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Govt’s duty to ensure people’s safety

2 December 2021 02:24 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The series of gas-cylinder related explosions, more than 30 in November alone reported from several parts of Sri Lanka, is a matter of grave concern causing much fear and trepidation among the millions of domestic-gas users across the country. 


It is even more alarming, considering the fact, that little or nothing is known about the exact causes leading to these explosions in which one life was lost and several homes and restaurants were severely damaged.
Gas importers say they too are puzzled as to the sequence of explosions occurring in quick succession and claimed they had not ruled out sabotage as a possible cause so as to discredit their businesses. 


They said the explosions were too frequent to be a matter of coincidence and confirmed that a full probe would be conducted to ascertain how and why they had occurred.


Litro Gas Company Marketing Director Janaka Pathiratne rejected allegations made by former Executive Director of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA), Thushan Gunewardena that the explosions were the result of the composition of gas being changed by the two gas suppliers. 


Mr Pathiratne assured users that the gas sold in the market was in conformity with the specifications laid down by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI). He said anyone was free to check the ratio of the contents and pointed out that Litro Gas with a market share of more than 80% and supplying some four million cylinders a month could least afford to tarnish its image by compromising on quality.


Mr Pathiratne said past records showed that explosions had occurred every year but they had been due mostly to users failing to replace either a defective gas regulator or the tube on time or were using substandard cookers. 
Laugfs Gas, the other gas supplier in the country with a 20% market share, also denied allegations that it had effected any changes to the composition of the gas.


However, Mr Gunewardena maintained that the repeated requests made to the SLSI to examine the composition of the gas and introduce standard specifications had been ignored. 


“We even brought this matter to the attention of the Trade Minister and the State Minister for Consumer Protection but little or nothing has been done. It has now turned out to be a time bomb waiting to explode,” he said.


Mr Gunawardene said he stood by his claim that the cylinders consisted of gas made up of 50% butane and 50% propane and that such a mix was not conducive to a tropical country such as ours because the industrial gas, propane had a pressure four times higher and thus had a tendency to leak. 


He said the cylinders had not been designed to hold such a composition and urged the Government to intervene to save the lives of those who had been misled into believing that the gas they were being supplied with was efficient and safe.


Meanwhile, we use this opportunity to condole with the families whose kith and kin perished in the November 23 boat tragedy at Kinnya. 


Seven people including five children were killed and 13 injured with three reported missing. This tragedy would never have happened if not for the selfishness, apathy and negligence of those who operated the ferry, which according to a witness had capsized on a previous occasion as well, those who gave permission to operate it and the people’s representatives at the centre and the periphery, who failed to perform their duty by making sure that the bridge -- which would have fulfilled a vital need of the people, and for the construction of which the foundation stone was so pompously laid on April 11 -- had been completed on time.


There is no gainsaying the fact that at the end of the day it is the government in office that is responsible and accountable for whatever that happens during its tenure. Blaming officials or previous governments will serve no purpose nor will they provide solutions to any of the afore-mentioned calamitous incidents. 


In the wake of the customary blame game, which would in no way allay the fears of householders who use domestic gas on a daily basis, the government has appointed several committees to probe this life or death matter. 


We can only hope the committee reports would help the Government to adopt whatever measures necessary to re-instil confidence in the people, the millions who had transited from firewood to gas believing it was safe and convenient and that the consumers could continue using domestic gas without anxiety or fear. We are faced with enough and more problems; we do not need any more to spoil our day.


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