CEB engineers hold ‘positive’ meeting with PM

  • Say PM promised to resolve issue over Chairman, GM
  • Prez promises meeting upon return to Sri Lanka

By Pamodi Waravita

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU), which is engaged in ongoing trade union action, said yesterday (5) that its meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa last Saturday (4) had been “very positive” and that they hope to meet with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as soon as he returns from his visit to Abu Dhabi.

“I think overall, we can say the meeting with the Prime Minister was very positive. He understood our problems and was very attentive to our demands. While the demands regarding New Fortress Energy Inc. (NFE) are more long term, he agreed that our short-term issues related to the General Manager (GM) and Chairman of the CEB can be solved quickly,” CEBEU President Eng. Saumaya Kumarawaddu told The Morning yesterday.

Eng. Kumarawaddu said President Rajapaksa had assured them of an audience as soon as he returns from Abu Dhabi, where he is visiting to attend the Indian Ocean Conference (IOC).

The CEBEU has been engaging in a work-to-rule protest action from 25 November, demanding that the deal with US-based energy company New Fortress Energy Inc. on the Yugadanavi Power Station in Kerawalapitiya not be proceeded with, and also to immediately stop the abrupt transfers of senior management in the backdrop of this deal.

Meanwhile, CEB GM M. Ranatunga has raised suspicions that the islandwide power blackout which occurred last Friday (3) was related to the ongoing trade union action. However, Eng. Kumarawaddu has stated that their trade union action was not connected to the blackout.

On 29 November, a number of areas around the island reported power outages. CEB Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando has reportedly filed a police complaint regarding this and is also conducting an investigation to determine whether the outages were a result of a deliberate act of sabotage.

In a press release issued in September 2021, New Fortress Energy Inc. said that it would acquire 40% of the shares of the 310 MW Yugadanavi Power Station and that, as part of the agreement, it would also provide about 1.2 million gallons of liquified natural gas (LNG) to the Government per day through a LNG terminal which will be built off the shores of Colombo.

The New Fortress Energy deal has received much criticism over the past month, as it has allegedly been acquired outside of the proper tender procurement process and without proper cabinet approval. CEB Chairman Ferdinando said recently that the content of the agreement cannot be disclosed due to a condition in the agreement and that the agreement has not even been presented to the CEB yet.

Minister of Power Gamini Lokuge said on 10 November that the controversial agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and US-based company New Fortress Energy Inc. will be presented to Parliament in the following week. However, this promise is yet to be fulfilled.