It is not necessary to advertise food to
hungry people, fuel to cold people and
houses to the homeless.
- American economist Galbraith
The oil and energy debates in Sri Lanka
often tend to get divisive with more insults
and verbose dominating discussions as
opposed to laying bare electrifying facts
and an exchange of ideas.
The Committee Stage debate on the Ministries
of Power and Energy, Petroleum and Petroleum
Resources on Thursday was doomed likewise,
except for the contributions made by three
opposition legislators who raised issues
concerning the public whereas the two
cabinet ministers were seen keenly skirting
UNP's Sagala Ratnayaka made convincing
efforts to prove that the government was
indeed overselling fuel, making massive
profits while denying the public the benefit
of purchasing their fuel at a lower price.
Serving the multinationals
In doing so, he said multinational companies
were accorded the benefit of purchasing fuel
at a much lower price of Rs. 62.61 while
ordinary consumers had to pay Rs.142 for
petrol and Rs. 95 for diesel.
"When in government, we introduced a pricing
formula that was beneficial to all. We gave
consumers the benefit. If this is followed,
petrol should be offered at Rs. 72, not at
Rs. 142. Likewise, diesel should be offered
at Rs. 45 and with government taxes, at the
final cost of Rs. 55 not Rs. 95," he argued.
Arguing that when fuel prices increase,
naturally transport and production costs
record a corresponding increase, Ratnayaka
noted that the country's annual power
requirement increased by 5% which was by now
less than 1%.
"The increasing demand is a healthy economic
indicator. That shows the existence and
development of industries and individual
economies. The current figure shows that we
are in economic doldrums."
No relief for the people
Further, the MP scoffed at the government
for being generous enough to offer
multinational companies fuel at Rs. 62.61
while people were not offered fuel at
affordable prices despite this now being a
possibility. 'What's more, the minister
loved to claim that the CPC was blossoming
whereas the CPC's annual report states
otherwise,' he added.
But Minister of Power and Energy, John
Seneviratne thought for Ratnayaka it was a
case of sour grapes as the government had
begun to achieve in the power and energy
sector, the kind of development story that
the UNP failed to achieve.
The Minister said that
Upper Kotmale was working brilliantly and soon it would be completed and
the plant would meet part of the country's
growing energy demand.
"The UNP anyway speaks with a lot of hatred
for the Norochcholai coal power project. The
opening speaker tried to pinpoint that it
was ill conceived because of the cost
factor. What has to be understood is that
we are coming up with novel ways to minimise
cost in transporting coal to the power plant
itself. There is new technology involved and
we are finding solutions to the problem of
fly ash," Seneviratne noted.
The Minister noted that it was not possible
simply to allow the situation to continue as
the present demand and the production costs
combined could easily create an energy
crisis, and lauded the Sri Lankan engineers
who constructed Kerawalapitiya well ahead of
time to begin contributing to the grid.
"Over 30% of the imported fuel is now being
channeled for generation of power. We must
break the cycle by generating alternate
power and diversification," he noted.
Doubling the attack on the energy sector was
JVP Kegalle District legislator Gamini
Ratnayake who dubbed the CEB as a den of
thieves and the Ministry, a group of
inefficient administrators hand in glove
with corrupt elements.
Ratnayake's tone did not endear him to
government members and particularly the
likes of Non Cabinet Minister for Power,
Mahindananda Aluthgamage who kept opposing
the MP's comments, only to be told that he
was a useless Minister known for his lack of
decorum than contribution to the nation's
Ratnayake spoke about having to pay a Bank
of Ceylon overdraft and a loan to the EXIM
Bank for Norochcholai at a time when the
money raised for the project had been
"The vehicles purchased for the project
itself were being used by the ministers and
secretaries which is a despicable way of
dealing with tax payers' money," he
"The vehicles are being used," retorted
Aluthgamage to be shouted back by Ratnayake,
"They are. But not by the project people but
the ministers. You are abusing the vehicles
when you have state provided vehicles
anyway," he accused.
He added that there was 'financial
terrorism' as opposed to 'LTTE terrorism.' "LTTE
terror aims at devastating the country's
economy and when there is government
financial terror like this, the LTTE finds
its task further eased. The only difference
is that financial terror has no spots unlike
the LTTE, though it has the same objective
of destroying the country's economy."
The government launched its own offensive
soon with Fisheries Minister Felix Perera
lambasting opposition members.
Launching a vituperative attack on Gamini
Ratnayake, he noted that the JVP legislator
spoke as if he was electrocuted and found it
amusing that those who destroyed
transformers earlier, were now talking about
buying them cheap.
In a speech that did not deal with the real
issues or offer answers, the onetime power
minister claimed that the UNP was hell bent
on portraying oil hedging in a bad light and
what people should understand is that when
prices increase, the benefit would come to
Announcing a government effort to offer two
CFL bulbs free of charge to every single
consumer, Non Cabinet Minister for Power,
Mahindananda Aluthgamage ridiculed all
opposition legislators as disgruntled
politicians who are forced to stay in
"I heard so many lies today that I can't
remember. MP Dayasiri Jayasekera said we
have fuel for seven months in our stores,
but I say with responsibility that we can
only store for 28 days and no more. We don't
have such immense storing capacity," he
But TNA's Sivanathan Kishore redirected the
debate and claimed, for all the government's
rhetoric, the northeast remained weak in
infrastructure and that there was an obvious
reluctance to provide power to the areas.
Castigating the government for
indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, he
said there was no point in hoisting a
national flag in Pooneryn which was an
admission that it was not ruled by the Sri
Lankan authorities for a long time. "These
are laughable things. Instead, what the
state should do is to develop the area, not
devastate," he said.
Kishore's argument was that the government
had never really wanted to develop the
northeast. Successive Sinhala governments
have failed to develop, provide
infrastructure and meet basic needs of the
population as a means to proving Sinhala
supremacy in Tamil dominant areas, he said.
"You are fighting the LTTE, we can accept
that. But why attack civilians and why can't
you provide basic infrastructure to our
areas," he demanded to know.
With his customary arrogance that is
sometimes a blessing and at times like these
a curse, Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum
Resources A. H. M. Fowzie simply refused to
respond to the many matters raised by
opposition benches during the debate
dismissing them as 'extraneous' and not
meriting a response.
"I will respond only if the questions are
raised in good faith. These are figments of
their imagination and there is no need to
reply queries steeped in hatred and
dislike," he said.
No price reduction
The Minister said it was pathetic that the
opposition made a ritual of calling for a
fuel price reduction when fully aware that
such 'fluctuations' would not be possible.
"Some of these critics don't bother to
attend the consultative committees where
these matters are dealt with extensively and
are often absent when I reply in parliament.
There is no case of corruption or
mismanagement, except in the minds of a few
disgruntled opposition politicians," he
Attacking the pricing formula introduced by
the UNP, Minister Fowzie said that the
formula made the former government offer
fuel at a lower price but that was done by
incurring a loss.
"The loss was something like Rs. 11 billion
eventually and you promote the same formula
with us. We can't take that same disastrous
path. These institutions have to remain
viable and that means, we can't alter the
prices merely because somebody clamours for
it," he said.
The Minister said that oil when ordered took
weeks to arrive and it was not possible to
immediately acquire fuel. "It is not like
walking into the nearest boutique to
purchase a banana! This takes weeks. The
best is for those who don't understand the
topic not to venture into territories
unknown," remarked the Minister, having not
answered a single query raised during the
Besides, it was unexplained how the
President could reduce fuel prices, even for
tokenism, when the Ministry stuck to its
guns and refused to lower prices 'under any
THE LUCKY ONE
Wimal Weerawa-nsa's National Freedom Front (NFF)
is indeed a lucky one, what with instant
government recognition as an ally and hence
the crumbs that freely fall.
Among the thicker crumbs that fell
Weerawansa's way is the plush first floor
space allocated for his brand new political
party. Other political parties find their
offices located on the third floor, but as
luck would have it, Weerawansa got the only
party office with air conditioning!
Due to the sheer size of the present
Cabinet, record breaking and qualifying for
Guinness recognition to boot has now caused
some 21 ministries to be referred to a
special standing committee.
The said committee will present a report
that is scheduled for debate on December 7
and the outcome is self-explanatory when
matters related to 21 ministries are to be
debated in a single day and that too, based
on a special report.
Though party leaders have every right to
suspend Standing Orders and create
mechanisms to deal with situations, this is
how ridiculous it can get.
Cleansing toes and souls
A deputy minister with a penchant for being
a hot favourite among ladies recently
accompanied his legal spouse to a reputed
salon. The husband was having a pedicure
while the lady went for a facial.
But before the husband was ushered into the
men's section, the wife had reportedly said
with a sigh to the salon staff that what he
needed was not to clean his toes but to
cleanse his soul.
Baiz and his matter of privilege
It is not always that the aggressor is
rendered victim, and in this instance,
Deputy Minister of Provincial Councils, K.
Abdul Baiz was the aggrieved party raising a
matter of privilege about being hindered by
The MP has every right to raise a matter of
privilege and according to him, he had to
drive his own vehicle up to the main
entrance with no security and the police
officer on duty rudely obstructed him.
Baiz bitterly complained that for over 20
minutes he was denied his security, but in
the galleries there were whimpers that why a
pistol wielding minister (a fact well
documented in the media) should worry about
the absence of security unless he feels
thoroughly unsafe thanks to his track