According to Power and Energy Minister John Seneviratne the northern district is urgently in need of a permanent power plant of 35MW. However in the meantime the Ceylon Electricity Board has already requested funds from the Treasury for a 30 MW permanent plant in Jaffna, but has not received the funds for this purpose as yet, with the government dragging its feet over the matter.
Meanwhile two projects for the construction of 132Kv transmission lines, one from Vavuniya to Kilinochchi and the other from Killinochchi to Jaffna have been hanging fire as well, in true Sri Lankan style.
Ironically while CEB employees from stem to stern are among the most luxuriously well looked after in the country, with medical facilities to die for and endowed with several other perks to boot, the burden on the consumer has been almost unbearable. Tariffs have been raised unfairly while power supply is intermittent and almost non-existent in some areas especially at the weekends. Neither is service the motto of
Be that as it may it is now revealed the CEB has been purchasing power from Independent Power Producers (IPP) at astronomical rates and incurring heavy losses due to the huge difference between the buying and selling price. These losses they obviously pass on to the consumer while doing nothing to speed up the projects already underway to address the problem of power in the peninsula.
The two Independent Power Producers from which the CEB is now purchasing power are Cool Air Venture Pvt. Ltd. for a 15MW at Kankasanthurai and Aggreko International Project Ltd. for a 15MW plant at Chunnakam.
The Cool Air Venture Agreement was signed on February 28, 2005 where the government was buying electricity at Rs.18.83 per unit while the Aggreko Agreement was signed on May 10, 2005 at a selling price of Rs. 20.41 a unit. However the selling price of a unit is Rs. 8.30 heavily burdening the state coffers as a result.
Both agreements are due to end on December 31, 2006.
Indeed these independent agreements were fixed assuming that the construction of the two 132Kv lines will be completed on schedule by the end of 2006 and thereby the permanent power transmission line would connect the Jaffna peninsula to the national grid also by end 2006.
Not surprisingly however the government seems to be in no hurry to speed up the projects or regulate the construction in order to finish the project on schedule. On the contrary a new implementation schedule for the two transmission line projects promises to keep Jaffna in the dark for a further three years, and the peninsula will not be connected to the national grid until the latter part of 2009.
Cabinet chit chat
Last Wednesday (24) however Minister John Seneviratne tabled a Cabinet Memorandum dated May 19, 2006 for the supply of electricity to Jaffna. (See box for copy of cabinet paper.) He called for three things.
(1) To request the Director General External Resources Department to explore the possibility of arranging a credit facility for construction of 35MW power plant in Jaffna on priority basis.
(2) To call fresh bids to purchase on competitive basis up to 35MW on short term basis to meet the demand of the northern peninsula, until the completion of the construction of transmission line from Vavuniya to Jaffna or completion of the construction of 35MW power plant by the CEB which ever occurs earlier.
(3) To appoint a Project Committee and the Cabinet Appointed Negotiation Committee to evaluate bids and make recommendations to the cabinet of ministers for its consideration.
When this matter came up for discussion Minister Seneviratne was to immediately point out the huge difference in the buying and selling rate. He said "We are losing money and now I am told the grid can't be completed."
He advised that money must be obtained fast to build the 35MW power plant in Jaffna or else in the alternative the completion of the transmission line projects must be speeded up.
Tigers selling for less
Stunning his ministerial audience, Seneviratne was to say that in fact the LTTE was prepared to sell power at Rs. 9, but the government had to buy at 20 from these private companies.
President Mahinda Rajapakse shot back immediately observing that if the LTTE was selling at Rs. 9 there was no justification for the government to buy electricity at Rs. 20. "I am not saying that we have to buy from the LTTE but you must go back to these Independent providers and renegotiate by telling them that the LTTE is willing to
sell at Rs. 9 and then renegotiate a similar price," he advised Seneviratne.
Harry's name dropped
Minister Seneviratne perhaps thinking that the name might have some bearing on Rajapakse was then to say, my information is that Harry Jayawardena is behind these projects and that is why power is selling at an astronomical rate.
Certainly, Harry Jayawardena has enjoyed the patronage of all governments and Rajapakse's regime was no different. He was recently appointed Chairman, SriLankan Airlines by Rajapakse, an appointment after the business tycoon's own heart and has also been appointed to various boards.
Be that as it may, President Rajapakse in a quick and humorous come back to Minister Seneviratne's revelation, said chuckling, if Harry Jayawardena is behind it then even the LTTE will say they can't sell for less than Rs. 20.
The hidden message perhaps was that the astute businessman and monopoly holder Harry Jayawardena would buy off even the LTTE.
While connections with politically influential politicians is mere speculation and not central to the issue what is vital for the government is to renegotiate the purchase of electricity under a competitive bidding procedure and transparent process in order to obtain the best price.
It is prudent that Minister Seneviratne and his government act with haste to remedy the present dilemma by calling for fresh offers so that the government does not lose any more of the people's money.
CBK slams party secretary
for taking 'wrong decisions'
Maithripala Sirisena and Kumaratunga
Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga though down is certainly not out. Last week the former President fired a salvo to SLFP General Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena taking umbrage at moves to oust her from her position of party leader.
Following is the letter
Hon. Maithripala Sirisena
Sri Lanka Freedom Party
T. B. Jayah Mawatha
Regarding the letter dated 10.5.2006:
You have in the letter under reference stated about a 'decision taken by the central committee.' When was that meeting held? You have not informed me about such a meeting. I have not received a report on the meeting either. I was not even informed of the members
of the constitutional reforms committee.
You have still not repliedmy letter-dated 4.4.2006. You have not forwarded my letter to the central committee, which was summoned hastily due to the need of one person.I would like to let you know that this is not only a violation of the law but also a sheer violation of the party's traditions that have been there for 55 years.
In my letter, I instructed you to set a date in May to hold the particular meeting. I also told that I would be able to take part in the meeting. But you are now asking for my response to the decisions you took at that meeting which was held totally without my knowledge.
I have received 1 1/4 pages that contain the proposals of this Constitutional Reforms Committee, which have been hidden from the party's president.
Those reforms clearly say that President Mahinda Rajapakse should be appointed as the new president after sacking the present president.
I need certain clarifications on that matter:
1. What has Chandrika Kumaratunga done for her to be sacked from the post of president?
It is clearly stated in the party constitution that the sacking of any person from any post should be done according to an accepted procedure.
I do not think that you have forgotten the fact that I followed the set procedures of the party constitution in terminating the duties of any party official, in the past.
I also do not think that I should mention the sacrifices done by my father and mother for the party.
I hope that no one has forgotten the pathetic state the party was in, when I took up the presidency of the party.
During the early '80s our party was almost in a state of collapse. Our party office was handed over to the UNP. Some people were working underhand to chase the party leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Our party lost dozens of elections within 17 years. Thousands of party members got killed and lots of others were harassed. I took over the party in such a backdrop and won the general election in 1994, which opened the
doors for all of you to many opportunities. It should be noted that we could win 10 elections out of the total 12 since 1994.
Was that a reason to sack me?
I worked 16 hours a day to retain the government for 11 years because the majority of the cabinet was lethargic and inefficient. I had to do the work of them as well. However I managed to develop the country's economy and to change the image of the country from 'the land
of barbarians' to a land of civilised people.
Is that an offence that I have committed to terminate my duties?
President Rajapakse cut down on my securitygradually when I was in Sri Lanka. I in fact met with him and requested not to do that but he never listened. Then I informed the party's senior members in writing that something should be done on this matter.
No one in our party has done anything in that respect. ThePresident took back two high-security vehicles out of the three that had been given to me. The Presidential Secretariat has now informed me to send the remaining one as well. I had no reservations in granting vehicles to Mahinda Rajapakse at every time he requested even at times he did not have any death threats.
Is this what I am getting back for working like that?
I have attached the relevant excerpts of the March 1 letter. According to that all my privileges have been gradually cut down since the day President Rajapakse was elected. Not stopping at that, state media published lot of false reports about me and they never carried the clarifications that I have sent.
Other than that I have stated the instances where I was obstructed when I tried to carry out my duties as the party president.
What is the meaning of these things? You all should decide.
2. Every appointment of the party was done by an independent election of the party's national committee, executive committee and central committee. That was the procedure followed by the party throughout. I proposed the name of Mahinda Rajapakse as the presidential candidate in July 2005. And it was approved by the central committee, the national committee and the executive committee.
You proposed me to the post of party president for life at that point and I trustyou have not forgotten it.
I rejected it at that point even though the central committee, the national committee and the executive committee approved it. I said that I would stay in the SLFP forever but would never want to get appointed to posts by force or through legal manoeuvres.
What is the reason for this hasty decision to change the law and get someone else appointed instead of me? What is the actual requirement for that ?
I would like to note that I have made much sacrifices and I am not at all greedy for the presidency of the party.
First, I accepted the post only because of the persuasion of the people around me but not by chasing away the incumbent president.
You should follow the constitution if you really need to sack me from the party leadership.
If anyone really wanted the post he could have solved the matter with me by discussing this issue respectably.
I have saidpublicly since 1994 that the SLFP is not the private property of the Bandaranaikes. I have throughout maintained that the SLFP is the party of the normal people.
Do not forget that the party achieved that state due to the perfect handling of the party by the three past leaders. They brought the partyto that respectable standard. We should never allow anyone to destroy that great leadership or traditions.
I think it is better to realise that the party would definitely get destroyed if we allow the power-greedy people to grab the helm of party.
I hereby request you to answer all my questions. Thereafter you and the other concerned people of the party should discuss and take the decisions.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga,
Sri Lanka Freedom Party