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

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by Eng Parakrama Jayasinghe
parajayasinghe@gmail.com

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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South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and what it means for SL

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At the head table (L to R): High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in South Africa Prof. Gamini Gunawardena, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya and Executive Director LKI Dr. D.L. Mendis.

State circles in Sri Lanka have begun voicing the need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for the country, on the lines of South Africa’s historic TRC, and the time could not be more appropriate for a comprehensive discussion in Sri Lanka on the questions that are likely to arise for the country as a result of launching such an initiative. There is no avoiding the need for all relevant stakeholders to deliberate on what it could mean for Sri Lanka to usher a TRC of its own.

Fortunately for Sri Lanka, the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), Colombo, took on the responsibility of initiating public deliberations on what a TRC could entail for Sri Lanka. A well-attended round table forum towards this end was held at the LKI on November 25 and many were the vital insights it yielded on how Sri Lanka should go about the crucial task of bringing about enduring ethnic peace in Sri Lanka through a home-grown TRC. A special feature of the forum was the on-line participation in it of South African experts who were instrumental in making the TRC initiative successful in South Africa.

There was, for example, former Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Communication of South Africa Roelf Meyer, who figured as Chief Representative of the white minority National Party government in the multi-party negotiations of 1993, which finally led to ending apartheid in South Africa. His role was crucial in paving the way for the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. Highlighting some crucial factors that contributed towards South Africa’s success in laying the basis for ethnic reconciliation, Meyer said that there ought to be a shared need among the antagonists to find a negotiated solution to their conflict. They should be willing to resolve their issues. Besides, the principle needs be recognized that ‘one negotiates with one’s enemies’. These conditions were met in South Africa.

Meyer added that South Africa’s TRC was part of the country’s peace process. Before the launching of the TRC a peace agreement among the parties was already in place. Besides, an interim constitution was licked into shape by then. The principle agreed to by the parties that, ‘We will not look for vengeance but for reconciliation’, not only brought a degree of accord among the conflicting parties but facilitated the setting-up of the TRC.

Meyer also pointed out that the parties to the conflict acted with foresight when they postponed considering the question of an amnesty for aggressors for the latter part of the negotiations. If an amnesty for perceived aggressors ‘was promised first, we would never have had peace’, he explained.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fanie Du Toit, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa, in his presentation said that the restoration of the dignity of the victims in the conflict is important. The realization of ethnic peace in South Africa was a ‘victim-centric’ process. Hearing out the victim’s point of view became crucial. Very importantly, the sides recognized that ‘apartheid was a crime against humanity’. These factors made the South African TRC exercise a highly credible one.

The points made by Meyer and Du Toit ought to prompt the Sri Lankan state and other parties to the country’s conflict to recognize what needs to be in place for the success of an ethnic peace process of their own. A challenge for the Sri Lankan government is to ban racism in all its manifestations and to declare racism a crime against humanity. For starters, is the Lankan government equal to this challenge? If this challenge goes unmet bringing ethnic reconciliation to Sri Lanka would prove an impossible task.

Lest the Sri Lankan government and other relevant sections to the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict forget, reconciliation in South Africa was brought about, among other factors, by truth-telling by aggressors and oppressors. In its essentials, the South African TRC entailed the aggressors owning to their apartheid-linked crimes in public before the Commission. In return they were amnestied and freed of charges. Could Sri Lanka’s perceived aggressors measure up to this challenge? This question calls for urgent answering before any TRC process is gone ahead with.

Making some opening remarks at the forum, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya said, among other things, that the LKI discussion set the tone for the setting up of a local TRC. He said that the latter is important because future generations should not be allowed to inherit Sri Lanka’s ethnic tangle and its issues. Ethnic reconciliation is essential as the country goes into the future. He added that the ‘Aragalaya’ compelled the country to realize its past follies which must not be repeated.

In his closing remarks, former Minister of Public Works of South Africa and High Commissioner of South Africa to Sri Lanka ambassador Geoffrey Doidge said that Sri Lanka’s TRC would need to have a Compassionate Council of religious leaders who would be catalysts in realizing reconciliation. Sri Lanka, he said, needs to seize this opportunity and move ahead through a consultative process. All sections of opinion in the country need to be consulted on the core issues in reconciliation.

At the inception of the round table, Executive Director, LKI, Dr. D. L. Mendis making some welcome remarks paid tribute to South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela for his magnanimous approach towards the white minority and for granting an amnesty to all apartheid-linked offenders. He also highlighted the role played by Bishop Desmond Tutu in ushering an ‘Age of Reconciliation’.

In his introductory remarks, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in South Africa Prof. Gamini Gunawardena said, among other things, that TRCs were not entirely new to Sri Lanka but at the current juncture a renewed effort needed to be made by Sri Lanka towards reconciliation. Sri Lanka should aim at its own TRC process, he said.

During Q&A Roelf Meyer said that in South Africa there was a move away from authoritarianism towards democracy, a democratic constitution was ushered. In any reconciliation process, ensuring human rights should be the underlying approach with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights playing the role of guide. Besides, a reconciliation process must have long term legitimacy.

Dr. Fanie Du Toit said that Bishop Tutu’s commitment to forgiveness made him acceptable to all. Forgiveness is not a religious value but a human one, he said. It is also important to recognize that human rights violations are always wrong.

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Cucumber Face Mask

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*  Cucumber and Aloe Vera

Ingredients

• 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel or juice • 1/4th grated cucumber

Method

Mix the grated cucumber and aloe gel, and carefully apply the mixture on the face and also on your neck.

Leave it on for 15 minutes. Wash with warm water.

* Cucumber and Carrot

Ingredients

• 1 tablespoon fresh carrot juice • 1 tablespoon cucumber paste • 1 tablespoon sour cream

Method

Extract fresh carrot juice and grate the cucumber to get a paste-like consistency. Mix these two ingredients, with the sour cream, and apply the paste on the face.

Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. (This cucumber face pack is good for dry skin)

* Cucumber and Tomato

Ingredients

• 1/4th cucumber • 1/2 ripe tomato

Method

Peel the cucumber and blend it with the tomato and apply the paste on your face and neck and massage for a minute or two, in a circular motion.

Leave the paste on for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. (This cucumber face pack will give you brighter and radiant skin)

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Christmas time is here again…

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The dawning of the month of December invariably reminds me of The Beatles ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again.’ And…yes, today is the 1st of December and, no doubt, there will be quite a lot of festive activities for us to check out.

Renowned artiste, Melantha Perera, who now heads the Moratuwa Arts Forum, has been a busy man, working on projects for the benefit of the public.

Since taking over the leadership of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha and his team are now ready to present their second project – a Christmas Fair – and this project, I’m told, is being done after a lapse of three years.

They are calling it Christmas Fun-Fair and it will be held on 7th December, at St. Peter’s Church Hall, Koralawella.

A member of the organizing committee mentioned that this event will not be confined to only the singing of Christmas Carols.

“We have worked out a programme that would be enjoyed by all, especially during this festive season.”

There will be a variety of items, where the main show is concerned…with Calypso Carols, as a curtain raiser, followed by Carols sung by Church choirs.

They plan to include a short drama, pertaining to Christmas, and a Comedy act, as well.

The main show will include guest spots by Rukshan Perera and Mariazelle Gunathilake.

Melantha Perera: Second project as President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum

Although show time is at 7.30 pm, the public can check out the Christmas Fun-Fair scene, from 4.30 pm onwards, as there will be trade stalls, selling Christmas goodies – Christmas cakes and sweets, garment items, jewellery, snacks, chocolate, etc.

The fair will not be confined to only sales, as Melantha and his team plan to make it extra special by working out an auction and raffle draw, with Christmas hampers, as prizes.

Santa and ‘Charlie Chaplin’ will be in attendance, too, entertaining the young and old, and there will also be a kid’s corner, to keep thembusy so that the parents could do their shopping.

They say that the main idea in organizing this Christmas Fun-Fair is to provide good festive entertainment for the people who haven’t had the opportunity of experiencing the real festive atmosphere during the last few years.

There are also plans to stream online, via MAF YouTube, to Sri Lankans residing overseas, to enable them to see some of the festive activities in Sri Lanka.

Entrance to the Christmas Fun Failr stalls will be free of charge. Tickets will be sold only for the main show, moderately priced at Rs. 500.

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