By Uditha Jayasinghe
All five commissioners of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) stepped down yesterday following a call from Treasury Secretary S. R. Attygalle.
It is unclear how the PUCSL will continue to function following the resignations of the five commissioners. The Commissioners were Prof. Kithsiri Liyanage, Prof. Kapila Perera, Chandra Ekanayake, Dr. Nishan De Mel and Sadun Gamage. PUCSL commissioners are typically appointed for a five-year term.
PUCSL Chairman Prof. Liyanage confirmed that the commissioners had made a collective decision to step down and his own resignation letter would be sent to the PUCSL Secretary this morning.
“The consensus was that if this is the will of the public then we must step down,” he told Daily FT.
The resignations were handed over despite Cabinet co-spokesman and Minister Udaya Gammanpila telling reporters that the Government would only abolish the PUCSL by presenting a new Act before parliament.
Addressing the online Cabinet briefing yesterday Gammanpila, who is also the Energy Minister, assured that proper procedure would be followed if the PUCSL is to be dissolved.
“The functions, responsibilities and impact of the PUCSL was discussed in detail at the Cabinet meeting on Monday. This included a discussion on whether there should be changes to the role of the regulator and how those should be made. Nonetheless, what is clear is that PUCSL can only be scrapped through a new Act being passed by parliament. It cannot be dissolved through administrative measures,” he told reporters.
Power Minister Dullas Allahaperuma had also earlier voiced his support for keeping the PUCSL intact.
The fate of the power regulator appeared sealed after President’s Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara last week wrote a letter to Secretary Attygala calling for the PUCSL to be dissolved.
Dr. Jayasundara instructed Attygalle to move ahead with the necessary procedural steps to close the PUCSL and take steps to absorb the technical staff to the National Planning Department and also deploy such staff to the Power Ministry.
Dr. Jayasundara in his letter stated that the PUCSL Act would be replaced in due course, and that certain relevant provisions in the Act could be incorporated in the Consumer Affairs Authority Act and Ceylon Electricity Board Act.
Industry experts and Opposition parliamentarians have warned that scrapping the PUCSL would harm Sri Lanka’s power sector, opening the door to corruption, reduce oversight of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), curtail investment from multilateral agencies such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and undermine public interest.
The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) is the economic, technical and safety regulator of the electricity industry in Sri Lanka and the designated regulator for petroleum and water services industries.
The PUCSL has also been assigned as the shadow regulator for the lubricant market in Sri Lanka. The PUCSL was established by The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka Act No. 35 of 2002.