CEB Engineers go on strike: Blackout Imminent

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There could be an indefinite power outage from today (9), due to the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union’s (CEBEU) strike against the proposed amendment to the Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009 and the proposed handing over of the wind energy belt in Mannar and Pooneryn to the Indian-based Adani Group and for certain other demands.

CEBEU noted that the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act are sans adequate consultations with stakeholders are aimed at abolishing the competitive bidding process to procure electricity from the private sector which would otherwise ensure and provide for the least cost as per the existing Act. “It is clear that the parties with vested interest are bent on implementing these amendments to entertain unsolicited projects and proposals such as the ‘New Fortress Energy’ and Adani Group, to gain undue financial benefits,” CEBEU observed.

“Arrangements are being made to offer the wind energy belt in Mannar and Pooneryn to Adani Group, an Indian-based private company for a 500MW wind power plant through an unsolicited proposal. The offered unit price of US cents 7.55 is almost double the current market rates and the payment will have to be made in dollar denominations amidst the severe forex crisis faced by the country, and despite the fact that certain local investors have offered a competitive lower price which could be paid in rupee equivalent,” CEBEU noted.

Thereby, CEBEU vehemently opposes the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, observing that such amendment deprives the public right to consume electricity at the least cost. “Accordingly, the CEBEU is compelled to stage a strike, commencing midnight today,” they said.

The demands of the CEBEU are to withdraw proposed amendments to the Sri Lanka Electricity Act with immediate effect; stop handing over of the country’s wind and solar resources to Adani Group without the competitive bidding process; stop driving the CEB to privatisation in the guise of reforms and to appoint a suitable professional with an unblemished character to the post of Chairman, CEB without further delay.

During the General Strike, members including those on shift duty will not report to work. Hence, the relevant authorities have been requested to make necessary arrangements to take over duties and responsibilities from engineers and other personnel, failing which, all power plants, transmission and distribution networks will be shutdown and CEBEU members will leave the work place.

CEBEU had also held discussions in this regard with the Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera at the Parliament Complex yesterday (8), but has since decided to proceed with the strike on the basis that Wijesekera had not responded to their demands favourably.

By Faadhila Thassim