based in Germany.

Eddy is here on a short visit and is scheduled to return to Germany, tomorrow (30).

He spent an hour with Mirage, at their practice session, and says he is disappointed that he would not be around for the group’s opening night.

However, there is a possibility of several well-known personalities, in the showbiz scene, turning up, on Friday night, to experience the sounds of the new-look Mirage, including Sohan Weerasinghe and Joey Lewis (from London).

Rajiv Sebastian, too, says he is keen to be a part of the fun-filled evening.

You could contact Benjy, on 0777356356, if you need to double check…their plans for AWESOME FRIDAY!

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