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Permits of three bowsers suspended for illegally unloading fuel

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and Lanka IOC have suspended the permits of 03 fuel trucks with immediate effect, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara said this evening.

According to the minister, the permits were suspended pending investigations into 03 separate incidents reported on social media on illegal unloading of fuel.

Several videos circulated on social media showed several bowsers illegally unloading fuel, despite the ban on sale of fuel in cans, containers and bottles.

Taking to his official Twitter account, the lawmaker thanked those who brought these illegal activities to the notice of the authorities.

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Ferdinando resigns as CEB Chairman

M.C.C. Ferdinando has resigned as the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

He has tendered his resignation to the Minister of Power and Energy, who has accepted the rresignation.

“I have accepted the letter of resignation tendered to me by the CEB Chairman Mr MMC Ferdinando,” the minister tweeted. .

He added that CEB Vice Chairman Nalinda Illangakoon will take over as the new Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board.

Illangakoon had previously served as Chairman of the National Youth Corps as well as the Skills Development Fund, Director of the Dangerous Drugs Administration and a Senior Manager of the Associated Newspapers.

He is the Chairman of the Complex Business Group and its owner. A former army officer, Illangakoon is also a commercial pilot who has also won several medals in various fields.

Ferdinando’s resignation comes in the wake of his recent controversial statement before the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE).

During a meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) at the parliamentary complex on Friday (10), the CEB Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando had claimed that the tender for the wind power plant in Mannar had been given to India’s Adani Group as a result of the pressure exerted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ferdinando, who is the former Secretary to the Ministry of Power, told the committee that the President had informed him to award the tender to the Adani Group as there was pressure from the Indian Government to do so.

However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa later issued a statement denying these allegations of undue authorisation for wind power project.

President Rajapaksa categorically stated that he had not at any time given authorisation to award a wind power project in Mannar to any person or any institution.

The President vehemently denied the statement made by the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board at the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises in this regard.

Ferdinando had later apologized over the statement made by him at the COPE meeting, regarding the awarding of the Mannar Wind Power project to Indian conglomerate Adani, and said he withdraws the statement which is totally incorrect.

Issuing a statement addressed to COPE Chair Dr. Charitha Herath, the former CEB chairman had said that he was compelled without limitation to express the word ‘Indian Prime Minister’ due to unexpected ‘pressure and emotions’ during the discussion.

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“Not my policy to let people starve”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that it is his policy not to leave anyone hungry in the face of the food crisis.

Speaking at a meeting of the Committee on Food Security at the Prime Minister’s Office today (17), the Prime Minister said that although the food crisis could directly affect 4 million to 5 million Sri Lankans in the future, steps would be taken to control it.

He instructed the officials to pay more attention to the children and the adults in particular.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also directed the appointment of a committee headed by Parliamentarian Nimal Lansa to look into the mitigation efforts of the food crisis, adding that he wanted the plan prepared by this committee within two weeks.

He further said that 225 divisions should be handed over to the Members of Parliament and the rest to the top officials including the Secretaries to the Ministries and the Private Sector to provide leadership to develop and reach the targets of 336 Divisional Secretariats in the country under the Food Security Program. It was proposed to recruit graduates from the Divisional Secretariats for this purpose.

The Premier instructed the officials to give priority to providing food, gas and fuel to the fishing community.

Special emphasis was placed on food security, especially for children’s homes, nursing homes and homes for persons with disabilities.

Wickremesinghe also stressed the need for a medium and long term plan for a modern agricultural system that would create a regionally competitive market and called for it to be formulated urgently.

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Sri Lanka open to buying Russian oil, accepting China’s financial help - PM

Sri Lanka may be compelled to buy more oil from Russia as the island nation hunts desperately for fuel amid an unprecedented economic crisis, the newly appointed prime minister said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would first look to other sources, but would be open to buying more crude from Moscow. Western nations largely have cut off energy imports from Russia in line with sanctions over its war on Ukraine.

In a wide-ranging interview with Associated Press on Saturday, Wickremesinghe also indicated he would be willing to accept more financial help from China, despite his country’s mounting debt. And while he acknowledged that Sri Lanka’s current predicament is of “its own making,” he said the war in Ukraine is making it even worse – and that dire food shortages could continue until 2024. He said Russia had also offered wheat to Sri Lanka.

Wickremesinghe, who is also Sri Lanka’s finance minister, spoke to the AP in his office in the capital, Colombo, one day shy of a month after he took over for a sixth time as prime minister.

Appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resolve an economic crisis that has nearly emptied the country’s foreign exchange reserves, Wickremesinghe was sworn in after days of violent protests last month forced his predecessor, Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, to step down and seek safety from angry crowds at a naval base.

Sri Lanka has amassed US$51 billion in foreign debt, but has suspended repayment of nearly US$7 billion due this year. The crushing debt has left the country with no money for basic imports, which means citizens are struggling to access basic necessities such as food, fuel, medicine – even toilet paper and matches. The shortages have spawned rolling power outages, and people have been forced to wait days for cooking gas and gasoline in lines that stretch for kilometres.

Two weeks ago, the country bought a 90,000-metric-ton (99,000-ton) shipment of Russian crude to restart its only refinery, the energy minister told reporters.

Wickremesinghe did not comment directly on those reports, and said he did not know whether more orders were in the pipeline. But he said Sri Lanka desperately needs fuel, and is currently trying to get oil and coal from the country’s traditional suppliers in the Middle East.

“If we can get from any other sources, we will get from there. Otherwise [we] may have to go to Russia again,” he said.

Officials are negotiating with private suppliers, but Wickremesinghe said one issue they face is that “there is a lot of oil going around which can be sourced back informally to Iran or to Russia.”

“Sometimes we may not know what oil we are buying,” he said. “Certainly we are looking at the Gulf as our main supply.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, global oil prices have skyrocketed. While Washington and its allies are trying to cut financial flows supporting Moscow’s war effort, Russia is offering its crude at a steep discount, making it extremely enticing to a number of countries.

Like some other South Asian nations, Sri Lanka has remained neutral on the war in Europe.

Sri Lanka has received and continues to reach out to numerous countries for help – including the most controversial, China, currently the country’s third-largest creditor. Opposition figures have accused the president and the former prime minister of taking on a slew of Chinese loans for splashy infrastructure projects that have since failed to generate profit, instead adding to the country’s debt.

Critics have also pointed to a beleaguered port in the hometown of then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Hambantota, built along with a nearby airport as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative projects, saying they cost too much and do too little for the economy.

“We need to identify what are the projects that we need for economic recovery and take loans for those projects, whether it be from China or from others,” Wickremesinghe said. “It’s a question of where do we deploy the resources?”

The prime minister said his government has been talking with China about restructuring its debts. Beijing had earlier offered to lend the country more money but balked at cutting the debt, possibly out of concern that other borrowers would demand the same relief.

“China has agreed to come in with the other countries to give relief to Sri Lanka, which is a first step,” Wickremesinghe said. “This means they all have to agree [on] how the cuts are to take place and in what manner they should take place.”

Sri Lanka is also seeking financial help from the World Food Programme, which may send a team to the country soon, and Wickremesinghe is banking on a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund. But even if approved, he does not expect to see money from the package until October onwards.

Wickremesinghe acknowledged that the crisis in Sri Lanka has been of its “own making.” Many have blamed government mismanagement, deep tax cuts in 2019, policy blunders that devastated crops and a sharp plunge in tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he also stressed that the war in Ukraine, which has thrown global supply chains into a tailspin and pushed fuel and food prices to unaffordable levels, has made things much worse.

“The Ukraine crisis has impacted our … economic contraction,” he said, adding that he thinks the economy will shrink even further before the country can begin to recoup and rebuild next year.

“I think by the end of the year, you could see the impact in other countries” as well, he said. “There is a global shortage of food. Countries are not exporting food.”

In Sri Lanka, the price of vegetables has jumped threefold while the country’s rice cultivation is down by about a third, the prime minister said.

The shortages have affected both the poor and the middle classes, triggering months of protests. Mothers are struggling to get milk to feed their babies, as fears of a looming hunger crisis grow.

Wickremesinghe said he felt terrible watching his nation suffer, “both as a citizen and a prime minister.”

He said he has not ever seen anything like this in Sri Lanka – and did not think he ever would. “I have generally been in governments where I ensured people had three meals and their income increased,” he said. “We’ve had difficult times. … But not like this. I have not seen … people without fuel, without food.”

Source: The Associated Press

--Agencies

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Founder of CBL Group Mineka Wickramasingha passes away

The founder and President Emeritus of Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL) Group, Deshamanya Mineka Wickramasingha has passed away at the age of 87.

After almost 48 years at the helm of the organisation he founded in 1968, the visionary entrepreneur had retired from the position of Chairman of the CBL Group in 2015.

Ramya Wickramasingha, who was CBL’s Deputy Chairman was later appointed as Chairman of the CBL Group. However, Mineka P. Wickramasingha had continued to mentor the group in his new role as President Emeritus.

Committed to building a Sri Lankan business that was driven by core family values and a part of a greater purpose, Mineka Wickramasingha had developed a protein enriched children’s biscuit in 1967 that became a nationwide initiative with the Ministry of Education to help prevent malnutrition in schoolchildren and, the start of the CBL story.

Beginning with Munchee, he created brands that were sought after across the world and enriched the lives of every Sri Lankan.

He was conferred the title of Deshamanya, which is the second highest national civil honour awarded by the Sri Lankan Government, for exceptional and highly meritorious service to the nation.

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No choice but to register consumers at filling stations and give weekly fuel quota – Minister

Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera says that they have no choice but to register consumers at filling stations and give them a guaranteed weekly quota until the government is able to strengthen the financial situation, restore 24-hour power supply and a steady supply of fuel.

The minister stated that he hopes to have this system in place by the first week of July.

Until we have uninterrupted power supply and steady fuel supply, fuel line management will be impossible, Wijesekera said in a twitter message on Sunday.

He stated that with the financial restrictions, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) imports fuel to manage for a week, however some consumers collect fuel for a month or more for their machinery and generators.

He said 24-hour power supply costs an additional USD 100 million monthly for diesel, furnace oil and naphtha and that the shortage in LP gas supply has increased the demand for electricity and kerosene.

The minister said that the country’s monthly fuel bill which was at USD 200 million four months ago is currently at USD 550 million.

“We have no choice but to register consumers at filling stations and give them a guaranteed weekly quota until we are able to strengthen the financial situation, restore 24 Hour Power and a steady supply of fuel. I hope to have this system in place by the 1st week of July,” he tweeted.

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Fuel crisis takes yet another life

The driver of a three-wheeler died earlier today (16) in Panadura, after waiting in a fuel queue for two days.

The victim, identified as a 53-year-old father of three, had been at the Egoda Uyana filling station with another three-wheeler driver the previous day, and had arrived at the Wekada petrol station around 07:00 pm last night.

The victim is believed to have suffered from a heart attack while having dinner with a fellow three-wheeler driver and was subsequently rushed to the Panadura Base Hospital. He, however, was pronounced dead by this time, a hospital official said, adding that he had passed on the way.

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Price control imposed on local rice

The Consumer Affairs Authority has issued a Gazette Notification imposing a maximum retail price on local rice.

As stated in the Gazette, a kilogram of white and red kekulu rice will each be sold at Rs.210 per kg with effect from yesterday (10).

a Gazette

 

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SriLankan clarifies UL 504 avoiding possible mid-air collision

SriLankan Airlines issued a clarification on reports circulating about flight UL 504 avoiding a possible mid-air collision with another aircraft.

SriLankan Airlines confirmed that its pilots operating UL 504, which departed from London to Colombo on 13 June 2022, were able to safely commandeer the flight without an incident.

Contrary to news reports, SriLankan confirmed that UL 504 was not at risk of a mid-air collision with another aircraft at any point.

The vigilance of the pilots and the state-of-the-art communication & surveillance system onboard the aircraft enabled safe passage for UL 504.

Further, SriLankan Airlines commends the timely action of the pilots operating UL 504, which ensured the safety of all passengers, crew and equipment onboard UL 504.

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13th June – A holiday for Government & Govt-approved private schools

Sri Lanka’s Education Ministry declared the 13th of June, a holiday for all government and government-approved private schools.

13th June 2022, has been declared as a Special Government holiday by the Ministry of Public Administration.

The Ministry said this decision was taken citing transportation issues and difficulties experienced in operating government offices.

However, the holiday should NOT hinder essential services, said the Ministry.

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State media institutions get new Heads

New heads for state-owned media institutions including Rupawahini Corperation have been appointed by Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena.

Accordingly, Asanka Priyanath Jayasuriya has been appointed as the Chairman of the Rupawahini while Ganaka Amarasinghe appointed as the Chairman of the Independent Television Network (ITN).

Hadsan Samarasinghe has been appointed as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

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Sri Lanka Electricity Amendment Bill passed in parliament

The Sri Lanka Electricity Amendment Bill No. 20 of 2009 was passed in the parliament today (June 09) without committee state amendments, by a majority of votes.

Following the debate on the second reading of the Bill, the Opposition had demanded a vote. A total of 120 votes were cast in favour and 36 were cast against while 13 lawmakers abstained from voting. Accordingly, the second reading was passed by a majority of 84 votes.

Subsequently, during the committee stage, the Opposition objected to the amendment brought by the Minister of Energy to Article 4 and the ruling party had to withdraw the amendment.

Accordingly, MP Harsha de Silva, on behalf of the Opposition, moved an amendment to Article 4, which the Power & Energy Minister rejected. Thus, the Opposition called for a division and the amendment moved by the Opposition was rejected by a majority of 64 votes. A total of 51 votes were cast in favour and 115 votes were cast against.

The Opposition then went on to call for a vote for Article 4 in its entirety, which was passed by a majority of 70 votes to which 116 votes were cast in favor and 46 cast against.

Accordingly, the Electricity (Amendment) Bill was passed by a majority in Parliament.

This Bill, introduced in Parliament on May 17, 2022 by the Power & Energy Minister, qualifies a person to apply for a generation license to generate electricity.

Accordingly, this amendment will remove the restrictions on the issuance of a power generation license for a person whose generating electricity over and above the generation capacity of 25 MW and will allow anyone to apply for it without any restriction on the generation capacity.

In addition, Regulations under the Petroleum Resources Act made by the Minister of Energy were approved by Parliament today. These orders were published in the Gazette Notification No. 2249/32 dated 15.10.2021.

These Regulations are referred to as Petroleum Resources No. 1 of 2021 (Minimum Eligibility Orders of the Appointed Members and the Director General).

Accordingly, the minimum qualifications of a member appointed to the Board of Directors under the Petroleum Resources Act No. 21 of 2021 and the minimum qualifications and experience of the Director General of the Sri Lanka Petroleum Development Authority are stated in these orders.

However, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) vehemently opposed what it called the “deceitful” amendments to the Sri Lanka Electricity Act, alleging that it is an attempt by the government to entirely abolish the competitive bidding process in electricity procurement from private sector.

The argued the competitive bidding process ensures the right of the general public to receive electricity at the least cost.

In protest of the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, the CEBEU said it would resort to a trade union action effective from midnight yesterday. The CEB Technical Engineers’ Association meanwhile stated that it would not support the strike, stressing that the strike was unacceptable at the moment.

The trade union action was called off this morning following discussions with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The CEBEU said “a team of corrupt individuals has employed a cunning strategy abusing the Act through these proposed amendments to secure large-scale solar, wind and other kinds of power generation projects which are to be implemented in future among their interested partners at their will without having any competitive bidding process and incurring huge adverse impact to the national economy while they are being profited exorbitantly.

“It is clear that the parties with vested interests want these amendments implemented to entertain unsolicited proposals such as proposals of New Fortress Energy and Adani Group, to gain immense undue financial benefits.”

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