In the afterglow of the National New Year or the festival of the sun the country was plunged into darkness with a shocking blackout blow to millions of people who were officially informed that their electricity bills would soar by about 60 per cent.
Media Minister and Cabinet Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella addressing the weekly Cabinet news conference on Thursday justified the move by claiming that a responsible government could not go on subsidising essential services and commodities for short-term gains or to win the popularity and the votes of the people. He described subsidies as political bribes.
Mr. Rambukwella like most other Ministers carries impressive titles or posts but they have little or no decision making power because it is an open secret that ultimately every major decision is taken by a few people.
So whatever the cross currents of what the cabinet spokesman tries to bring out in a dark pit of controversy, confusion and contradictions a popular television talk show on Thursday night revealed some shocking realities about how and why the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) plunging into debt and why millions of poor people—already suffering from a sky-rocketing cost of living and other problems—were being forced to pay and pay heavily for the misdeeds, mismanagement, corruption and fraud in a key state institution.
UNP parliamentarian and economist Dr. Harsha de Silva said there were about eight private companies being run by the CEB and while the chairman of the CEB was the chairman of these companies no one knew the Board of Directors. The CEB was forced to pay hundreds of millions of rupees to these companies. Mr. de Silva said it was not rising fuel cost that had plunged the CEB into heavy losses but more so the secret deals with the private companies. He said it was tragic that the millions of innocent people were being forced to pay for this corruption and he believed that the tolerance level of the people was fast reaching breaking point.
Sunil Handunnetti also disclosed that former Power and Energy Minister had been removed from his post recently because he wanted to disband the CEB’s private companies which were making huge profits at the expense of the people.