Power Cuts: Democracy does not mean passivity

2 April 2019 12:20 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The present power crisis is not the first of its kind in the country. We have been running into such crises occasionally for the past several decades including long drawn power cuts in the late 1990s and in 2001, during the height of the ethnic war.   


The irony and the pathetic side of the story is that the country has not found a lasting solution to the problem, despite it possessing a range of rivers flowing from the central highlands of the island to the periphery and being a tropical country with the sun shining throughout the year.  


Our representatives remind us of the proverbial monkey that plans to put up a shelter to it on rainy days, but only to forget it when the sun starts to shine the next day.   
Our representatives seem not to find or not to need a lasting solution to the issue, but hilariously put forward shoddy short-term solutions, like the one presented by Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake to switch off two bulbs in every house.  


Minister Karunanayake seems not to know that in Sri Lanka only two or three bulbs are being lit in most of the houses, especially in rural areas. In many cases, that is their maximum capacity and minimum requirement of those households. They are on the proverbial mat from which they cannot fall down.  


Some time ago, owing to a similar power crisis, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) decided to impose a 25 per cent fine on the consumers, who did not reduce the power consumption during a particular month by 20 per cent.   


However, the authorities had to withdraw that high-handed measure after the Supreme Court, which heard a Fundamental Rights petition filed by a consumer ruled that the CEB had no right to impose fines on the consumers for their inability to supply power to the consumers regularly.   


In fact, the CEB or the LECO for that matter, sign an agreement with the consumer when the power connection is given to a house under which the power supplier is bound to supply power without any interruption.   


Hence, power cut by the power suppliers is a breach of that agreement.  


President Maithripala Sirisena said days ago as if he had discovered something new, that certain officials of the CEB and the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) are behind the power crisis.   


He said that certain engineers of the CEB and certain officials of the PUCSL had been sabotaging the plans to construct new power stations as they were running private power generating companies from which the CEB purchases electricity at exorbitant rates.   


This is old news which was broken more than a decade ago. Yet, the racket is continuing openly and in broad daylight, under the very noses of the leaders of the country.  


The President seemingly innocently says that these racketeers are very powerful and that they can bring the country to a standstill, by way of trade union actions, if action is taken against them.   


If an Executive President is helpless in this situation there is no point in complaining about it to the ordinary people as they are even more helpless.   


On the other hand, the Government and the people have to act according to the terms dictated by the powerful trade unions such as some in the power, health and transport sectors, which are selfishly concerned only about the interests of their members, especially the leaders.  


The President or the Prime Minister cannot absolve of their responsibility towards the people who voted them to power in this kind of a situation. They cannot complain that they are helpless. If there are forces that stand in the way, and if the leaders are not under an obligation of those forces, they must expose those forces with details, name and shame them with sufficient evidence and take legal action without fear or favour. Democracy does not mean passivity.   

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