- We should be bringing a Harmony Act and criminalize hate speeches even to the extent of confiscation of their assets
- In the modern world new strategies and new thinking process has to be adopted. Military intelligence must be reinforced with a new vigour and radicalization process has to be viewed through democratic point of view and rectified
- Social media platforms like Facebook and all other platforms should ensure that extremist information and hate content are banned immediately
- The UNP is always ready for elections. But we must certainly put a candidate who has been in the hearts and minds of everybody and that process has still not been finalized
The Daily Mirror spoke to Power, Energy and Business Development Minister and Deputy Leader of the UNP, Ravi Karunanayaka on the current political situation in the country aftermath the Easter Sunday carnage and issues relating to power and energy sector.
Q The biggest ever bomb explosions that claimed nearly 260 innocent lives and wounded another 500 on Easter Sunday (4/21). What is your view and assessment on this heinous act of terrorism?
I condemned such barbaric and senseless terrorist attack strongly and unequivocally. Terrorism has no place on this planet. These acts are perpetrated by fanatics who border a lunatic mentality and utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life. ‘Let us stand together and unite to defeat all these extreme forces. Together we succeed, divided we fall’.
Q There was no suicide bomb explosion of this magnitude even during the separatist war. It seems that they are way ahead of our law enforcement authorities. How do you see this?
Well, I do agree as such senseless killings achieve nothing but heart breaks only, gets no message at all except ruination of families and the nation. You could see that new technology has moved to such an extent that even France, UK, USA, Germany, New Zealand, Belgium which are supposed to be developed and safe countries have also faced this barbarism in terrorism.
So I call upon all sensible Sri Lankans, let us rise together, imagine that we are all one family instead of dividing ourselves in greed in racial or nationality perceptions while respecting each and every community as Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic, multi cultural and multi religious country. The major ethnic group must honour the minorities and vise versa.
Q The government hierarchy has miserably failed to take appropriate action to prevent this carnage even after the Police intelligence arm, the Indian, US and Israel intelligence units had warned Sri Lanka in advance on the impending threat. But, no action by the government at all. How and why?
This is in the hands of the National Security Council (NSA). But I must say that it has certainly not lived up to its expectations.
Q What are the measures in place to prevent a repetition and save the people from this new terrorist threat?
In the modern world new strategies and a new thinking process has to be adopted. New technology is a must. Military intelligence must be reinforced with a new vigour and radicalization process has to be viewed through democratization point of view and rectified. We should be bringing in a Harmony Act and criminalize hate speeches even to the extent of confiscation of their assets.
National education system must be redefined to ensure prejudice, hatred, suspicion and incitements are put behind us and interfaith dialogue to be immediately created. Social media like Facebook and all other platforms should ensure extremist information and hate contents to be banned immediately. Some politicians are of the view that democracy allows anybody to do anything in the name of democracy. This is not democracy but lack of proper governance. Human rights must respect sensible and meaningful living rather than senseless and nonsensical approaches to national issues.
Q What is your strategy to prevent power cuts and ensure uninterrupted power round the year?
You know that taking office in this Ministry that is completely new to me. It is less than 95 days since I took over this Ministry. However, we have been able to manage to find out the root caused that has been there before by devising a mechanism on how we are going to handle the power crisis in short term midterm and long term basis.
The power cuts that came about are for two reasons which are the supply was less than the demand as a result of the breaking down of the Lakvijaya Coal Power Plant at Norochcholai. It was quite obvious that a power cut was inevitable. Then the issue here is that how do we protect ourselves in future. We want to convert this into a power economy and we need to have a surplus supply so that we must meet up with the demand. This is done in two stages, one is the short term emergency approach and the next one is the medium term approach. Both of which are in the process at the moment and we are basically looking at the moment of bringing in additional supplementary power within by the end of the month or by end of May. That is the way that we intentto act and after that we look at the long term generation to really flat out in order to ensure we sort out this matter once and for all.
I must say that it is just being bad planning as politicians have also been irresponsible by not putting pen to paper and signing what is required and must say that the CEB also is contributory for delaying things when it should have been done much quicker. But now everything is in the past and we are looking forward to ensure this problem will not come up in future.
Q Not a single major power plant has been constructed since the commissioning of the first stage of Lakvijaya in March, 2011, despite continual alarm bells sounded by energy and power experts on a possible power crisis after 2018. Your views on this...
Yes, you are correct. The stark reality is that from 2012 there has been no new power generation which only confirms the precarious position that we are faced with. As you know every year the demand for power increases by about 6% to 7% which requires the addition of 300 MW into the system every year and also you basically have plants becoming older and needing maintenance etc. As well as the renewable energy that has to be added on are far insignificant in order to ensure that it basically counters the deficit in demand to supply.
So, with this in mind what we have basically done is ensuring that fast tracking of all areas of bids to bring firm generation. It takes about 24 months whether it be coal, thermal, LNG or any other energy resource. At the moment we have 4,200 MW of installed capacity which generates roughly a capacity of 16,500 million units. Now in order to ensure that we have firm generation, we are signing as soon as possible what has been in litigation, what is negotiable and added on and we are opening up of renewable energy sources, we are opening up the long generation on other LNGs and the coal plants and we expect that by 2025 we would push ourselves to have another at least 2,500 MW of power which would be helpful to ward off certain old power plants that have to be abandoned and then get into a correct position with a reserve margin of about 25%. At the moment this is in a precarious 20% and the reliance on hydro which is roughly about 1700 MW will be reduced with this approach.
Q The common view among the public is that the recent power cuts were avoidable and certain top officials of the Power and Energy Ministry and CEB deliberately delayed construction of power plants in the last few years. Do you agree?
Well, I would not say this is only by top officials of the Power and Energy Ministry or the CEB. I would also place with that the political elements or political authority as well. I think the political authority has a bigger responsibility than anybody else.
Q There is a huge coal lobby among CEB engineers in particular despite the fact that many other countries in the world – the developed nations in particular - are in the process of phasing out coal power generation. How pragmatic would this be?
Yes, your question is right. But this is after the modern world or the developed countries have basically utilized coal to the maximum. It caused environment impact in a significant manner and now coming to correct poor countries such as us in order to rectify into more expensive generation. It is an accepted fact that coal is the cheapest and there is a huge difference in technology from then to today whereas there is no more environment hassle. Certainly there is. But on the basis of the least cost generation and also affordability, certainly in another 20 to 25 years that can basically survive through non environmental impact generation.
So I suggest that it is easier said and done to be very fashionable in renewable but you have to be affordability elements. If you look at the CEB’s point of view, coal generation cost is Rs.13 to Rs.15 per unit, LNG would be in the range of Rs.15 to Rs.17, hydro and the mini hydro if it is built new, it would be around Rs.12 to Rs.15, old hydro power plants like Victoria and Kotmale and those to be written off are Rs.3 to Rs.2 a unit and the renewable are today around Rs.22 to 23. So, on that basis you could see that if we want to reduce the electricity bill and have the least cost generation, and ensure that we basically don’t have waste in generation, transmission or distribution, you could see that a mixed power generation of Coal, LNG and Hydro is the best way out.
Q Don’t you agree to the argument that the maintenance cost, environmental damage, human resources needed, logistical problems like storage, transportation and the global price of coal stand against the construction of more coal power plants in Sri Lanka?
No, absolutely not. Economical advantage will certainly disprove that it is a ludicrous statement to say that there will be added costs when there is already a committed cost. This will only defray the cost further. I would also like politely to tell the environment lobbies that this is done may be by environmentalists but also see the reality that we can’t afford to have any increases in household or industrial tariffs because people have paid too much for too long. It is the CEB that needs to rectify by having the least cost generation at the quickest possible time so that we can basically at least help the innocent consumer who has got caught in the cross fire on inefficient and bad planning that has taken place in the past.
Q What do you have to say about the allegations by anti coal lobbyists that construction and running of coal power plants ae open opportunities for corruption?
Well, in the hands of environmentalists, everything is corruption. The guys who work obviously will get blame. If you work you get blamed. If you don’t build any coal plant that leads to no corruption but the inefficiency and lack of action is also corruption because you allow emergency purchase to take place and that is a greater coast than this.
Q There is a major rift between the power monopoly, the CEB and the regulator PUCSL on the Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan (LCLTGEP) 2017 – 2035 that has affected the power and energy sector negatively. As the subject minister what are you going to do to put an end to this dispute?
I think if the CEB does the generation, transmission and distribution ably assisted by the IPPs (Independent Power Providers), that can help in generation and the PUCSL acts as the regulator, this dispute will not take place. Today, each one wants to do other one’s job and as a result it has led to both loosing focus on what they have got to do. I must say I have managed to get all concerned to understand that reality and also to help in nation building rather than be at each other’s throats and create unwanted burdens to already harassed and suppressed consumers.
Q The LCPP has broken down more than 15 times since 2011. The public perception is that the technology at the LCPP is substandard. What is your view?
I am too new to pronounce judgments on the quality standards but certainly I do believe that it has broken down 19 times. But also there is routine maintenance that goes on. So, between all of this, I think certainly a plant has been bought at a higher cost than what it should be, not at the level of standard that it should be. But now our CEB engineers are perfecting the art and I am sure when the new ones come, there would be experts who would be able to tell any body who tries to sell a substandard stuff that should not be the way forward.
Q Under the prevailing political situation of the country, the Presidential Election will most probably come first and it is only 8 months away. How is the preparation of the UNP for this game-changing poll?
My first response to your question is that, I believe the Executive Presidential System has to be abolished. My continuous belief is that we must stand with our election pledges to abolish the Executive Presidency rather than perpetuating it. It is sad that everybody comes to abolish it and lives on the lap of luxury of the Presidential system and does sweet nothing. If the Presidential system is to continue at least for a short time, the candidates must not be from a political party and contest as independent non politically affiliated .candidate so that abolition will absolutely take place. I still have the confidence that President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will abolish the executive presidency. If there is a will, there is a way.
However, the UNP is always ready for elections. But we must certainly put a candidate who has been in the hearts and minds of everybody and that process has still not been finalized. But he must certainly be an experienced, matured person and not a one who is trying to push himself and can’t even succeed in his own district. Therefore, there is this continuous battle that is going on and each one tries to claim that he can do the job. But finally, he must be an experienced, proven acceptable person who is like Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka at this moment. Younger aspirants such as all of us have time on our hands and to prove ourselves and come with a national plan as well which would be able to market Sri Lanka to the world rather than sell the concept of everything for nothing like what has introduced in the post JR era causing an unbearable impact on the people and country which has led us nowhere.
As the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius said ‘Give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day. Give him a fishing rod you’ve fed him for a life time’. That is the reason why we have to got to prove on how to improve in a meaningful and practical manner, create jobs, expand the economy, infrastructure which is what the country wants and not on political requirements. We have to eradicate poverty through knowledge driven education and getting involved in economic activities and the sophistication of the development process through modern world technology, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, and other successful innovative approaches rather than selling their parents owing to their disability to prove themselves.
Q A large number of backbenchers of the UNP supporters and youth who will vote for the first time at this election, want a new face as the UNP’s candidate who has not tarnished his image in any way. How do you assess this situation?
A fresh face is required and that is what I have already said. But tarnishing would mean that there has been a calculated approach of tarnishing the credibility among the people of who are doing armed chair deliverables no nonsense family oriented candidates is the answer.
You don’t retain a GP (General Practitioner) to perform a brain surgery. Furthermore, Dutugemunu’s son is not Dutugemunu, and Dutugemunu’s father is not Dutugamunu either.