Act of Sabotage?

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The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) and Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera blamed Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions for power outages reported in the wee hours yesterday (9).

“This is an act of sabotage,” they said.

While saying that the PUCSL has already authorised scheduled power cuts of 2 hours and 15 minutes, Commission’s Chairman, Janaka Ratnayake, said any power cut beyond the approved schedule will be considered illegal.

He said scheduled power cuts will be announced by the PUCSL, daily.

“A written complaint was received by the Irrigation Department, alleging that the engineers have initiated an automatic shutdown of the power generation grids at Randenigala, Rantambe, and Senanayake Samudra reservoirs by 2:00 a.m. yesterday and those engineers did not take any action to restore power until 8:00 a.m. yesterday,” he said.

He also insisted that the CEB bears the responsibility of providing a continuous, uninterrupted power supply, given power supply sources are readily available in the grids, and as per the mandate.

“As announced by the CEB unions, they cannot decide on imposing a 24-hour islandwide power outage because it is completely illegal, sabotage, and it is against the Essential Services Act. After announcing the CEB as an essential service, they cannot even make statements. Scheduled power cuts will be imposed due to the economic and forex crisis. Other than that, the CEB trade unions and engineers do not have the authority to arbitrarily shut down power supply. They would be punished with rigorous imprisonment, if such actions were dealt with the provisions of the Essential Services Act. The PUCSL can agree with the demands made by the unions up to 60 per cent. However, the unions exploited their privileges, as power outages affected several areas of the country and it can be considered as sabotage,” he said.

The unions are free to engage in any kind of trade union action or strike without causing inconvenience to the public, he added.

Meanwhile, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera, who requested security for reservoirs, alleged the CEB trade unions, in an act of ‘sabotage,’ opened the sluice gates of Randenigala and Rantambe reservoirs, even when those reservoirs were not generating hydropower.

“Some trade unions launched a strike and I was informed sluice gates have been opened in several hydropower plants including Randenigala and Rantambe by some groups. This water is not used to generate electricity, as the thermal power plants are working. This is an act of sabotage. The water was wasted. These groups are trying to release the water, making the country entirely dependent on thermal power plants,” Wijesekera said.

By Methmalie Dissanayake and Thameenah Razeek