Con. Council mum, alleges civil activist

CEB Engineers attack on Ind. Commission:


By Shamindra Ferdinando

In spite of the Center for Human Rights and Research (Sri Lanka) recently complaining to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who is also the Chairman of the Constitutional Council regarding high profile Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) campaign against the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the powerful CEB Engineers’ Union launched a fresh poster campaign against it over the last week.

Engineers’ Union displayed posters in Colombo and its suburbs blaming the PUSCL for deepening crisis in the power sector.

CHR SL executive director Keerthi Tennakoon told The Island that the Engineers’ Union was continuing its propaganda campaign against the PUCSL in the city and the provinces, while the Constitutional Council was turning a blind eye to the CEBEU’s high-handed project.

Civil society activist Tennakoon regretted that the Constitutional Council hadn’t intervened so far though it was responsible for the appointment of the PUCSL.

Tennakoon alleged that the failure on the part of the Constitutional Council to rein in the Engineers’ Union could result in other Independent Commissions, too, being targeted by interested parties.

Responding to a query, Tennakoon said that there had never been a previous case of a trade union taking on an independent commission appointed by the Constitutional Council. Tennakoon said that in addition to Speaker Jayasuriya and other members of the Constitutional Council, the CHR SL took up the tarnishing issue with heads of the National Elections Commission, National Police Commission, Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Public Service Commission, Right to Information Commission and PUCSL.

Tennakoon said that immediate remedial measures were required to save the PUCSL from unfair criticism by Engineers’ Union hell-bent on manipulating the power sector.

Asked whether CHR SL felt the need for an efficient mechanism to address issues involving independent commissions and those institutions coming under them, Tennakoon emphasized the importance of such an apparatus. He said the 19th Amendment to the Constitution couldn’t be properly implemented unless disputes between a particular independent commission and institutions placed under it were sensibly addressed.

Responding to another query, Tennakoon said that the PUCSL could be dismissed by a simple majority vote in parliament. However, Engineers Union was continuing its campaign demanding the immediate dismissal of the PUCSL, Tennakoon said, alleging that political leadership and Power Ministry Secretary Dr Suren Batagoda, who was enmeshed in the coal scam too, were busy trying to force PUCSL Director General Damith Kumarasinghe out.

Tennakoon alleged that Power Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and State Minister Ajith P. Perera representing the SLFP and the UNP, respectively, had thrown their weight behind the project against PUCSL though they were responsible for smooth running of the operation.

Tennakoon said that the country was at the mercy of influential groups exploiting the power sector to their advantage. The public had been compelled to pay higher electricity rates due to Sri Lanka’s failure to adopt a sensible power generation plan and corruption at every level much to the disappointment of those who expected a genuine effort to do away with corrupt practices following the change of government in 2015 January.

Increase in world oil prices would cause further deterioration, Tennakoon said, the dispute between the Engineers’ Union and the PUCSL had caused irreparable damage to the power sector. They hadn’t been able to reach consensus on vital issues concerning the power sector and the government seemed to be least bothered by the battle between the PUCSL and CEB Engineers’ Union, Tennakoon said, asserting that the latter seemed to having the backing of the corrupt political leadership.

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