of war commemorated
raththam podumada, oru eelaththaye kattiyeluppa" (The blood that is
shed is sufficient to build a Tamil nation) was one of the phrases from
a song that continued to echo in the Kilinochchi area right throughout
"Heroes' Day" which fell on November 27.
songs were all composed by local artistes and they were played through
the loudspeakers at every junction. "Nengil eriyum nerupputhan, oru
eelaththaye uruwakkum" (The fire that burns in our hearts is the
force that creates Eelam) was another phrase from a song.
One of the most
important events in the calendar of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) is the Maveerar Thinam (Heroes' Day). The sacrificial act of
every fighter by laying his/her own life during a confrontation for the
sake of Tamil Eelam is recognised and remembered by the living comrades.
Such an act of devotion is considered to be the supreme act in the 20
year old Eelam war.
No cadre is
ever honoured more than a person who has given his/her life for the cause of achieving self determination and self
rule, and therefore Heroes' Day has become a part of the life of the
people of the north and east.
fighter's photo is displayed in public. The people garland the photos
and pay their respects with utmost reverence. "Because of them, we
are able to live in peace today," they say.
Maveerar Thinam became even more significant because of the ongoing
peace process initiated by the United National Front (UNF) government.
Amidst their busy schedule, residents of Kilinochchi however did not
fail to laud Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who they say could be
a force to reckon with, and usher in a new era of peace in the country.
and even the remotest hamlets in the north and east held by both
government forces and the LTTE were all gaily decorated with yellow and
red flags and cut-outs depicting the Tamil liberation struggle observing
the final day of 'Maaveerar Thinam.
Jaffna, Batticaloa, Vavuniya and Mannar were held in a grand scale -
much more than it was expected.
For the first
time since the signing of the ceasefire agreement, unarmed police
personnel had been deployed to maintain law and order in this
cosmopolitan town of Kilinochchi. Shops were closed. Only the eating
houses and tea kiosks were allowed to carry out business to cater to the
large number of people who were thronging the war cemetery from all
hundreds of people including students congregated in the war cemetery,
which is called the "Martyrs Resting Home" to pay homage to
the graves of their sons, brothers, fathers, sisters and their relatives
who were buried there. In other places people also flocked to the
special rooms that were made with photographs of 'Maveerar' (Heroes)
that were on display.
function was colourful and emotional. It was heartbreaking to see
relatives of the dead garlanding the monuments and then stretching
themselves on top of the graves and crying, remembering their lost ones.
Some even fell prostrate to show their highest respect for the dead
The event at
Kilinochchi was quite a colourful one. The area leaders hoisted the
Tiger flags that came into being only in 1990. The Sunday Leader was
witness to a small ceremony that took place at the office of Tamil
Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) in the morning of November 27. Deputy
Executive Director, TRO, Iniyawan hoisted the Tiger flag. Then a few
minutes of silence was observed as a mark of respect for the fallen
heroes. Lighting of the oil lamps in the room where the photos of the
dead were on display and garlanding their photographs followed. LTTE's
Political Wing Leader and a key negotiator in the ongoing peace talks,
S.P. Thamilchelvan, and Pulidevan who happened to arrive there, stood
motionless when the Tiger anthem was played.
in Kilinochchi was sombre. An eerie feeling prevailed in the area with
people going in large numbers to the war cemeteries at Viswamadu in
Mullaitivu and Kanagapuram in Kilinochchi.
played through the loudspeakers were sorrowful - all speaking of the
commitment of the fallen heroes. Some mothers, fathers, sons and sisters
of the Maveerar were seen clad in white. It was a moment of great
sadness but it was also coupled with joy. "I am sad my son is no
more, but I am glad he gave his life for this cause," a mother from
Wattakachchi who was seen sobbing over her son's grave at Viswamadu,
Most of the
children of the dead heroes were clad in camouflage. Relatives from
Trincomalee, Ampara and Batticaloa travelled to Kilinochchi to pay their
respects to the dead. They told The Sunday Leader that this is the first
time that they were able to use their liberty to travel from such far
destinations in order to pay their respects. "Previously, we could
not do this, due to the war situation," they explained.
The main event
at Kilinochchi took place at Kanagapuram war cemetery under Theepan's
leadership. The cemetery was adorned with flowers. Tigers were smartly
clad in their ceremonial uniforms. More than 30,000 people thronged the
cemetery to participate in the main ceremony. At 5.46 p.m. (LTTE time)
LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran delivered his speech - dubbed the
"throne speech" by the people. Almost all gathered at the
cemetery stood to 'attention' until the entire speech was completed. The
speech lasted only 20 minutes, which was followed by lighting of the
main torch by Col. Theepan, the northern military commander. This was
followed by the relatives lighting the torches attached to each
The LTTE has
been celebrating the Maveerar Thinam since November 27, 1989. The day
November 27 was specifically chosen by the Tigers as the first ever
Tiger Lieutenant to be killed in the Eelam war, Shankar Sathiyanathan
was killed on this day in the year 1982. He was killed in action on
November 27, in 1982, following a confrontation with the Sri Lanka Army
in Velvetithurai (VVT). This day became important in the diary of the
LTTE because he was the first ever Tiger to lay down his life for the
sake of Tamil Eelam.
From that day
onwards the LTTE has been remembering the dead with reverence and honour.
The dead are considered as 'seeds' that would grow again to give more
fruit to achieve their principal cause. This is why every Maveerar is
not cremated but buried - contrary to the Hindu tradition of cremating
the dead. They are instead laid to rest in the Martyrs' Homes built for
them. "We say that the dead heroes are seeds and are sown to grow
again. They are neither buried nor cremated," LTTE cadres
The LTTE has
taken untiring efforts to remember all 17,651 including 251 Black Tiger
cadres who sacrificed their lives in the Eelam war. In addition they
build a home for their souls to rest as well.
claim that they have led a few successful military operations against
the Sri Lankan armed forces. They pride themselves in capturing a large
quantity of arms and ammunition and other equipment necessary to fight a
war. The first South African built armoured car was snatched from the
Sri Lanka Army by the LTTE in 1990 during a confrontation in Kondachchi,
Mannar. The LTTE also captured Mullaitivu army camp in 1996 during the
"Unceasing Wave 1" operation while taking over Kilinochchi in
1998 in operation "Unceasing Wave II." The LTTE also annexed
some other areas that were under the control of the armed forces in the
believes that without the support and the commitment of the Tiger cadres
who are not living in this world any more, it would not have been
possible to achieve this target.
statistics provided by the LTTE, the highest number of male cadres
killed in the Eelam war was in 1997 during the "Jayasikurui"
operation. Approximately 2106 cadres have been killed, while in the same
confrontation some 507 female cadres, which is also the highest, were
highest tribute to the dead is a bounden duty of every army. It is
deplorable that the government has not set aside a day to remember the
dead soldiers. The soldiers too, it must be mentioned have sacrificed
their life to safeguard the sovereignty of the country. According to
official figures 14, 101 Sri Lankan soldiers have been killed since
1983. In addition some 2542 soldiers are still missing in action. But so
far, successful governments have neither earmarked a day to salute the
dead soldiers nor have had plans to do so even in the future, though
remembering the soldiers who died in the Second World War.
Heroes' Day celebration took place in 1989, November 27.
Sathiyanathan was the first male hero to have been killed in action on November 27, 1982.
Malathi was the first female heroine to be killed in action on
October 10, 1987. She was killed in Koppai during a confron-tation
with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF).
Angayarkanni was the first female black Tiger to lay down her
* * * * * *
hierarchy believes it is fitting to give supreme honour to every
soldier either before or after death.
is a clear manifestation of a fighter's honest commitment to the
cause the Tigers have been fighting for.
Jegan is a 23
year old Tiger. He has participated in several military operations
and one difficult fight he remembers is the Elephant Pass attack,
where the LTTE over-run the entire camp killing most of the army
along with him some female cadres were also fighting. While the
fighting was on, a female cadre was hit and started bleeding
profusely. And another colleague senior to Jegan had requested
Jegen to carry the wounded female soldier to the makeshift camp
fighting a fierce battle. But I could not resist the orders from
my senior colleague. So I placed the wounded cadre on my shoulder
and walked up to the room where the wounded were being treated.
Until I reached the room, the female soldier was alive. But the
moment I laid her on the mat, she breathed her last ," he
said while sobbing.
Jegan went on
to explain the most painful part of this saga. He said only after
placing the combatant on the ground did he realise that the war
heroine who departed from this world after valiantly fighting was
his own younger sister.
told the officers there that it was my own sister and I asked them
to do the final rites according to the military requirement and
went back to fighting as there was a lack of combatants to fight
the battle. In fact, this incident further encouraged me to fight
until the end. And that is the day we over-ran the entire
camp," he told The Sunday Leader.
* * * * * *
toll so far
M - Males,
F - Females
victim of circumstances
Abeyratne, is Sri Lanka's heart-rending proof of a human error that is
irreversible. An HIV positive patient, Dr. Abeyratne contracted the
illness in early 1996, six months after she had been infused with over
60 pints of blood at the Galle Teaching Hospital and the Sri
The blood was
transmitted into Dr. Abeyeratne after she had been involved in a serious
car accident down south and suffered multiple injuries. Six months
after, Dr. Abeyratne secure in the belief she had narrowly escaped death
from a motor accident, tested positive for HIV.
initially received a pint of frozen plasma donated from the Central
Blood Bank which routinely carries out an individual screening of each
donor. The blood is screened for HIV, Hepatitis B and Venereal Diseases.
Medical practitioners however say that the screening for HIV is not
highly specific which is how Dr. Abeyratne was infused with contaminated
The blood of 58
donors was used in 1996 to transmit some 60 pints to Dr. Abeyratne. At
the time 18 of the donors involved in this donation of blood could not
be located. Dr. de Lanerolle, who was then Director, Sri Jayewardenepura
Hospital said some of the donors were from distant areas while some had
also given false addresses when donating blood.
of blood unfortunately can never be 100% successful, doctors say due to
a 'window period' that exists. For instance any individual that may have
contracted the HIV virus would initially test negative and only show
positive after a period of at least six months.
Venereologist, Dr. Sujatha Samarakoon said that it is estimated there
should be about 8500 people living with HIV in Sri Lanka. "It may
be more or less," she asserted adding that so far out of the people
in Sri Lanka tested for sexually transmitted diseases, only 435 have
been detected as being HIV positive.
Dr. Samarakoon said that at present testing for HIV and AIDS locally is
confined to only those within the STD programme or in some cases when it
is an employment requirement. As a result, the detected cases
do not in anyway
portray an accurate or realistic statistic of HIV positive and AIDS
patients in Sri Lanka.
said that HIV and AIDS is categorised as a sexually transmitted
infection because 90% of the transmission worldwide is due to
unprotected sex with an infected person. Dr. Samarakoon asserted that
there are many patients who though infected with the virus, are
symptomatic and the illness is not immediately visible.
After the virus
gets into the human body there is a period of about 10 to 12 years until
the development of the symptoms of AIDS is visible. During this period
of no visible symptoms, Dr. Samarakoon said there is a danger that a
person who has the virus is infective to others.
AIDS and HIV is
not transmitted strictly via sexually active individuals only. The
illness is also transmitted through blood transfusions or from an
infected mother to her unborn child.
The need for
drugs to fight the illness is of paramount importance. Dr. Kamalika
Abeyratne pointed out that she has survived six years after being
infected with the virus as a result of having taken drugs to fight the
alone is no longer of any use," Dr. Abeyratne asserted, adding that
it is vitally important for medical treatment in every situation - no
matter how poor the countries may be.
manufactured in India and named DOUVIRN has received World Health
Organisation approval as a drug to be taken by HIV positive patients.
The drug is
available for sale in Colombo at a cost of Rs. 4,750. If purchased one
package will last one month for each individual and will help contain
said unfortunately the government has yet to purchase this drug on a
government to government basis which would drastically reduce the price
and make it more freely accessible for all HIV positive patients in Sri
There are at
least 300 known patients in Sri Lanka who desperately require this drug,
Dr. Abeyratne said.
is the only case detected in Sri Lanka to have been infected with the
virus via a locally induced blood transfusion.
Now nearly 70
years old Dr. Abeyratne said the virus can no longer be detected in her
blood as a result of the drugs she has been taking for the illness since
tested positive for HIV in 1996. Dr. Abeyratne however still suffers
from the wounds of 17 broken ribs and two broken legs after the
horrifying car accident she was involved in - down south - six years
ago. That horror continues in her life due to her being a victim of
human error ironically in the medical field.
strikes Colombo's heart
risen again, this time in highly commercialised areas such as
Bambalapitiya, Wellawatte and Milagiriya.
Officer - Health, Colombo
Municipal Council, Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam said that about 18 cases have
been detected from these areas and in addition to Colombo West, Colombo
Central and even Cinnamon Gardens.
people come from outstations and settle in Colombo, this may be one
reason for the ongoing dengue problem," pointed out Dr. Kariyawasm,
who also warned the public to be aware of their surroundings.
are neglected bare lands around your homes, please inform us," said
Dr. Kariyawasm. The telephone number to call is 696594.
The public are
advised to clean their gardens and empty water that collect in tins, pots, flower pots and in other crevices.
Colombo Municipal Council conducted a clean up operation in
Bambalapitiya last Sunday, the public is advised to do their own
cleaning up and be alert. While the adult mosquito can be eradicated
with the use of malathion, the breeding can be stopped by preventing the
accumulation of water, the authorities warn.
dengue hit my little daughter, we were panic stricken," said Anil
Kumara whose child survived the dreaded disease because of Kumara's
quick action. "My daughter was hospitalised and unconscious and we
were completely helpless. I don't want to go through it again. The
message is simple and clear. We ought to pressurise the government, the
schools and all other authorities to be alert," said Kumara.
He also said
that the public take precautions when they hear about a case, but soon
forget. "For a few days we begin to apply creams on our children
before they go to school, pull mosquito nets over them and clean up our
gardens. But we tend to do these things only for a short time because we
are quick to forget," alerted Kumara.
Kumara was able
to save his daughter from dengue after taking a blood test on the first
day of the onset of fever.
Liyanage whose eight year old daughter succumbed to the deadly dengue
fever in February this year said that she still dreams of her child.
"I don't know how it happened. She was well three days before and
suddenly she was gone. Schools are closing and children are getting
ready for Christmas parties and I keep missing my daughter Shani more
than ever each day," she said.
night my husband had dreamt of her throughout the night," said
Jennifer on Friday morning.
still trying to find out ways and means of learning how it happened. But
there seems to be no explanation. My advise to parents is, if your child
has fever, take a blood test and observe the platelet count. Waiting for
the results of the dengue tests may take time. I did my best. I pulled
the net over my children, I lit mosquito coils, but still the dengue
mosquito attacked my little daughter and took her away," she said.
child has fever, please ensure that he or she gets good medical care in
a responsible hospital," she advised. Jenny and her husband were
helpless as their little daughter's organs failed in the throes of the
dengue fever. It was a time when doctors became mere spectators as the
dengue virus took over.
Be alert, clean
up, be cautious and prevent dengue, is the message to the general
public. Several children have died of dengue in and around the city of
It is time that
all schools put studies on hold for a few days and begin cleaning up
their environment and save their precious students
from the danger that lurks in the form of dengue.
Eelam ball in Sinhala court
Sinhalese people should not oppose the Tamils' aspirations to manage
their own affairs under a system of self-rule in their own homeland. It
is the politics of the Sinhala nation that will eventually determine
whether the Sinhalese could peacefully co-exist with the Tamils or to
compel the Tamils to secede... If the Sinhala chauvinistic forces, for
their own petty political reasons scuttle this peace effort... The Tamil
people will be compelled to pursue the path of secession and political
'Maaveerar Naal' speech of November 27, 2002
By D. B.
Maaveerar Naal or great Heroes Day has come and gone. The much awaited
address by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Leader Velupillai
Prabakharan has not caused any convulsions. It has been on predictable
lines reiterating some points made by the Tiger supremo on earlier
occasions. Other salient factors of the speech were more or less a
carefully constructed repetition of what LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton
Balasingham has been saying all along.
study of views expressed by Balasingham in media interviews, press
conferences and meetings connected to the Thailand peace talks will
reveal that the essence of what he said has echoed in Prabakharan's
is not surprising as it is well known that "Bala Annai," the
Tiger ideologue, writes "Thamby" Prabakharan's Maaveerar
speeches. In that context, it was amusing to note some news agencies
reporting that the LTTE Leader has contradicted what the chief
negotiator had stated earlier without realising who the actual speech
illustrated once again the abysmal ignorance of many media pundits of
the actual situation. Sections of the
media created a totally wrong image earlier that Balasingham had
dropped the Tamil Eelam demand at the Sattahip summit.
in an unnecessary exercise of misunderstanding and misinformation, these
sections are now baffled. Once again, these elements are trying to
project an impression that the LTTE is vacillating. The truth however,
is that the LTTE remains consistent in its stance while some media
circles continue to be confused and in turn confuse the public. The
underlying cause for these erroneous assumptions is the inability to
comprehend the ideological dimensions of the Tamil political struggle
and the LTTE's current approach.
Given the past
history of oppression and repression, a substantial number of Tamils in
the north and east felt that the sovereign state of Tamil Eelam was the
only answer. The overwhelming electoral victory of the Tamil United
Liberation Front (TULF) in 1977 signified this mindset. Tamil militants
as opposed to the old guard felt that only an armed struggle will help
establish a Tamil Eelam comprising the Northern and Eastern Provinces of
the island. The LTTE like many other Tamil militant groups in the past,
subscribed to this theory of Tamil Eelam being the only solution and the
armed struggle being the way to achieve it.
Due to several
reasons, the LTTE has now emerged as the preponderant representatives of
the Tamil people. While pursuing an armed struggle, the Tigers did on
occasions engage in peace talks.
While the LTTE
did feel that no Sinhala government would be able to address Tamil
demands meaningfully, national and international factors compelled the
organisation to participate in peace parleys. Thimpu talks in 1985, New
Delhi talks in 1987, Colombo talks in 1989 - 90, Jaffna talks in 1994
-95 are but some of these. Various explanations have been provided for
the failure of these attempts.
Now we have the
Thailand talks facilitated by Norway. A ceasefire has lasted for more
than nine months. Some progress has been achieved in setting up
committees. Compared to earlier attempts at peace making, the present
process seems to have progressed far. An important reason for this
success is the international effort personified magnificently by Norway.
Despite the euphoria, one cannot gloss over the fact that the parties in
conflict are yet to address what are known as 'core' issues. These are
the fundamental political issues and would require extraordinary
constitutional arrangements to be resolved.
illusion created, no permanent peace is possible unless and until these
'core' issues are resolved satisfactorily. The magnitude of the task is
illustrated by the fact that both the Tamil and Sinhala sides have
totally contradictory perceptions about what these core issues are.
Moreover, public pronouncements made by prominent Sinhala and Tamil
political personalities suggest that there is a massive hiatus between
both positions. There seems to be a vast gap between the minimum demands
and maximum concessions.
context, there seems hardly any basis for anyone to expect the LTTE to
modify its avowed position of Tamil Eelam at this juncture. Such a
possibility could materialise only after the peace talks reach a
fruitful stage of development. It is indeed disappointing that some
media circles should continue to create false impressions of the LTTE
dropping its Tamil Eelam demand prematurely. Equally distressing is the
impression conveyed that the Tigers are dilly-dallying on the issue or
that there is internal dissension on that account. What is important to
realise is that the LTTE is only prepared to consider alternatives
without having abandoned secession.
Thus, when the
LTTE says it is prepared to participate in the search for a settlement
short of Tamil Eelam, a familiar strand in Tamil politics is visible
again. Once again, the dominant Tamil political force of the day like
the TULF in the past, is ready to accept a viable alternative to Tamil
Eelam. The analogy ends there.
The LTTE unlike
the TULF has reached this dominant position through force of arms and is
in a far more powerful position vis a vis the government in Colombo than
the TULF ever was. This position of strength and its ideological make up
will not let the LTTE compromise for something far less than Tamil Eelam.
So any viable alternative that the Tigers would be ready to accept has
to incorporate the core principles of self-determination, homeland and
nationhood. That simply put is the bottom line.
position was directly and effectively conveyed to the world at
large by LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham at the press conference
in Thailand in September itself. Reiterating
then that the Tigers were not in negotiations to pursue Tamil
Eelam, Balasingham emphasised that the Tigers were operating at a
different level with other concepts such as self-determination,
however an explicit warning. If the three concepts were not enshrined in
any forthcoming settlement or if oppression continued, the Tigers would
use the right of 'self-determination' as a last resort and secede,
launching if necessary a separatist war again. Unfortunately, sections
of the media twisted this to project a view that the LTTE had dropped
Now the LTTE
position has been clarified unambiguously through Tiger Supremo
Prabakharan's annual address. Arguing that the Tamils of Sri Lanka
constitute a distinct nationality or national formation with a separate
language, culture, territory and consciousness of ethnic identity, the
LTTE leader emphasises its right to charter its own future. Prabakharan
says in his speech:
distinct people, the Tamils are entitled to the right to
self-determination. The right to self-determination has two aspects;
internal and external. The internal self-determination, entitles people
to self-rule. The Tamil people want to live in freedom and dignity in
their own lands, in their historically constituted traditional lands
without the domination of external forces. They want to protect their
national identity pursuing the development of their language, culture
and economy. They want to live in their homeland under a system of
self-rule. This is the political aspiration of our people. This
constitutes the essential meaning of internal self-determination. We are
prepared to consider favourably a political framework that offers
substantial regional autonomy and self-government in our homeland on the
basis of our right to internal self-determination. But if our people's
right to self-determination is denied and our demand for regional
self-rule is rejected, we have no alternative other than to secede and
form an independent state."
further, Prabakharan appealed directly to the Sinhala people: "The
Sinhalese people should not oppose the Tamils' aspirations to manage
their own affairs under a system of self-rule in their own homeland. It
is the politics of the Sinhala nation that will eventually determine
whether the Sinhalese could peacefully co-exist with the Tamils or to
compel the Tamils to secede. If the Sinhala chauvinistic forces, for
their own petty political reasons scuttle this peace effort, the Tamil
people will be compelled to pursue the path of secession and political
independence," he warned.
This then is
the LTTE position. The most noteworthy feature of Prabakharan's address
is that he is underscoring the LTTE's preparedness to consider "favourably
a political framework that offers substantial regional autonomy and
self-government in our homeland on the basis of our right to internal
self-determination." At the same time, his warning too should not
be disregarded lightly - "But if our people's right to
self-determination is denied and our demand for regional self-rule is
rejected, we have no alternative other than to secede and form an
spokesman and Constitutional Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has
been enthusiastic about Prabakharan's stance. He seems to be of the view
that as negotiations progress, a satisfactory constitutional settlement
acceptable to all parties could be worked out. Peiris is happy about the
LTTE Leader enunciating the Tiger stance lucidly. It is indeed a step
forward from a southern perspective. The LTTE leader, described often as
uncompromisingly intransigent has proved flexible. He has gone on record
that he is prepared to consider a viable alternative 'favourably.' Also,
he has expressed confidence in the bona fides of Ranil Wickremesinghe
This is a
golden opportunity that should not be neglected. The supreme challenge
facing the Sinhala polity therefore is to explore ways and means of
evolving a viable alternative to the
Tamil Eelam demand that would be acceptable to the LTTE and by
extension, the Tamil people. Unless Tamil aspirations are accommodated,
the demand for Tamil Eelam will not be abandoned. If a viable
alternative is to evolve, then the core principles of homeland,
nationhood and self-determination have to be recognised.
principle of self-determination (internal) is not something extraneous
in Tamil perception. It is perceived as an
inherent right of the Tamil people and not a concession given as
task at hand is to work out a solution providing self-rule in an
autonomous region incorporating the right of self-determination in a
manner acceptable to the Sinhala and Muslim people as well. These are
issues that have to be addressed and not glossed over, ignored or
postponed indefinitely. Unless and until these issues are resolved and a
radical re-structuring of the state is effected, prospects of a final
and permanent settlement are bleak indeed.
Prabakharan has done therefore is to fling down the gauntlet to the
Sinhala people and their political leaders. He has requested them to
provide an acceptable solution.
The onus has been placed on the Sinhala south to provide a viable
alternative to Tamil Eelam. The present rounds of talks may defer
discussions on the subject for a future date. Yet, the day will dawn
when the issue is really and constructively discussed. A meaningful
settlement will have to be reached then.
There are two
questions to ponder in such a situation. One is
whether the powers that be are capable of evolving an equitable
solution that would be acceptable to the LTTE? The other is whether a
Sinhala consensus endorsing such a solution will materialise? It is only
then that the Tamil Eelam demand would be laid to rest. As for now, the
Tamil Eelam ball is in the Sinhala court.
battle at the CEB
A fierce row
is brewing between the Ceylon Electricity Board’s Engineers Union (CEBEU)
and the CEB’s Vice Chairman, M. M. Zubair over the installation of a
multi million dollar project involving the setting up of a 22 Mega watt
power plant at Sapugaskanda. The battle is reaching alarming proportions
with the all powerful CEBEU threatening stern trade union action if this
project is not dropped.
engineers charge that the setting up of this plant has been approved by
the cabinet of ministers after Vice Chairman, CEB, M. M. Zubair
misrepresented the facts in the case without consulting any CEB official
including the general manager or the additional GM Commercial on the
Engineers Union has also clashed with Power and Energy Minister Karu
Jayasuriya over this issue maintaining the Minister too without
evaluating the proposal more thoroughly has pushed for cabinet approval.
and the CEBEU clashed over an agreement between the CEB and S. E. M. T.
Pielstick of France, which was to be signed in early August this year.
This agreement entailed that Pielstick and their associate company
Centrales Diesel Export would supply, install and maintain for 12 years
a new diesel generator of 22 MW capacity at Sapugaskanda station and
continue the maintenance of the four Pielstick 20 MW diesel generators
which are at the same location.
Engineers Union charge that the project is totally unnecessary and a
cost the CEB can ill afford. The financial commitment of the CEB for
this project will include Euro 11 million for the new generator in
instalments and Euro 4.5 million approximately towards payment for
maintenance over the 10 year period immediately following the
installation of the new machine.
loan is to be facilitated by Pielstick through Hatton National Bank, but
serviced by the CEB, with all loan repayment obligations on the CEB. On
August 6, this year the CEB Engineers Union wrote to Minister Karu
Jayasuriya stating their concerns and objections to this project.
letter was later taken up for discussion at the Energy Supply Committee
(ESC) meeting on August 16, at which two union representatives were also
present by invitation. Following this discussion, the ESC decided to
inform the CEB not to sign any contract on this proposal until the CEB
chairman’s report was obtained. Since the CEB has no chairman in place
yet, M. M. Zubair serves in his capacity as acting chairman.
from the massive loan liability for the CEB in this regard, the
Engineers Union asserts that the offer by Pielstick was unsolicited and
although accepted and evaluated is in complete violation of government
guidelines stipulated by the cabinet.
offer from Pielstick arose after follow-up discussions between President
Chandrika Kumaratunga and President Jacques Chirac of France in 1996.
A letter from Pielstick dated June 23, 2000 addressed to the
Director General of the BoI later sets out details of the offer and its
advantages and benefits to Sri Lanka.
in her former capacity as finance and planning minister in a cabinet
memorandum on August 25, 2000, described the offer from Pielstick and
stated that Pielstick had offered to sell to the CEB, electricity at an
all inclusive price of US cents 3.98 per Kwh for a full 12 year term of
the contract. Kumaratunga’s
memorandum expressed hope that the proposal would “address the
short-term capacity shortage of electricity” prevailing at that time.
price indicated in this memorandum was misleading due to the fact that
Pielstick had not included the cost of payment for maintaining the
existing 80 Mega watt plant at Sapugaskanda.
all-inclusive price of US cents 3.98 per Kwh was based only on the
proposed new 22 mega watt plant. This conditional clause appears to have
been conveniently ignored by Kumaratunga, her cabinet of ministers and
later the UNF cabinet of ministers, where the offer insists that
Pielstick must be given the maintenance contract as well as the
installation of the new generator for 22 MW of electricity. The French
firm will not agree to install the 22 MW generator only, without
renewing a 10 year maintenance contract or the existing 80 MW plant at
a technical evaluation committee studied this proposal in the year 2000,
after evaluation, they determined that the cost of a unit of electricity
per Kwh from Pielstick would amount to US cents 4.72.
CEBEU, Dr. Susantha Perera states that according to present day fuel and
other costs, even a price of US cents 4.72 is understated and that in
fact, the CEB will have to pay Pielstick around US cents 6 for each Kwh
the current price figures are available with AGM (Commercial), Zubair,
Perera charges did not consult this officer before writing his report.
further reiterated that the cabinet paper originally submitted by
Kumaratunga asserts the financial aspects of this proposal would be
covered in a Build, Own, Operate (BOO) proposal with the option of
operations of the plant being carried out by CEB staff.
typical BOO/Build, Own, Transfer (BOT) project, Perera pointed out is
based on non-recourse financing in that equity is generally limited to
about 30% of the project cost. The
proposal by Pielstick on the contrary he asserted has no resemblance to
a typical project financed investment, but relies on suppliers credit.
Citing the Pielstick proposal as a BOO/BOT project therefore is grossly
inaccurate, Perera said.
Chairman Zubair disagrees. He
is of the view that citing the offer as BOO/BOT or by any other label
should not cause a proposal to be automatically discarded or viewed as
is not what the CEBEU is saying. They
have in fact clearly stated the financial implications of a BOO/BOT
project and pointed out that as such, this offer on the basis of the
terms and conditions proposed cannot be cited as such and that it is
misleading at best to do so.
Engineers Union in their letter to Minister Jayasuriya also maintain the
original offer by Pielstick proposed using residual oil for the plant
— the same fuel which is used by diesel generators at Sapugaskanda.
The above factor was cited as a justification for locating the plant
within the Sapugaskanda power station.
Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) however, has confirmed that no
additional residual oil would be available for electricity generation in
the future. For this reason, the proposed 22 MW plant would be operated
on furnace oil which is used by many other diesel plants in the country.
As such, Dr. Perera asserted that locating additional capacity at
Sapugaskanda therefore does not offer any cost advantage as envisaged in
the Pielstick proposal.
dismisses this aspect as well asserting in his letter to the ESC on
November 18, 2002 that there is no advantage or disadvantage in locating
a new 22 MW unit at Sapugaskanda. He
adds that as regards the viability of fuel, it is upto the CPC or any
other new player in the fuel supply arena to meet market demands.
engineers meantime, assert that it is important to note that the cabinet
paper by Kumaratunga which received cabinet approval on September 21,
2000 was submitted by a ministry outside the subject ministry which was
the Power and Energy Ministry. Perera said that at the time, even the
former Power and Energy Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte was not consulted or
informed of this proposal, but that it had been handled entirely by
charges that even though the cabinet paper on this issue was indeed
submitted by another ministry, “the fact is that cabinet has accepted
it and set in motion follow-up action.”
following the change of government, Attorney General, K. C.
Kamalasabeyson, noted that since cabinet approval for this project had
been obtained at a time when parliament stood dissolved, it was
important to obtain fresh cabinet approval.
has dismissed even the AG’s concerns stating in his letter to the ESC
that the concerns raised by Kamalasabeyson “were not matters legal but
matters which could be more appropriately raised by the Auditor General
or the Treasury!”
approval was obtained by the UNF cabinet on July 10, this year, based on
a cabinet paper submitted by Minister Jayasuriya. It is being alleged that Jayasuriya had not consulted either
the CEB general manager or any other official before submitting this
fresh paper to cabinet even though the CEB had raised concerns by this
time on the prudence of procuring additional capacity at a time the
demand growth has not shown a significant increase. Indeed, the CEB has
questioned the wisdom of procuring additional capacity under the 200 MW
Medium Term Project currently under evaluation.
government is in fact in the last stages of procuring 200 MW of medium
term capacity from the private sector on a 10 year contract. This
capacity is expected to be operational by end 2003. In addition, the CEB
plans to also include 300 MW of combined cycle capacity at
Kerawalapitiya, on which tender preparations are being done at present.
Perera noted that committing substantial financial resources for another
22 MW which in all likelihood would become redundant, would only serve
to further deteriorate the financial position of the CEB.
Perera further pointed out that in the power sector restructuring
programme of the government, the CEB would be divided into several state
owned companies including generation companies.
away 100 MW of capacity immediately before forming these companies would
obviously be counter-productive, Dr. Perera said, adding that if any
decision to enter into maintenance contracts is needed, such decisions
should be left to the management of these newly formed companies. “It
is wrong in principle therefore to entertain any proposal for entering
into a 10 year maintenance contract for a sizeable portion of CEB’s
thermal capacity in view of the imminent restructuring of CEB,” he
disagrees strongly once more. He asserts that the power sector
restructuring programme is going on and the vesting date could be a good
year from now. “The CEB’s decision making process should not be
stalled on the hypothetical basis that it will burden the new
companies,” Zubair said.
adds that as a result of Pielstick having access to all engineering and
managerial expertise, they are able to achieve productivity targets much
better than others. As a result, he states awarding them a maintenance
contract for the existing generators at Sapugaskanda will ensure the
generators are in very good condition at the end of a further 10 years.
Even after 10 years, the CEB or its relevant successor company will have
a 100 MW plant of high merit, he notes.
Perera however, insists that the cost of paying Pielstick to maintain
this 100 MW plant would cost almost twice the amount when compared with
the CEB maintaining the plant.
also charged that the CEB has received lucrative offers of power
generation as low as US cents 5.5.
He noted that even this fractional difference in price amounts to
billions of rupees saved for the CEB.
Perera pointed out that these offers are not conditional and do
not insist on a maintenance contract as well at Sapugaskanda or any