Yugadanavi deal proposed by Lankan manager at New Fortress
- Sources claim deal mediated by CEB Chairman and powerful businessman
- JVP claims the Sri Lankan’s involvement ‘fishy’
By Ruwani Fonseka
The controversial Yugadanavi deal was proposed to the Government of Sri Lanka by New Fortress Energy (NFE) Head of Power Jatila Ranasinghe and was mediated by two individuals, one a Board Director at a leading conglomerate in Sri Lanka as well as a former Provincial Council member, and the other, CEB Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando, The Morning reliably learnt.
“The Yugadanavi agreement was initially proposed by Jatila Ranasinghe, and the local agents are two Sri Lankans who hold high positions in a private organisation and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), respectively,” well-placed sources told The Morning over the weekend.
When The Morning contacted Ferdinando, he claimed to have not known the other mentioned person on a personal or professional level, despite photographs on the internet being published with the duo side by side.
“I do not know who this person is, I have not even heard that name before. I only worked as an advisor for the Yugadanavi deal. I know and have heard that Jatila Ranasinghe is indeed the person who was involved in the technical aspect of the Yugadanavi power plant, and he was involved in the costing as well. Other than that, I have no idea how he was involved further,” said Ferdinando.
Efforts to contact the second person mentioned by the source proved futile.
Meanwhile, former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Parliamentarian Sunil Handunetti told The Morning that it was very “fishy” that a Sri Lankan would be involved in the pitch and proposal of such a large-scale deal, whereas not be named or involved in the agreement signing.
“As we have revealed in the past, and also disclosed on my Facebook page, the Head of Power at New Fortress Energy (NFE) is a Sri Lankan. His name is Jatila Ranasinghe. We have brought this up as well. Why hasn’t Jatila Ranasinghe come to Sri Lanka for this agreement signing and why has his name never been brought up? We have reasons to believe that Ranasinghe is the one who had proposed this agreement, whereas now he is laying low,” said Handunetti. “What we are wondering is, how did Jatila Ranasinghe approach the Government of Sri Lanka, and who was the mediator? Who negotiated the financials pertaining to this agreement? This is something that needs looking into.”
Several attempts made by The Morning to contact Jatila Ranasinghe, both through calls and text messages, proved futile.
Further, Handunetti claimed that Nimalka Morahela was the Sri Lankan witness who signed on behalf of the person sent from the NFE company.
When contacted by The Morning, Morahela claimed that she does not know any details of the agreement and just signed as she was told to.
“I am just the tour co-ordinator. My responsibility was to pick Mr. Daniel Knight from the airport, take him to the agreement signing location, and then once he was done, to take him back to the airport. When I was at the location, I was told to sign as a witness, that Mr. Knight was the person who signed the agreement,” said Morahela.
When further questioned whether Knight was known to Morahela on a personal or professional level, Morahela said that all she knew was that his name was Mr. Daniel Knight and nothing more.
Morahela was previously a Director at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
According to the agreement, which was tabled in Parliament by JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, Knight was handed over the power of attorney to sign the documents on behalf of NFE on the eve of his arrival to Sri Lanka.
“How is that even possible? If a person were to sign as a witness, either they have to be a person with accountability, or importance or someone well known to the person being witnessed for. In this case, Ms. Morahela is nothing but the tour co-ordinator as she claims,” Handunetti told The Morning.
Furthermore, as revealed through the agreement, the agreement was signed between a company called “Sri Lanka Power Holdings”, which Knight was made Managing Director of only the night before the agreement signing.
When inquired about the night of the agreement signing, Ferdinando revealed the details of the location and proceedings that took place.
“It happened on 17 September 2021, at 11.57 p.m., at The Ministry of Finance. The committee that was appointed by the President was also present. The agreement signing happened at Mr. S.R. Attygalle’s office which is on the second floor of the Ministry. We did not take pictures or anything as the agreement was signed on goodwill and trust between both parties. Once the agreement was signed, Mr. Knight left,” said Ferdinando.
The Morning further learnt that the registered address of Sri Lanka Power Holdings led to a warehouse in Delaware, USA, which is also used by leading companies in the US as a proxy address.
Meanwhile, CEB Engineers’ Union Secretary Dhammika Wimalaratne revealed that Ferdinando was instated as the CEB Chairman just around the time the Yugadanavi deal was being done.
“Mr. Ferdinando was previously the Secretary at the Ministry of Power, and then he was put as the Chairman of the CEB. Why would he want to demote himself when he could have had a better position at the Ministry?” questioned Wimalaratne.
The Yugadanavi agreement was repeatedly requested by Members of Parliament to be tabled in Parliament, but despite a promise by Minister of Power Gamini Lokuge, it was not tabled. It was then that Anura Kumara Dissanayaka tabled the agreement on 11 December, just before Parliament was prorogued by President Rajapaksa.