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Govt trying to pass legislation to sell CEB – JVP

The JVP yesterday accused the Government of trying to pass new legislation to sell out electricity generation and distribution to the private sector and threatened that they would disrupt sittings if the Bill is taken before the Parliament.

"It had earlier been planned to take the Bill on Friday the sixth before Parliament. The Ceylon Electricity Board unions threatened to black out the entire country and now presenting the Bill had been put off until 17th of this month. We are totally opposed to this move and would not allow it passing," JVP trade union wing leader MP K.D.Lalkantha told a media conference in Colombo.

The new bill would invalidate the existing Ceylon Electricity Board Act and would legitimize the entering of private sector in promoting, coordinating and improving the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity in Sri Lanka. He said that the aim of this bill was to nullify Act 2002/28, which was brought in to reform the electricity sector. "We have reasons to believe that this new Bill, although brought under the pretext of rectifying the mistakes made in the 2002 Act, will be more damaging to the CEB than the earlier one."

The 11th Clause of the draft bill says that the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity would not be under a single body, thereby ending the monopoly of the CEB, he said. "Who is going to take them over? Definitely, the private sector. The Clause says no single body could take two components of generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity. And it gives the idea that several private companies would take them over but with experience we know a single base could form several companies and buy them over so that it would control the entire economy. This is a great danger to the national security too," he said.

The 62nd Clause of the bill says the Sri Lanka Public Utilities Commission would issue a permit giving power to the CEB for another six months to continue. "What would happen after six months? Simply the CEB would be reduced to a sign board institution with no power over the electricity supply.

The bill also aims of appointing a regulator for the board. "What is the use of a regulator board? We know there are regulatory boards for telecommunication and other utilities such as gas. But have they been able to save the consumers from the companies engaged in exploiting them?"

Nullifying the CEB Act 2002 was good, he said. "The 2002 Act was brought in by the then Minister Karu Jayasuriya and owing to the opposition, they could not enact it despite its passing the parliamentary stage. But the new Bill seems to be the same except for its cover."

"We know what happened after the abolishing of the CTB and Paddy Marketing Board. The transport sector was privatized now the commuter has no say but pay the bus owners who increase the prices of bus fare at their will. With the loss of PMB, private sector got hold of paddy storages and now the consumers are exploited to the hilt. Not even the government has a control over them. We do not allow the repetition of this in electricity sector," MP Lalkantha said.

In 1980s the CEB engineers proposed that we should think of thermal power generation and should move ahead from the dependency on hydro power production. "President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government came to power after 1994 gave thermal power generation to the private sector, which depended on diesel. Setting up of coal power plants were delayed by various reasons. The end result is that 60 percent of current power generation is thermal. Whenever the diesel price goes up, the electricity prices too would go up inevitably."

"There are many forms of opposing a Bill in the House. They range from putting up the hands to disrupting the sitting. We would definitely not allow this Bill to pass through the House," he pledged.

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