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Mannar wind power project: Adani causes controversy at COPE 

 

  • President denies statement by CEB Chairman at COPE meeting
  • CEB Chair withdraws statement and apologises

 

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) last week added to the controversy surrounding the awarding of the Mannar Wind Power project to Indian conglomerate Adani.

CEB Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando on Friday (10) told the Parliament’s Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) that the tender for the wind power plant in Mannar had been given to India’s Adani Group as a result of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi exerting pressure on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Ferdinando told COPE that the President had told him to award the tender to the Adani Group as there was pressure from the Indian Government to do so.

However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took to Twitter on 11 June evening to categorically deny the allegations.

“Re a statement made by the #lka CEB Chairman at a COPE committee hearing regarding the award of a wind power project in Mannar, I categorically deny authorisation to award this project to any specific person or entity. I trust responsible communication in this regard will follow,” President Rajapaksa tweeted.

Meanwhile, issuing a statement last night addressed to COPE Chair Dr. Charitha Herath, Ferdinando withdrew this statement and apologised unconditionally for it.

“In regard to the clarification made by me at the COPE meeting held on 10 June 2022, in replying to the allegation made against me on the proposed Mannar and Pooneryn wind and solar projects with Adani Green Energy Limited to generate renewable energy of 500 MW, I explained the circumstances behind my letter dated 25 November 2021. During this discussion I became so emotional due to pressures and unreasonable allegations levelled against me to issue this official letter of request. Therefore, due to unexpected pressure and emotions, I was compelled without limitation to express the word ‘India agamathi bala kara bawa kiwwa’ (stressed by the Prime Minister of India), which is totally incorrect. Hence I wish to withdraw the relevant statement and record my apology unconditionally,” he stated.

On 10 June, Ferdinando told COPE: “The President spoke to me personally on 24 November 2021 and told me to give the tender to the Adani Group because he was being pressured by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

He noted that President Rajapaksa himself had presented the Cabinet paper for the project to be awarded to the Adani Group and had received the Cabinet’s approval.

Ferdinando said that he had informed the President that this was a matter for the Board of Investment and that he had written to the Ministry of Finance to address the issue.  

“I told him that this was an issue for the Board of Investment and not for me or the Ceylon Electricity Board. So then I wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance saying that the President has requested me to do this and that it was not a matter for the Ceylon Electricity Board. I noted that there was a Government-to-Government engagement and to take a decision.”

The CEB Chairman further revealed that an ‘exit clause’ had been inserted by them in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that the project must be in line with  CEB standards and that approval of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) needed to be sought.

“We entered into an exit clause in the MoU. The MoU was for a feasibility study to be done by Adani. Adani was to provide us with all the data from the feasibility and the clause stated that the feasibility must be acceptable to the CEB and that the project must be the least cost option and must get the approval of the PUCSL.”