Politics is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions around governance, investigating the legitimacy and reason behind every aspect of governance.

Today we see that politics is playing a major role in trying to resolve the crisis situation the country is facing in every sphere of its administration.

Uninterrupted power supply became a serious issue with the economic crisis that plagued the country during Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s tenure. People think that corruption and nepotism are the root causes of the economic ills that brought the country to the brink of total collapse.

One of the government agencies that came in for frequent criticism was the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) because of the losses incurred over the years. A recent price increase to offset losses has not yielded the expected results. Or at least so, they say.  Janaka Ratnakaye, the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) which is the regulatory arm dealing with electricity price hikes, has said that the tariff hike which they approved in August suffices for the CEB to make a profit. Hence, the government’s attempts to try and increase the electricity tariff again, is most likely to become an issue in the public domain.

The PUCSL has come under heavy pressure from the government to endorse the electricity rate hike as per the decision taken by the Cabinet. Initially, it expressed itsreservations and refused to burden the general public.

The Cabinet approved the Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera’s proposal to amend the policy guidelines. It came with a ruling from the Attorney General that the PUCSL has no choice but to follow the Cabinet decision since it comes with its seal of approval.

The PUCSL rejected the advice of the Attorney General on the premise that he had misread the provisions of the Ceylon Electricity Act and the PUCSL Act, following which Ratnayake was in the spotlight for obvious reasons.

He said the government was trying to undermine the authority of an independent public commission. This is at a time when the country needs a multitude of such commissions to take the country forward without political interference.


With the debate on the tariff hike having its pluses and minuses, Ratnayake’s endurance crossed the Rubicon line. In the meantime, the others in the commission had a meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe. They agreed to follow the government line and increase electricity tariff rates.

Ratnayake became aware of this when he participated in the National Council (Mahajana Sabah) meeting in the parliamentary premises. He said the other members had let the cat out of the bag. He sounded emotionally upset that he was singled out by the authorities in a sinister move to further the government’s cause.

Ratnayake vowed to take the battle against the government all alone since the other members had virtually left him in the lurch.

He summoned a meeting of the PUCSL to discuss the matter in detail. The meeting was held on the 6th floor of the Bank of Ceylon Merchant tower at St Michael’s Road, Colpetty, where the PUCSL is located.

As the members entered the precincts of the building, they were confronted by a contingent of trade union activists led by Electricity Consumers Association Secretary Sanjeewa Dhammika and United Trade Union Alliance convener Ananda Palitha.


One commission member Mohan Samaranayake, who has served in Rajapaksa administrations including as media director in the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government and was later heading the Government Information Department, told police that the trade union activists harassed them within the premises of the PUCSL building. After being arrested, the activists were brought before a magistrate, who remanded them until the 26th of January. Colpetty police have launched investigations into the matter under the direction of the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (West), Deshabandu Tennakoon, who is embroiled in a series of controversies.  Tennakoon is accused of not preventing the attack on aragalaya activists on 9 May and concealing 17 million rupees found in the President’s House when deposed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa occupied it.   Police also suspect that Ratnayake was instrumental in allowing the trade unionists to be on the premises since nobody could enter the building without permission.

However, now the three members who toed the government line have said that they will renege on their earlier decision to abide by the Cabinet decision. This is after they became aware that the PUCSL Act and the Electricity Act do not permit retroactive rate hikes.

Since there is a legal issue relating to the matter, which is uncharted territory for them, all four of them agreed to write to the Attorney General. They sought advice on the legal hiatus that may arise from the impending situation. Hence, all four members sought an opinion from the Attorney General on the statutory effect of the ministry’s proposal.

Meanwhile, Minister Wijesekera said he intends to ask the President to initiate legal action against the chairman. Wijesekera alleged the chairman has virtually arrogated to himself the powers of the commission without consulting other members about its decisions. The minister claims they learned about this phenomenon during the National Council meeting. 

While Wijesekera tries to kraal in Ratnayake with the help of President Wickremesinghe who aleggedly overstepped his mandate by interfering with the independence of the PUCSL by having a  meeting with some of its members , the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has stepped in in the interests of students sitting for the Advanced Level exam. According to a source in the CEB Engineers Union, on 26 February the HRCSL was scheduled to have a meeting with the Secretary of the Ministry of Power and Energy, the Chairman of the CEB and Ratnayake. However those who were seen going to the HRCSL’s office were the Additional Secretary of the Ministry, the Assistant General Manager of the CEB and Ratnayake. While it was believed that an agreement had been reached by them not to impose a power cuts the CEB continued with its outages that night too. It led to the PUCSL writing to the CEB, saying it will not approve any scheduled power interruption from 26 January to 17 February to safeguard the human rights of 331, 709 candidates who sit for the GCE Advanced Level examination. Accordingly, the commission directs you to provide an uninterrupted power supply until 17thFebruary and also you are informed to refrain from submission of requests of approval for the scheduled power interruptions until 17 February’.

Further be informed that the Transmission Licensee will be held responsible legally for the violation of condition 30 (10) of the Electricity Transmission and Bulk Supply Licence No EL/T/ 09-002 if the power interruptions are imposed during the aforesaid period.

The HRCSL meanwhile has said it will file a report in the High Court on charges of defamation of the HRCSL if the power cutcontinues at night during the exam period.

Meanwhile, this source said the CEB has the capacity to provide a continuous supply of power during the exam period. We will have to use coal, water and furnace oil’. The sticking point however, appears to be the perennial issue of the cost of supplying power.

The people are confused since it is difficult to fathom why the ministry is insisting on charging the people from January 1 retrospectively since even the constitution does not encourage retrospective legislation unless it deems it necessary.

One such occasion where the government insisted on retrospective legislation was when it drafted the anti-air piracy law during the period of President J.R Jayewardene to deal with the hijacking of an Alitalia Italian airways aircraft by Sri Lankan national Sepala Ekanayake.

Besides the issue of power cuts Sri Lanka also grappling with debt restructuring issues to secure the IMF relief package. Against this backdrop Chinese Exim Bank has agreed to grant a two-year moratorium to Sri Lanka.

China has given debt-strapped Sri Lanka the financing assurances required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release the $2.9 billion bailout package for the country, days after India strongly backed the island nation’s efforts to secure the loan from the global lender to recover from its worst-ever economic crisis.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Export-Import Bank of China has told Sri Lanka, through a letter, that it is planning to provide an extension on the debt service due in 2022 and 2023 as an “immediate contingency measure based on Sri Lanka’s request.”

At the end of 2020, China’s EXIM bank loaned Sri Lanka US$ 2.83 billion. This is 3.5% of the island’s debt, according to an IMF report released in March last year.

According to Reuters, which had seen a copy of the letter, the EXIM bank said: “You will not have to repay the principal and interest due on the bank’s loans during the above-mentioned period.”

 “Meanwhile, we would like to expedite the negotiation process with your side regarding medium- and long-term debt treatment in this window period,” it added.

 “The bank will support Sri Lanka in your application for the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) to help relieve the liquidity strain,” the letter stated.

 Sri Lanka owed Chinese lenders $7.4 billion, or nearly a fifth of its public external debt, at the end of last year, calculations by the China Africa Research Initiative showed, according to Reuters.

Nevertheless, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is of the view that it would take another six months to complete debt restructuring negotiations.

Reuters however said the external sector remains resilient despite heightened challenges, and the outlook remains positive with expected improvements linked to “financing assurances” from creditors.

Central Bank chief Dr P. Nandalal Weerasinghe said on Tuesdaythat Sri Lanka is committed to meeting all its debt repayments and is hoping to complete debt restructuring negotiations in the next six months.

India told the IMF last week that it strongly supports Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring plan, a crucial endorsement for Colombo as it tries to secure the four-year $2.9 billion program with the global lender and bolster its tattered finances.

India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar while on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka said that Sri Lanka’s path to recovery is one of a strong economic recovery propelled by substantial investments. Here too, I have a clear message that I will be sharing with the business community. India will encourage additional investments in the Sri Lankan economy, especially in core areas like energy, tourism, and infrastructure. We count on the government of Sri Lanka to provide a more business-friendly environment to create a powerful pull factor. I am confident that the gravity of the situation is being realized by policymakers here’, he said.

He went on to say that energy security is today one of Sri Lanka’s most serious challenges. A search for solutions must necessarily encompass the larger region. Only then will Sri Lanka get the full benefit of scale. This country has enormous renewable energy potential that can become a sustainable source of revenue. It has the potential for Trincomalee to emerge as an energy hub. In its support for Sri Lanka, India is prepared to be a reliable partner in such initiatives. We have today agreed in principle on a renewable energy framework that would take this cooperation forward.

Tourism is the lifeblood of the Sri Lankan economy. I note that Indian tourists are expressing their positive sentiments about Sri Lanka in a very practical manner by coming here. But there are many more steps we can take to make this sustainable. Strengthening connectivity and promoting travel are therefore very high priorities for all of us. Definitely, encouraging Indian tourists to utilize UPI would be most helpful in this regard.

In a turbulent world, it is essential that India and Sri Lanka steady their trade. The use of the rupee for international transactions is obviously in our mutual interest.

The full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution came up for a fruitful discussion during the visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister. President Wickremesinghe, who was also keen on a lasting solution, convened an all-party conference to reach a just solution. However, smaller parties led by Ven Aturaliye Ratana and Gevindu Kumaratunge opposed full implementation. Sarath Weeraskara joined them for different reasons. Nevertheless, there were positive signals and a consensus to end the ethnic issue. However, the main opposition political parties were not present, signaling their departure from the mainstream and showing their duplicity to solve the main question once and for all.

In addition, it appeared they wanted to dodge the issue since it could be politically disadvantageous for them in the long run, especially in the run up to the Local Government elections and beyond. It ended without a conclusion but on a positive note.The Tamil National Alliance was also vary about the outcome of the meeting. Nevertheless the President told participants at the meeting that the Cabinet agreed to fully implement the 13thAmendment until the party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.  The President has now effectively put the ball in the court of the party leaders.  

Meanwhile, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, addressing the business community, stated that the state would not consider foreign investments in the energy sector. The reason for this is that it is clearly connected to national security. He said it is crucial that the state retains control of the energy sector in a future National Peoples Power/JVP government.

 The other aspect the government will oversee is the regulation of the goods and service sectors. However, he said that he would encourage local investments in the energy sector, especially renewable energy such as wind power, etc. He said in the Mannar zone alone, 2,000 MW of wind energy could be harnessed.

Moreover, he said that doing business is not the government’s job, and the government would provide the necessary infrastructure to help small and medium-sized businesses flourish. When businesses face difficulties, the state would intervene through a social security fund to cushion the effect and compensate for the loss the SMIs incur.

We will not do business without a proper road map to identify potential areas of growth. That is based on data analysis and other economic factors available. Infrastructure facilities such as roads will be developed in a meaningful way where people and businesses will reap maximum benefits’, he said.


Dissanayake also said the highway to Mattala wouldn’t have existed if we had focused exclusively on infrastructure needs.

Their goal is to develop rural areas rather than city-centric areas. All income sources will be expanded to reach the hinterlands so that there would be a fair share of profitable income reaching the rural populace.

These can only be implemented by a government with a proper mandate and when the government leaders and the people are ready to make sacrifices to build the country.

The JVP has already launched its election campaign for the LG elections. Their victory, at least in some areas, would serve as a forerunner to the larger campaign to win the next parliamentary general election. Nevertheless, they don’t have faith in the presidential system, which they view as too difficult for Sri Lankan politicians. Therefore, they advocate a complete overhaul and a comprehensive constitution that respects human rights, democracy, and recognition by other nations and international bodies.

Against the present political backdrop, everybody can see a sharp rise in the prospects of the JVP or the NPP. The local government election will work as a political barometer to gauge the JVP’s popularity among the people. A question to be answered is whether the people are ready to hand over the government to them based on their past actions. It is a common occurrence that the organised left would be in a position to form a government in an economic crisis, as happened in Greece. However, it took some time for the people to realise that the left did not possess the necessary intellectual acumen to address the issues. Isn’t Sri Lanka’s political trajectory similar to that of Greece? According to some, the country will undergo radical governmental changes in the near future. It will take at least another ten years before it emerges as a country with a sound economic foundation. Socialist policies offer limited solutions to problems in an ever-changing socio-economic context during the political shake-up.

In other words, if the JVP gains power and tries to overturn market economic policies, it will not be able to sustain economic sustainability for long. Since everything around us is pulling in different directions, the political path has to be clear. It is critical for the administration to learn the geopolitical realities of the region; otherwise, it may pose a threat to the very existence of Sri Lankan democracy.






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