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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2643

Sri Lanka's electricity board continues to be crippled due to political manipulation

By Munza Mushtaq -- Reporting from Colombo for Asian Tribune

Colombo, 31 May, ( As politics continues to cripple the already crisis ridden Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), a top notch CEB union is going to the extent of taking up this issue with President Mahinda Rajapakse in the coming days, in the fervent hope that he might intervene and put a stop to the current state of affairs at this institution.

CEB insiders said that the CEB Engineers Union (CEBEU) has already sought an appointment with the President, where they hope to discuss matters pertaining to the present inapt CEB management including its chairman and the board of management, who was appointed after Minister W.D.J. Seneviratne assumed duties. The union also expects to take up the electricity board reform issue with the President owing to the ad hoc manner in which the Ministry was attempting to reform the CEB.

The scheduled meeting with the President also comes amidst a statement made by Minister Seneviratne where he has called the CEB a 'corrupted and inefficient' institution. However, top engineers who spoke on condition of anonymity emphasized that it was some Ministers and the management who were making the CEB corrupt and inefficient.

"The Minister claims that the CEB will be free of corruption and inefficiency once it is reformed, but this institution does not need to be reformed to transform it from its present position, all it needs is political will, the same will which saw the launching of the Upper Kotmale Hydro Power project and the Norochcholai coal power plant. If this institution is entrusted to the correct hands, everyone will see a positive transformation," a senior engineer pointed out.

The engineers also noted that the CEB has for a long time failed to experience the combination of a good minister and a good chairman at the same time. "When we had a good minister we didn't have a good chairman. When we had a good chairman we didn't have a good minister," they noted.

These engineers who hold very senior positions within the institution also alleged that the current Chairman and the Board of Management have no vision for the future of the CEB and they are only merely carrying out what the Minister and the Ministry Secretary dictate to them.

It is reliably learnt that senior engineers and other board staffers were also very 'unhappy' over the way the Power and Energy Ministry had conducted the opening ceremony of the Norochcholai Coal power plant. "It was Minister Susil Premajayantha who initiated both these vital projects, but despite this, he was not even invited for the event," sources said.

The CEB today faces its worst financial calamity of facing an overdraft of some Rs. 93 billion. The Board also loses approximately Rs. 45 million a day owing to the excessive reliance on oil based power plants.

Meanwhile the continuous rhetoric by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna backed Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya trade union against the proposed reforms bill is unlikely to go beyond it, despite the trade union threatening to plunge the entire country into darkness, sources claim.

The LVSS along with several other minor unions who have come under a new banner, lack the necessary expertise and capacity to carry out a total shut down of the power system at the CEB's systemc control room.

"But their only alternative is sabotage, other than that they cannot carry out a proper systematic power interruption, which could bring a lot of repercussions to the system and hardship to the masses," the source noted.

However owing to the fact that they are being led by a political party, it is unlikely that the trade union would resort to such an act, knowing very well such acts could affect the JVP negatively in the political arena.

- Asian Tribune -

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