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SLPP dissidents ask AG if Adani Group represents govt. of India

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Prof. Charitha Herath

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The rebel SLPP group has demanded to know whether Adani Green Energy Ltd., represents the government of India.It has raised this question in the wake of Sri Lanka declaring its intention to consider the proposed construction of two wind and solar power parks in Mannar (286 Megawatt) and Pooneryn (234 megawatt) in terms of Government to Government basis as required by Section 43(4)(c) (1) of the Electricity Act No 20 of 2009.

Prof. Charitha Herath discussed the issues at his weekly media briefing held at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa on Tuesday (29). The group consists of 12 MPs, including former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and ex-Power and Energy Minister Dullas Alahapperuma.

The one-time Media Ministry Secretary alleged that Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera had sought cabinet approval to categorise the Indian conglomerate as a government entity to circumvent the Electricity Act.

Prof. Herath said that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam’s opinion on this contentious issue should be obtained without further delay. The AG should clarify the status of the government-to-government agreements and say whether Adani projects could be categorised under them, he said.

Having briefly dealt with Indo-Lanka relations over the past couple of decades, including the direct intervention here that led to the 1987 accord, he explained how the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government advanced ousted

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s project with Adani group finalised in March 2022.

Prof. Herath recalled the then CEB Chairman M. M. C. Ferdinando’s disclosure regarding Indian PM Modi pressing President Rajapaksa on the proposed Adani projects and the circumstances the official retracted those remarks made at a meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). Lawmaker Herath urged the media to reexamine that episode against the backdrop of President Wickremesinghe building on Rajapaksa-Adani agreement.

The academic said that the issues should be apprised taking into consideration the agreements India and Sri Lanka entered into during President Wickremesinghe’s two-day visit to New Delhi last month. Minister Wijesekera was a member of the government delegation.

MP Herath said that another matter of grave concern is the move to deviate from the Electricity Act in respect of the proposed establishment of a Kilinochchi-Habarana 400 kv backbone transmission line. Although the private sector had been allowed to engage in electricity generation, the CEB remained the only transmission licensee, Prof. Herath pointed out, adding that the government justified the Adani investment amounting to USD 135 mn on the basis of its inability to make available required funding for the project.

According to the relevant Cabinet paper dated Aug. 14, 2023 seen by The Island, the total cost of the on-grid renewable energy development project is USD 442 mn and restricted to wind power for want of free land for solar power projects. Contrary to the Electricity Act, the cabinet paper directed that the CEB to seek proposal in this regard specifically from the Adani group.

Prof. Herath questioned whether the government carried out New Delhi’s dictates regardless of consequences. How one conglomerate could be granted special status at the expense of the law of the land? the first time entrant to parliament asked.

At the onset of the briefing, Prof. Herath appreciated the stand taken by the Catholic Church on the controversial proposal to establish a bridge between Sri Lanka and India. Referring to Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s declaration that such a move should be subject to a referendum, the MP said that the consequences could be quite catastrophic and irreversible.

Prof. Herath compared the Colombo Port City with the proposed bridge-building project while stressing that the incumbent President chosen by parliament to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five year term couldn’t take such far reaching decisions. The MP said that the then government revised the Administrative District Act No 22 of 1955 to bring the reclaimed land under the Colombo district. Prof. Herath asked constitutional experts to examine whether Sri Lanka’s boundaries could be changed as the President desired.

Acknowledging that the SJB and JJB (Jathika Jana Balawegaya) had declared Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake as their respective candidates, Prof. Herath stressed the responsibility on their part to adopt a common strategy. Responding to queries, MP Herath pointed out how the entire Opposition regardless of differences backed Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential poll to bring Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reign to an end.

Declaring that Wickremesinghe social market economic policies had failed and certainly didn’t have the slightest chance to succeed in current environment, Prof. Herath said that foreign policy pursued by President Wickremesinghe could cause an unprecedented crisis against the backdrop of China and India seeking favoured status here.

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