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Suspension of LNG project irks Opp.

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Kanchana and Prof. Herath

Herath asks whether govt. wants to pave the way for new player

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Cabinet-approved national energy policy related to the development of natural gas infrastructure has been suspended by the government following representations made by Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera.

Dissident SLPP MP Prof. Charitha Herath on Tuesday (22) said that the Cabinet-of-Ministers, headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, has approved Minister Wijesekera’s proposal in this regard.

Minister Wijesekera has recommended the procurement of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) in terms of a government to government agreement or some other means until a permanent arrangement could be made.

Addressing the media at the rebel group’s Nawala Office, the SLPP National List MP pointed out that the Cabinet approved Minister Wijesekera’s move in spite of Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, asserting the initiated Cabinet approved process should be cancelled, only as a last resort.

The Island couldn’t obtain Minister Wijesekera’s comments as regards accusations made by the rebel group as he didn’t answer his phone.

Prof. Herath questioned the rationale behind reversing the project at a time the country was experiencing extreme economic difficulties. The academic alleged that the ministry and the CEB seemed not to be on the same page on the sudden move to reverse the plan aimed at developing natural gas infrastructure.

The former Media Ministry Secretary asked whether recent talks in New Delhi between Sri Lanka and India at the highest level influenced the decision. Minister Wijesekera was among President Wickremesinghe’s delegation.

Referring to Dullas Alahapperuma’s tenure as the Power and Energy Minister during Gotabaya Rajapaksas’s presidency, Prof. Herath said that Alahapperuma had to give up that portfolio as the then Cabinet authorized highly disputable agreement with the US-based New Fortress Energy for the same purpose. Prof. Herath alleged that the agreement with the US firm, too, had been inked at the expense of the national plan.

Prof. Herath explained how the controversy over New Fortress Energy deal caused irreparable damage to the Rajapaksa government.

The rebel MP said that the new plan approved by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government could be geared to facilitate the entry of a new player at the expense of long-term power generation plans. The MP alleged that for want of cohesive policy regarding the power sector the country suffered irrevocable losses over the years. Blaming the successive cabinets for changing plans to suit the agendas pursued by interested parties, Prof. Herath said the losses due to their failure to implement the LNG project could be as much as Rs 50 bn.

MP Herath yesterday told The Island that Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay was in parliament to brief selected group of MPs regarding the developments in the wake of President Wickremesinghe’s visit to New Delhi. Appreciating the Indian assistance amounting to over USD 4 bn provided during the unprecedented financial crisis, Prof. Herath said that it wouldn’t be fair to exert undue pressure on Sri Lanka over development of vital sectors.

Prof. Herath thanked Justice Minister Rajapaksa for the stand he took in respect of the controversial moves in the power sector. The original plans envisaged development of floating storage and regasification unit at Kerawalapitiya on built owned and operated basis and a related plan to develop offshore and onshore regasification LNG transmission pipeline network with on-shore receiving facility and associated systems from the floating storage and regasification unit.

At the onset of Tuesday’s briefing, Prof. Herath explained how the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government pursued a highly controversial agenda regardless of consequences.

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