12/22/2022, 00.00
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Government wants to stop naphtha use, electricity supplies again at risk

by Melani Manel Perera

A group of consumers yesterday filed a complaint with 18 charges against Electricity Minister Kanchana Wijesekera. Several Sri Lankans have said that if there is an increase in prices they will refuse to pay and take to the streets. Many others are already struggling because of economic hardships.


Colombo (AsiaNews) – A group of Sri Lankan consumers filed a complaint yesterday with 18 charges against a government minister.

“They are preparing to cut off power for four or five hours, starting in January,” says the complaint. “Their ulterior motive is to privatise the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). Ministers who try to sell the country’s resources should not be in parliament.”

The “coal problem, the problem related to the power plant, and everything else has been deliberately ignored. The public is not going to pay for their ignorance,” it goes on to say.

“There are groups that have come forward to bring coal within two weeks, they have provided an interest payment relief period of two months, and they have taken measures to pay for each shipment, which means that there should be no electricity shortage.”

The group accuses several people, including Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, held responsible for seeking to privatise the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and blocking the use of naphtha for 2023.

“They are trying to block the use of naphtha altogether. The Kelani-Tissa power plant was purposefully destroyed;” the group of consumers claims; hence, “we intend to notify these conspiracies to the Criminal Investigation Department and the Inspector General of Police. We will be taking legal action against them.”

Speaking to the media, Pradeep Charles, president of the United National Self-Employed Businessmen's Association, said: “We held a discussion with the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka’s chairman, Janaka Ratnayake, about Wijesekera's ‘unlawful’ decision to increase electricity tariffs for next year”.

The latter “informed us that Wijesekera has no legal provision to increase electricity bills," Charles said.

"We have repeatedly said that people cannot pay their electricity bills. Around 25 per cent of consumers have had their power supply suspended;” this is especially bad for the “elderly, for estate residents, and for daily-wage earners.” Should rates go up, “none of us will pay our electricity bills”.

“The Peoples’ Voice Association, the Self-Employed Women’s Organisation, the United National Self-Employed Businessmen’s Association, and all civil organisation leaders will go from town to town telling people not to pay their electricity bills."

For Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, the rate hike in January 2023 is inevitable; however, it has been reduced to 45-46 rupees per unit (US$ 0.13), down from 56.90 rupees (US$ 016) as initially announced.

During a media briefing yesterday, Wijesekera said that a detailed report will be given to the cabinet at its next meeting, “which will probably be on 2 January 2023”.

At this time, “a complete report on why an electricity rate increase is needed will be submitted,” said the minister. “And in January 2023, a price revision will definitely take place.”

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