During an interview with the Minister of Megapolis and Western Province Patalie Champika Ranawaka on the issues that surfaced with the power outages that affected the entire country, he categorically stated that this was the work of a Mafia
within the CEB.
QYou were once the Minister of Power. What was this issue connected with the power supply?
I wish to state frankly that in Sri Lanka there was no power issue that occurred due to an unavoidable situation. As a former subject minister who held the office for four years, and as a person who has a wide knowledge in this field, I firmly state that there was no “Black Out.” In other words, there was no unavoidable power failure. It should be first defined that what a power failure is and what a black out is. Black out means a total power failure in the system. Normally a power failure could occur due to a transformer blast due to lightning. During a cyclonic situation there could be destructions to the circuit. These all could occur due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, and power cuts could be experienced. Other than that, when urgent maintenance work was being done, there could be power interruptions. These are done after prior notice and they are referred to as ‘Scheduled Power Cuts’.
During the past few months on September 27, 2015; February 25, 2016 and on March 13, 2016, and on a subsequent date in Kotugoda what happened was a total power failure. These four occasions were unique. These types of total black outs at frequent intervals had not taken place anywhere in the world. I challenge the engineers to point it out that this had happened anywhere. The only black out that happened during the past ten years was the one that occurred on April 12, 2009. It was mainly due to a fault of the workers. All the senior engineers of the CEB had gone to enjoy the new year that day leaving system control which was beyond the control of those present on that day. In 2003, a severe power system failure had taken place. But what happened during the recent past, was due to the irresponsibility of the senior engineers, without any hesitation. As electricity is very essential, huge amount of money is spent in obtaining it. The salary bill of the CEB amounts to Rs. 20 billion. The engineers had got a pay hike recently saying that they were superiors. Their prime duty is to ensure an uninterrupted supply. The General Manager’s nett emoluments is approximately Rs. 600,000! No other State Institution pays such high wages.
QThe CEB once said the short circuit at Polpitiya was caused by rains and storm?
Yes, they said so, and also said that lightening struck the Polpitiya line to trip off and attempted to save their skins. But when they were present at the investigations they raised doubts about the lightning. If they say it was due to rain, then what about the March 13 black out that had happened during clear sunny weather? Then they said it might have been caused due to the excessive heat during that time. They had baseless arguments to confront the allegations. They had come out with lame excuses such as lightning when it was raining and heat when it was sunny. The transformer at Kotugoda had been serviced on December 31, 2014, and they had not visited it since then. The response these officials gave was not substantiated. They were stated purely to mislead people. Investigations are proceeding. I suspect a conspiracy in this. We reject their reasons as due to rain and heat during the months where extreme dry weather prevails. There was no power interruption in 2012 when we experienced a severe drought.
Q Your comments about the insufficient capacity...
Our maximum demand of electricity is in the range of 2300 MW, and our capacity is 3981 MW. Therefore there is no issue over power output. If we are unable to match the demand, then who is responsible for that?
Q The CEB had also pointed its fingers at Norochcholai?
Who built Norochcholai? And who staged protests demanding that it should be sped up? The agreement to commission Norochcholai was not signed by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike or the then minister-in-charge Susil Premajayantha. It was signed on September 30, 2005 by former General Manager and former Electrical Engineers’ Association president Ranjith Fonseka. This power plant was built following this agreement.
The politicians in the country cannot be held responsible for this. The so-called engineers are now making a loud cry against it. Even when the second and third stages of this plant were inaugurated, these engineers were quiet.Not only that, they carried one full page advertisement in a newspaper in 2013, glorifying this launch with a caption “This is an asset for us”. This was published by this so-called Engineers’ Association. Therefore, they have no moral rights to say that this was unsuitable. I forwarded a letter to former President Mahinda Rajapakse outlining these facts. The engineers took offence by resorting to strike action. By this letter I enumerated all these issues. But MR ignored these.
Q Who do you think are behind these issues?
There are a few from the CEB. They obtained power from the private sector during Minister Ratwatte’s period saying that it was only for a few months but it continued for more than 20 years! This later became a cancer involving the CEB and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CEB) to the tune of Rs. 400 billion. With that money four power plants; similar to the one at Puttalam could have been built.
That curse was removed with the greatest difficulty. But it hurt some at the CEB. Now they are attempting to bring it back and create non existent issues. This is clearly a well-planned job of the Diesel Mafia. They craftily brought down the water levels at the reservoirs.
The CEB chief should be held responsible. They suggest that we should purchase power from the private sector. This is their modus operandi to bring back a system that incurred heavy losses to the CEB. This is the work of some unscrupulous elements in the CEB. Because of their actions, the genuine and sincere engineers of the CEB are at the receiving end.
The poor general public has to pay back for the colossal loss that had been incurred by the racketeers at the CEB. If there exists a disparity in the electrical power circuit, the blame should go to the planning division. Therefore the only resort available to them was to pay back the salaries they had received over all these years for non performing schemes proposed and go home.
There is a union here which sent 11 Chairpersons home saying that they acted against their wishes. This union had never allowed Chairpersons and/or Board of Directors who did not toe their line from performing their duties honestly. This issue has to be brought to the notice of the entire public. The government should take stern action in this regard, as a financial crime is being perpetrated by those at the helm of the CEB.