Minister of Power and Energy and JHU General Secretary Patali Champika Ranawaka in an interview with Dailymirror spoke on the anti-corruption drive of the JHU, the corrupt deals that have been exposed so far and for the need to ensure that every individual irrespective of their status, are held accountable for the corruption and financial misappropriations committed during the previous regime. . .
What are the plans that are underway to implement this revolutionary change to the power and energy sector?
As part of the 100-day programme, we will remove taxes imposed on Kerosene, Petrol and Diesel. Afterwards, we will introduce an objective pricing formula that would reflect the global as well as local market values so that our entrepreneurs and household consumers will both be benefited.
For the electricity sector, we will introduce a new tariff system which is cost reflective and also attempt to resolve the two issues of under consumption and over consumption of electricity. Over 70% of the consumers use less than 120 units per month. We will encourage low consuming sectors to use more electricity while discouraging those who over consume.
In the meantime, we are also trying to empower the Public Utilities Commission so that there will be an independent body to regulate the whole sector of electricity and energy. We will address management issues that have emerged in the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation as well as the Ceylon Electricity Board due to the structural changes that were implemented in the past few years. We will look into how each of the institutions can be amalgamated in order to increase efficiency because the current system incurs too much of a cost.
A new pricing system will be introduced to both institutions so that we can evaluate the establishments as well as their employees. We will streamline a few processes including the procurement procedures for oil, gas and coal and introduce a new, objective way of bidding. During the past regime, these bidding processes were manipulated and a few individuals siphoned off vast amounts of money using inflated cost and premiums from gas, oil and coal.
The long term plan would be to modernise and re-configure the existing refinery and the oil tank farm in Trincomalee and the pipelines connected to the Port and the storage facilities.
Is there any truth to the claim that former President Rajapaksa handed over the Chairmanship of the SLFP to President Sirisena in exchange of the two conditions that he be allowed to contest at the next election and a suspension of the probes due to be initiated against him and his family members?
I don’t know the details of the discussion that took place between the President and Mahinda Rajapaksa. But a clear mandate was given by the people to the President to investigate the national plunder that has been occuring during the previous regime by MR, his family, his henchmen and other racketeers that surrounded them.
The public funds wasted by these individuals is vast, therefore we cannot allow them to run away or hide their wealth because in 2013 alone, statistics reveal that these cronies have at least siphoned off 10% of the GDP. Before the Rajapaksa regime, the household income generated by 5.2 million families was approximately 45% of the GDP - that has been the trend since 1970s. But after MR came into power, it was reduced to just 35% the amount which is about Rs. 700 billion per annum. According to the Moratuwa University, the finances misappropriated through corruption committed in road development alone was at least Rs. 200 billion.
So this mega scale corruption cannot be allowed to go scot-free in exchange of SLFP leadership or a parliamentary majority. There will be a people’s uprising against MR and his family if that is allowed.
MR should apologise for Basil’s departure Champika
MR can contest the elections, there is no problem but he should face these charges. We will frame the charges within the next week and expose details of how they have plundered the national economy and also the people’s mandate.They misused public funds worth Rs. 250 billion extracted from state coffers for election campaigning alone. PB Jayasundara should be held responsible for it because it was he who proposed for Rs. 100,000 - 50, 000 be given away freely to people using the Divi neguma project while spending another Rs. 150 billion on his budget proposals and easily another Rs. 100 billion for MR’s election campaigning purposes. The amount of money wasted for MR’s campaign at the recently held poll, puts the total cost of every election held in Sri Lanka since 1931, to shame.
President Sirisena accepting the SLFP Chairmanship - does it not imply that hereon, the priorities of this interim government would be dictated by the agendas of the SLFP?
No, because this is a national government. Part of the SLFP actually supported this government. Mainly it was the UNP and other parties that work hard to ensure the President’s victory so we don’t have any issue with the SLFP joining the government. In fact, we believe Maithripala Sirisena should hold the Chairmanship of the SLFP so that it can be re-branded and re-launched as a new social democratic, nationalist party. We need that new space, structure and policy to democratise the SLFP while democratising the whole country.
What is the Opposition now? Who will play the role of the watchdog with every party pledging support to the governing group?
This is only an interim government. They are going to fulfil the democratisation process and to introduce and empower good governance principles. So this is a very temporary measure. All these parties have joined hands for that and we have attempted to achieve that target. After the next general election, people are free to elect the government and Opposition they wish.
You speak of accountability yet those with corruption charges including some Ministers, officials of the former regime and even certain members of the Rajapaksa family have already left the country?
Anyone can refer to a legal point of view and state that there was no legal provisions to hold Basil from leaving the country. The thing is Basil is an intelligent man and he has left the country. Others are trying to hold on to the power still because they don’t realise the peoples’ mandate. But Basil or any other person involved with the MR government should not be spared - they should be exposed and charged.
Their leaving also clearly shows which country their motherland is and where their true loyalties lie. MR and his family always spoke about placing the motherland in highest priority. But as you can see it is now Los Angeles. They accused the US, the CIA and former Ambassador Sison of conspiring against Sri Lanka but Sison was not even in Sri Lanka when the election was held.
This medamulana slogan is only an attempt to mislead the people once again and we should not allow this to happen. MR should apologise to the entire nation for Basil’s departure because they mislead people with their slogans of undying patriotism.
Now there is also a tendency to blame every wrong-doing of the previous government on Basil but that is not true. It was MR and it is he who should be held responsible primarily - not Basil, Gotabhaya or Namal.
Will the present government bear responsibility for allowing those with corruption charges to leave the country?
When this President came into power, the existing government and the state machinery was still MR’s. Now it is slowly transferring under the new government. There was also a few days delay due to the Pope’s visit. But we will somehow initiate this international probe like what happened in Libya and find out where these politicos and their henchmen disposed the plundered wealth. It is important to commence this international mechanism so that within the next two/three months people will know about MR’s national plunder and how these ‘heroes’ were paid and the real motives behind the farce they put up to the people.
The JHU is among the forces leading the anti-corruption movement in the country. Many allegations have been levelled at particularly the Rajapaksas and MR’s sons. Are these simply claims or do you have solid proof to back your claims?
The allegations we make have been proven and we have over 1500 cases and files containing very serious charges, which we will publish within the coming week. We are not focusing on the young children but I can tell you, MR was targeting our children during the election campaign and carried out a lowly mud-slinging campaign against our children. But we are not like him.
Can the people have any faith in delivering justice to those who have been accused since some of them have joined hands with the government?
As I said before, this is a people’s movement. If there is no action, we will initiate direct people’s action.