By Asiri Fernando
The recent move to abolish the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) by senior public officials will open the door to corruption and is contrary to the policies presented by the President, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) parliamentarian Eran Wickramaratne charged yesterday.
Addressing the press at the opposition leader’s office, Wickramaratne said that the move by two civil servants was unlawful and that those involved should be questioned as to what basis they made the call. He was joined by SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara.
“We have seen a letter sent by Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara, to the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle, informing him that the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) should be dissolved. What have they done? They are creating a dictatorship,” Wickramaratne said, pointing out that dissolving the PUCSL is in contrast to what was stated in the Prime Minister’s budget speech.
“On page 28, it says that the PUCSL Act and Electricity Board Act should be amended to facilitate the rapid implementation of important projects,” Wickramaratne said, quoting the PM’s budget speech. However, the recent letter states that the PUCSL should be dissolved.
The former State Minister for Finance argued that the PUCSL was established to protect the consumer and is an important mechanism to ensure public services such as the Ceylon Electricity Board is functioning properly and delivering to the consumer a quality service.
“It is because of the PUCSL that the public got some reprieve after the lockdown of the country. It is the PUCSL that ensures that the public gets a fair deal from the utility services,” Wickramaratne said, charging that the Government was trying to remove the only means the public had to seek fair service from utility providers.
“I would like to ask, what happened to the sovereignty of the public? Was the Prime Minister consulted on this matter? Was this decision taken after the budget speech? Here we have one public official telling another public official to shut down a regulatory institute. We demand to know who is behind this move, the PUCSL was created to protect the consumer. The laws have to be changed, no one can dismantle an institution like this at their whim and fancy.”
Wickramaratne added that the civil servants involved should be questioned as to whether the move is in line with the Government’s policies.
“Why is this being done? It is being done because of corruption. In the President’s election manifesto, we read that the Government plans to move towards the optimal use of renewable energy by 2030, with a plan to achieve 70% on the national power requirement through renewable energy. But now the talk is about coal,” Wickramaratne argued.
The opposition parliamentarian stated that residents in the vicinity of the Norochcholai power station knew first-hand about the environmental and health impact of the coal powered power station. “In spite of all the negative attributes of coal power, the government wants another 300 MW coal power plant.”
Wickramaratne also commended the Attorney General’s Department for standing against attempts to change details regarding Request for Proposal (RFP) and Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) relating to a new LNG power plant by the Government.
“We need public officials like them (AG’s dept.). A power plant takes about five years to build and commission, they will likely have a life span of 25 years or more. So, the cost of the energy will affect not just us but our children’s generations too…the government spoke of a system change, but do the leaders even know what the public officials under them are doing?”