The Sunday Leader

CEB Amarapala Out As Unions Vindicated

  • Minister miffed as President stands firm
  • “Vision without action is a day dream – action without vision is a nightmare” – Badra Jayaweera

By Faraz Shauketaly

Unions at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) welcomed the changing of the entire CEB Board of Directors including the replacement of the controversial Chairman, Vidya Amarapala who was largely held to be a nominee and close confidante and fund raiser for Minister of Energy, Champika Ranawaka. The spokesperson for Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangama (LVSS) said that the Unions were pleased that matters “we brought to the attention of the authorities have been considered – otherwise there would have been no change.” The Ministerial confidanté and fund raiser Vidya Amarapala was replaced from his position of Chairman in the wake of growing opposition to his handling of various issues at the CEB including the so-called ‘Badra case’ when he opposed the former General Manager Badra Jayaweera’s decision to permit the return of Dr Susantha Perera to his post at the CEB after a leave of absence. Inside sources revealed that Amarapala was ordered to take notice of the President’s position that Mrs Jayaweera was a senior engineer with over 34 years of experience and that there could not be a ‘witch hunt’. Instead Amarapala and his colleagues meekly approved Mrs Jayaweera’s accumulated leave and accepted that her retirement would start from June 8, the day her leave ended.
The removal came within the ambiance of Union-led protests at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, (FTZ) which caused considerable consternation at the Presidential Secretariat. The Inspector General of Police took his planned retirement early by going on leave amidst growing concern that Police action at the FTZ may well have been ‘over the top’. A special report prepared for President Rajapaksa was handed in on Wednesday, June 8.
In a rare and almost unparalleled move, 60 Unions representing some 15,000 members came together over the recent controversy at the CEB. The Unions were protesting the breakdown in understanding between the Chairman and the office of the General Manager of the CEB. The Act of Parliament governing the CEB makes it clear beyond ambiguity that the General Manager is in effect the Chief Executive Officer of the institution. Vidya Amarapala had ignored all the norms and had issued the General Manager, Badra Jayaweera with a letter of interdiction and in a press interview claimed that Mrs Jayaweera had been dismissed. Amarapala had ignored the fact that Mrs Jayaweera was merely acting within the rules of the CEB governing the return to service of an engineer who was granted a five-year leave of absence. All the Unions rallied around the General Manager who they saw was being trod upon with impunity by the Chairman. Mrs Jayaweera was advised by a senior Cabinet member to contact the President with her complaint, which appeared to be a prima facie case of harassment and intimidation. The President issued swift instructions and the Ministerial Secretary in turn issued instructions to the Chairman: Mrs Jayaweera should be allowed to take her accumulated leave and allowed to retire as planned without affecting her terminal benefits and pension.
Intense lobbying by the Minister to retain the Chairman fell on deaf ears with the President mindful of Union activities. It was perhaps fortuitous timing and the Minister was told that the Chairman must go – not only because of the Jayaweera episode but also due to growing allegations of various inducements being sought from potential investors in the power sector and from others who already have a long and established presence in Sri Lanka.

Power For All: A Pipe Dream?

Sri Lanka’s has an installed capacity of 1,784 MW of power which meets the current demand. However, presently, approximately 25% of households in Sri Lanka do not have access to electricity. The figures may well be misleading as it is an average. Our table reproduced below shows that some areas are far worse off than the averages suggest. For example in the Uva Province, a staggering 48.3% of households have no electricity connections. The Uva Province where Presidential nephew Shasheendra Rajapaksa is Chief Minister, is one of the least developed areas in the country and the lack of electricity only serves to compound the problem. Roads have been developed and the Chief Minister continuously seeks to have inward investment into the Uva and Moneragala areas. The problems of distributing electricity to these areas presents a financial burden to the CEB especially when one takes into consideration the vast sums of monies that various government organsisations owe the CEB. For purposes of setting tariffs the CEB were asked to ignore the interest component payable on their borrowings so as to stem the steep rise in electricity prices that was suggested at the end of 2010.  Nevertheless Sri Lanka’s electricity prices remain one of the most expensive in South Asia. The flip side of the coin is that many consumers agree that where there is power now, the power cuts that were common place in the early 2000’s have reduced tremendously with far more reliable power coming through.

Hydro-Power

Sri Lanka’s small hydro power potential has not been harnessed at all and its utility is alarmingly low. We spoke to a number of potential investors in this industry who without exception narrated the same set of complaints. The manner of licensing was at fault: the licensing process itself involves 12 different approvals from a variety of sources including different local authorities and the Central Environment Agency. Once the licensing process is done with, the CEB has a standardized power purchase agreement which has a generous flat rate payment to the investor quoted by the CEB as Rs 13.04 per kWH. All the more appealing is the fact that there are no penalties for power not supplied to the grid. Thermal power suppliers by contrast do have penalty clauses and performance warranties imposed in case of non-supply. In practice, the CEB has almost never imposed penalties against thermal power suppliers for under-performing or not complying with what is supposedly a very tight legal agreement. Sri Lanka’s mini-hydro licenses it appears are destined for trading and not implementation. Once the CEB has signed the Standardized Small Power Purchase Agreement (SSPA), the project takes on a value based at around Rs 20 Million per megawatt. A mini hydro project of say 3 MW of power would be traded at around Rs 60 Million plus equipment, land and erection. Investors in the industry point out that blue chip companies have been put off precisely because of this trading and have continuously called on the CEB and the Minister to ensure that mini hydro licenses are not transferable and that a maximum period of 12 months is given for implementation. If the project is not implemented within that period the license and the SSPA agreement should automatically lapse without recourse for renewal.
This hardline action sources say will ensure that the trading in licensed mini hydro projects will cease, prompting real investors to make headway – ultimately helping drive down Sri Lanka’s dependency on thermal power by even a few per centage points. (faraz@thesundayleader.lk)

Jayaweera Bids Farewell

Badra Jayaweera: talking her way into retirement

Badra Jayaweera the outgoing General Manager of the CEB was hosted to a farewell party at the Taj Samudra Hotel by her colleagues at the CEB. The new Chairman, Prof. Wimaladharma Abeywickrama, also attended. Mrs Jayaweera disclosed how she had no option but to seek Presidential intervention to save her name and reputation. She received a standing ovation and the audience raised a toast at her behest to salute President Rajapaksa who had stepped in at the final hour and possibly averted a series of work to rule actions that had been planned.

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Percentage of Homes without Electricity in Sri Lanka:

7.60%    Western Province
27.3%    Central Province
21.6%    Southern Province
36.4%    Northern Province
34.4%    Eastern Province
31.5%    North Western Province
38.0%    North Central Province
43.3%    Uva Province
35.3%    Sabaragamuwa Province

6 Comments for “CEB Amarapala Out As Unions Vindicated”

  1. Trinesh

    I can surely say that CEB is/was on of the corrupt institution where every engineer take bribe from renting a vehicle to buying concrete polls. It is so currupt and mismanaged funds and that is why CEB was bankrupt. If you look at all the power purchasing agreements, it is well known that prices are high because all these companies had to pay huge bribes to engineers. Anyway, Mr Amarapala goes to the history that he was the only one who challenge that corrupt CEB Engineers Union and President took Unions’s side he doesn’t want any protests at this movement. I feel sorry fro Mr Amarapala..

  2. Ex-CEB Engineer

    It is a shame that the minister himself an engineer (though never practised anywher his profession) allowed this to happen under his nose. I lost the confidence on this minister as it is clear to many working in CEB that he is more interested in cheap publicity than trying to make CEB a more efficient public institution.

    Badra has been a honest proffesional and never got her name tarnished in her career. That must be the reason for all employees rallied around her at that difficult time. This must be a good lesson for all politiciens. Good on you Badra.

  3. dagobert

    If Ms. Badra was honest, why could not the Unions and also the President extend her retirements in the national interest & continue with her???
    Why ????

    The President can invite her on contract basis as a Consultant.
    Why don’t the Unions act in the interest of the Country ???

  4. M.V.R.Perera

    I am also a Ex CEB Engineer and also a Ex DGEU Engineer it is good that the whole Board was sent packing but with the present Minister not being removed there is no way the CEB could be a profitable institution with his banning coal power after two coal power stations without getting rid of very high cost of 6.5 billion units of oil per year with coal units as soon as possible and taking into account that with cheap electricity the growth of electricity will be over 8% per year. Also it is hoped that the new director Board will study the CEB Acts and know what the duties of the GM is and the statutory duties of the CEB is given by section 11 and section 38 so that they may not make the mistakes made by former boards

  5. LalithV

    It is simply unbelievable how these people can lie through their teeth nose and ears! Each statement they utter is a lie. It was a pity that Vidya and his two colleagues had to depart before they could show us which investigation report said there was a fraud of Rs. 610 million and Dr. Susantha Perera was responsible for any fraud. You reap what you sow; you will now drown in your own pool of mud.

    Vidya and Roshan, now that you are out of limelight and cameras are no longer focused on you, take some time to think what a pair of fools you have made out of yourselves! Hope you will at least learn to spell Italy!!

  6. Dida

    Vidya and Roshan

    We tried to save you, but you two were like a pair of donkeys whose tails were set on fire! What the hell were you thinking? What made you think a pair of jokers like you could take on the CEB engineers? Now that you are no more in CEB, please look at some of the media statements you to made about Mrs. Jayaweera and Dr. Susantha. Mrs. Jayaweera showed some of your beswt performances during her presentation at the Farewell on June 7. God, what a pair of donkeys?

    Chandana, you were the architect of this unnecessary mess, but you survived. You must be having the lot of fun watching your friends disappear.

    Roshan, may be you can join your brother-in-law Royce and campaign for the UNP because you have no future with the present crowd.

    Poor (old) Douglas, you should have stayed retired without destroying whatever reputation you had as DSG. You know what they say, you sleep with dogs and you get up with fleas! But don’t worry too much my old freind, everyone knows you were only collateral damage.

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