18 August, 2022


Black Hand Behind Power Sabotage

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Everybody says that the all-island power-cut last week during the CEB trade-union work-to-rule was sabotage. The unions say it, the General Manager issued a statement to this effect, the Minister said it was so and that if he catches the culprit his going to cut off his you-know-what. Since sabotage is the unanimous view it must have been the work of conspirators with unusual motives. The trade unions lost momentum due to public confusion and the government has been tethered because the details of the LNG deal are coming into the public spotlight. Who gained – apparently neither of these sides?

The union go-slow was a protest at Basil’s crafty plan to sell 40% of the 310MW Yugadanavi Power Station to US-based New Fortress Energy without proper cabinet approval and in violation of tender procedures. Is anyone collecting 10%; your guess is as good as mine. But that is not the worst of it. The worst is that Basil’s plan is the thin end of a wedge to allow private capital to take ownership of the national power sector. If you are a believer in privatisation of key public infrastructure institutions you will like it; but if like me you reckon this will be disastrous (like all Thatcher’s manic adventures) then you will oppose it tooth and nail. However, strictly speaking the LNG venture is not the heart of the sabotage allegation since one way or the other it does not advance interests of either the pro or anti privatisation sides.

I have no knowledge of events and conspiracies, inside or outside, but I am willing to examine whose interests sabotage may serve and to place it in the larger context of national power-politics. The case against Basil’s plan is watertight, it has split the cabinet and the government parliamentary group and was rapidly gaining traction in the public mind. The public may now be a little confused, temporarily I hope. But on the other hand neither do I think pro-privatisation or business interests, or foreign or pro-Basil political groups, were responsible. Why? The plan to privatise electricity supply too lost ground because now there will be deeper probing of the pros and cons of selling off all or part of the CEB to international capital. Then, and assuming that the sabotage charge has substance to it, both sides lost. Who gained?

If the sabotage charge has substance to it the gang that gains from the incident is a “black-hand” which wants to create turmoil for motives other than the pros and cons of electricity privatisation. Some trade unionists have charged that this was an attempt to create a protracted blackout as an excuse to declare an emergency, move in the military and arrest union leaders. I have two reasons for accommodating this possibility. As said neither the anti nor the pro privatisation sides gained. The second reason is that the fortuitous likelihood of a chance transmission outage cascading into an all-island blackout on the just the day of a trade union go-slow is extremely small. That is the theoretical possibility that the transmission fault was accidental is minute and human agency may have been involved. This raises the question mark in my mind.

The speed and efficiency with which CEB technical staff restored supply indicates that they realised a black-handed was in play, so they nipped it in the bud. They are not in the game of sabotaging nor privatising the CEB; their stated purpose is precisely the opposite, defending a national asset. They have certainly used the rapid restoration of supply to make that point. The government and the police are “investigating” should we expect the usual blank report? Authoritarian governments manipulate and hide the truth. For five years after Chernobyl, Moscow lied about the scale of the catastrophe and concealed from the people that hundreds had died of radiation sickness and thousands upon thousands were afflicted by irreversible diseases. Black hand!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 9

    Kumar D,
    “Authoritarian governments manipulate and hide the truth. For five years after Chernobyl, Moscow lied about the scale of the catastrophe and concealed from the people that hundreds had died of radiation sickness and thousands upon thousands were afflicted by irreversible diseases”
    We have this locally too!
    Don’t we?
    We have better ones, indeed.
    They are commonly termed by the natives, as ‘Thakkadiyas’
    Better and Best as they could ever be!!

    • 0

      What is not ” black” under INCUMBENT govt led by Medamulana cooks ?
      It is high time, PRESIDENT to resign and go back to his hideouts which is california. And the brutal Mahinda should be driven away from the country for all the mess created as of today.

  • 8

    Nothing wrong with privatisation if that organisation is not efficient and also that org is blocking any progress. For the record Thatcher did some good work and one was privatising terrible British Telecom that used to block all innovations. It will be a good idea Kumar went and study macro economics and its usage since marxists cannot understand free markets and should be living in Russia.
    Since global private capital is making havoc’s in global economy, it will be a good idea that all main basic infrastructure like power and water and energy should be in public hand. We already have private networks but keeping them honest come from regulators and in SL, regulators bought at every election. Bottom line is test of public interest not getting ripped off by multi nationals.

    • 6

      There’s nothing like competition to galvanise businesses. If they’re viable, they can be fully of partly privatised. The various sugar factories were failures due to lack of captive growers and outdated machinery. You can’t sell overpriced local sugar when it can be imported. SL Telecom, half- privatised, is unbelievably efficient compared to its former self. The CEB and Ceypetco are also good candidates for the chop.. Opposition comes from employees who will lose their perks, but if, say, electricity rates come down, it will be better for society as a whole. Why let a small minority hold us to ransom?

    • 3

      The break up of BT into competing enterprises was a success because it corresponded to the technological needs of that industry in the wake of technical progress. The transition from the Telecoms Dept to a competitive system in SL, and the world over, has proved the same. I demur to call BT an inefficient Leviathan – beside the point.

      By breaking up and fragmenting the CEGB Thatcher destroyed an excellent electricity supply utility and created a ridiculous and now slowly bankrupting menagerie of privately owned regional electricity companies. She tried to interfere with public housing and was booted out of No.10 for her “enterprising” initiative.

      Thatchers break of BR has led to catastrophe! BR was a good railway; today it is the worst in Europe. SNCF, DB, the Spanish, the Italians, the Eastern European, all (or nearly all public or semi-public utilities) are excellent in comparison. Long distance private passenger rail is non-existent in the US the Mecca of private transportation. I guess you know what GM, Ford and Chrysler did to America’s tram system! What a price the country is paying for this business sector greed now.

      THE CRUCIAL POINT IS THIS: Thatcher did not privatize for reasons of efficiency. NO! She did so for ideological motives.

  • 3

    ….”Is anyone collecting 10%; your guess is as good as mine. “….
    Now 10% is too small – those days are gone, perhaps 80% of the cake, whole SALE.
    Agreement on Sale and Purchase of 40%’ was signed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, S.R. Attygalle and N.S. Daniel Christopher Knight, Managing Director of the company ‘NFE Sri Lanka Power Holdings’, this company is ??
    NFE is an old company but this new one smells.
    So a nearly definite conclusion – not a guess – is that NFR SL Power Holdings is – U NO HOO.
    Recently set up in USA, it could be……..

  • 1

    Ms. Nimalka Morahela – event planner , is Project Coordinator of this massive multi million dollar venture .

  • 2

    How did AKD the JVP Leader get hold of the Yugadanavi papers and table it in Parliament?
    It blew the lid off the most guarded secret of Basil Rajapakse. He is right now in the United States; Is it for his commission in advance?

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.