16 January, 2022

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Kitchen Fires & The Power Of Darkness

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Not enough Litro Gas and Laugfs Gas (not quite the Laughing Gas with Lankan typos) lit up Sri Lanka’s political skyline with kitchen fires for nearly a month. On Friday, always the day for changing political channels, the whole island was plunged into darkness for a few hours. In other news, the entire directorate of Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment, the national counter for receiving foreign investments, is reported to have stepped down with immediate effect. And in the midst of it all, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country to attend the Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) in Abu Dhabi, where he is billed to deliver the keynote address on the conference theme, “Ecology, Economy, Epidemic.” While one should not begrudge presidential travels, one cannot help noticing that the President is appearing to become more at home outside the country than in the country. After all, he was (and potentially still is) a dual citizen.

There is yet no conclusive explanation for the spate of kitchen explosions involving LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) cylinders in different parts of the country in recent weeks, although it is being reported that according to the State Ministry of Co-Operative Services, “the two main LP gas distributors have been advised to suspend their distribution until they brought the Ethyl Mercaptan volume up to standard.” Curiously, while the whole country has been awash in news reports about gas cylinder explosions, this is the first time there is any mention of “Ethyl Mercaptan.”

Mercaptan is foul-smelling Methanethiol that is added to LPG gas in cylinders to help its detection when leaked. It would seem that Mercaptan was not being added in sufficient quantities to gas cylinders that were being put on the market. If this is true or not, we know not. And that is why, to paraphrase Philip Gunawardena’s wisecrack to questioning police officers in a different context, there is a government to find out.

On the electricity front, different reasons have been suggested for the nationwide power failure on Friday – that it was due to the breakdown of a major transmission line, and/or due to problems at the coal power plant in Norochcholai and generators at Sapugaskanda. Power has been restored for the most part, but future power cut warnings have been given amidst the ongoing protests and threats of trade union action by Ceylon Electricity Board professionals and workers to the government’s decision to enter into an agreement with a US company, New Fortress Energy, giving it a near monopoly over the supply of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).

In the absence of plausible explanations, sabotage rumours and conspiracy theories are filling the vacuum. Lesser mortals like yours truly are not good at conspiracies and these theories are a tad difficult for us to understand. What is not difficult to understand is the government’s lack of quick response to these sudden eruptions. A convoluted theory for the LPG explosions seems to be that the same masterminds behind the Easter bombings are at work again – for the benefit of whom, God only knows. But this is a dangerous game, more dangerous than the fallopian fantasy, or the Trincomalee corridor that Americans were supposed to create through the now aborted Millennium Compact.

The ever creative SJB MP Harin Fernando, is seeing “foul play between Litro and the government.” According to Mr. Fernando, the spate of explosions is all a ploy to make the gas industry unpopular and use it as justification to sell off Litro to financially benefit the government – which is fast running out of badly needed foreign currencies and is printing away valueless local monies. Meanwhile, the President of the CEB Trade Union Collective, Malaka Wickramasinghe, is reported to have said that “the power outage occurred at around 11:30 a.m., which is not a time when a massive load is present in the system, therefore it is fair to assume as an act of sabotage.”

From the electricity management side, CEB General Manager M.R. Ranatunga has also indicated to the media that “he suspects the island wide power failure maybe an act of sabotage by the Trade Unions.” And he “dismissed rumors that a request had been made to the army to take over the restoration of power.” Interestingly, the investigation of alleged sabotage is being carried out by the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD). After the Chief Engineer of the Business and Operations Strategy Division of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) lodged a complaint with the Slave Island Police Station.

One finds a striking anomaly here. A national power failure is being reported to the Slave Island Police Station. Whereas Catholic priests and activists who were questioning police actions and their public statements on the Easter Sunday tragedy were being summoned by the CID on directives, aka personal complaints, given by the Director General of State Intelligence Services. The specific threat of arrest to Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando would now seem to have been put rest following assurances by the Attorney General to the Supreme Court. And God Bless the Supreme Court for reprimanding the Attorney General for his cavalier proclivity for withdrawing indictments to please political powers.

This is how things are in Sri Lanka! Now, to kitchen fires.

Better Safe than Sorry

According to a reported statement by State Minister (Co-operative Services, Marketing Development, and Consumer Protection) Lasantha Alagiyawanna, 213 gas explosions have been reported between January 2015 and 31 October 2021. 131 of them, more than half, have been this year from 1 January to 1 December. Last week there were reports of eleven incidents within a 24 hour period. While domestic gas explosions are not uncommon, the frequency of incidents this year, and in November alone, required much quicker and more comprehensive responses by the government and the suppliers than what has been on offer so far.

The use of LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) gas in portable cylinders for cooking, is quite common in several countries. They are also a hazardous appurtenance prone to accidents if not handled with due care. For this reason, in many western countries it is illegal to use gas cylinders inside a house. They are only permitted to be used for outdoor – barbeque (BBQ) – cooking. Indoor cooking appliances are either electrical or based on natural gas supplied through pipeline infrastructure.

In other countries, big and small, where electricity costs are prohibitive and there is no natural gas and pipe infrastructure for supply, the gas cylinders have provided a convenient alternative to traditional firewood and biomass cooking. LPG gas cylinders have become ubiquitous in upscale kitchens as well as shanty dwellings – from Brazil to China and hundreds of countries in between.

Although they are both crude oil products, LPG and natural gas are different in composition, heat energy content and density. LPG is either propane or butane, or a mix of both. Natural gas is primarily methane. Natural gas is also lighter than air and more safely dissipates when leaked, unlike LPG which is heavier and fills up in lower, confined spaces. One advantage LPG has over natural gas is in storage and portability. LPG can be stored and moved in tanks or cylinders. Natural gas requires special cryogenic tanks for storage and pipeline for consumers.

In a recent scientific journal article on domestic gas explosions in India, its academic authors identify Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a cleaner source of cooking fuel. The use of firewood and biomass for cooking by hundreds of millions of households has been a major source of pollution in India. The increasing use of LPG gas cylinders is seen as a welcome change. Registered LPG users in India have more than doubled from 106 million in 2008/09 to 263 million in 2017/18.

Similar to the practice in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, the domestic LPG supply in India is provided in 14.2 kg and 5.0 kg cylinders. According to the article, the gas supply in India is given a faint but foul smell by adding Mercaptan (foul-smelling Methanethiol) to help its detection when leaked. In addition to settling down, the heavier LPG also “condenses the water vapor in it to form a whitish fog,” making it easy to identify. While there have been cases of LPG explosions in Indian households, the journal article reviews the case of a rather horrendous blast when two women were trying to refill in their kitchen, a 5 kg cylinder with gas from a 14.2 kg cylinder, while cooking was going on. Both died on the spot and their burnt remains were ghastly.

Hopefully, no one in Sri Lanka will attempt refilling between cylinders (among neighbours), or tamper with gas supply accessories when the cooking fire is on. There are also basic safety tips while using domestic LPG gas cylinders: keep all accessories and knobs out of reach for children; and shut the cylinder valve off before turning the burner off, so as to burn of all the gas released from the cylinder. What might be more difficult to achieve in many households is to ensure that the kitchen or cooking areas are well ventilated and facilitate through-air flow.

Safety education is important and should pervade all levels of communication – from schools, to media, and advertising. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka like so many countries where the use of LPG gas cylinders is widespread, does not have functioning safety and fire/emergency agencies at the local level. In such absence, it is fair to expect the suppliers of LPG gas to take the lead role in ensuring safety with government support.

The most rumoured allegation so far has been that the proportions of Propane and Butane in recent LPG supplies were changed to an even 50-50 split from the regular 70 (butane) to 30 (propane) ratio. And that is the reason for the recent explosions. Both Litro Gas and Laugfs Gas have vehemently denied this and have also contended that it would be uneconomical for them to increase the proportion of propane which costs more than butane. State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna has also confirmed this. The Government Analyst and the Consumer Affairs Authority would also appear to be in disagreement with the alleged change in the proportions of the two gases. The University of Moratuwa Experts’ Committee appointed by the government has also made no reference to it in its first public statement as reported in the media. Whether anything different will come later on, we know not.

What is mystifying is why this allegation (about changing the gas mix) cannot be put to rest promptly and authoritatively by the government. Or, of course, if the allegation is correct it should be confirmed promptly and addressed without delay. As if it does not have enough worries on its plate, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is reported to have done tests on the gas composition and its report, which has not been publicised, apparently “confirms that if the gas composition is 50% propane and 50% butane, there is a higher risk of gas leaks.” This is academic, the real question is about the actual proportion of gases in the two samples that CPC is reported to have tested.

While the CPC’s findings have reportedly been sent to the University of Moratuwa for review, the gas suppliers are rejecting CPC’s credentials to make this determination. Litro Gas has even said that CPC has a conflict of interest as a potential competitor planning to enter the LPG cylinder market on its own. That will be some competition between two ‘State enterprises’ – if you will pardon the oxymoron. Still after one year and 131 explosions, the country is no where closer to a plausible explanation. Everyone is going round in circles, if not circus.

There is also great deal of confusion about the applicable standards and regulations for the LPG gas industry. According to State Minister Alagiyawanna (who seems to be carrying on his shoulders all the political cylinders on the LPG matter), Sri Lanka has no regulations to deal with the industry and there are no designated agencies to supervise them. “We have no legal laboratory in Sri Lanka to check the quality of domestic gas,” the Minister has specifically said.

The Minister’s worry is supported by Chairman Janaka Ratnayake of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL). According to him, a standard for the Liquid Petroleum (LP) gas has already been formulated by the Commission, but “the PUCSL does not have the legal powers to enforce the standard.” Who does, who will, and when? Until then, the country will be put through multiple rumour mills and conspiracy machines. And is this how things will continue to be in Sri Lanka?

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    There is a worldwide ( USA, UK, and Europe ) trucking and shipping ( Worldwide ) crisis since late September. Trucking is a well-paid union Job. A mandate was issued that all truckers must be vaccinated. About 20%- 30 % quit their jobs because they don’t want to get poison into their bloodstream. . Meaning produce and products are stuck in warehouses all across the Western world going to waste. Imports and Exports. .
    About 60 % of World’s Cargo has to go through Yemen ( Aden) and Egypt ( Suez canal ). A ship got stuck between the two and took about 10-12 days to drag out. Causing an unprecedented crisis. 1000’s of ship missed their deadliness. This will take months or years to clear out. There are thousands of ships parked outside ports all over the world waiting unload their cargo. Billions of products have gone to waste. This means the insurance companies have to pay out. That’s going to take time. There will be legal battles that will drag on. The wasted food will have to be cleared out. There are worker shortages due to Covid at ports.
    What all this means is that Sri Lankan which is 22 million , less than 1% of the world population of 7 Billion is not going to get any favours..

    • 5
      2

      Good one Rajan! To understand the Permanent STATE OF EMERGENCY that is the New Normal we need to understand Geopolitics and the fact that the Third World War to make America and its White Anglo-Saxon and EU friends Great again is on– all over the world and in strategic Lanka – particularly targeting China and Russia and the Rise of Asia as the Growth Hub of the world.
      Hence also the permanent State of Emergency and fear psychosis through media messaging – with Covid-19 fear narratives, and endless mutations, ambulance sound pollution, and fear messaging, goods shortages, maritime trade disruption, gas explosions, power outages, COP-26 hotair climate change fear psychosis etc, etc. disruption of society, economy and education all with the Covid-19 mask and digitalization, surveillance, travel restrictions and control of people and populations with lock downs and fear…

      • 5
        3

        Rajan: Why are the US citizens, Goat and Basil Rajapaksa Brothers purchasing 14 million Pfizer vaccines when the majority of the Lanka population is already vaccinated? Why are they selling the Power plant in Kerawelapitiaya to a US Company? USA wants to set up a Lilypad military base in Sri Lanka to crash China and Asia.
        Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines are dangerous and Phizer is corrupt like the WHO.
        US citizens Basil and Goat who run this miracle of Modayas called Sri Lanka are trying to help BAIL OUT the DEBT TRAPPED American economy! Hah, ha, ha!
        USA has printed $9 Trillion in the last 2 years of Covid-19 biowarfare against the world so that Black Rock Hedge Fund and its fronts like Adani and Ambani can Asset Strip the Global South and re-boot Colonialism with a Covid MASK.
        Sri Lanka in the midst of the Indian Ocean and Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD), Hybrid, cyber, maritme trade war by the Deepstate to digitalize, surveil and control all systems and turn the country into a colony with Covid. Sad to say the US is the biggest Rogue State in the world and has weaponized the Lankan Diaspora and Rajapakse US citizen families.
        Sri Lankan politicians and parliament is a puppet show, funded and controlled by the US today!

    • 6
      1

      RP,
      thanks for analysing it well.
      :
      How would NANDASEENI face the world in the scheduled conference IOC ?

      Not just few weeks ago, he promised to the world that srilanken will become the first nation to allow CABORNIC food only sending a powerful message, though it could only end up in vain for a poor nation of our nature. And as his ridiculous gazetting issues, which last not even 24 hours or shorter, now some of his buddy companies have been given the authority to reserse ” only for carbonic manure” but to import the fertilzers again as had been before. With this being the reality ballige stupid man would ever be able to see the eyes in the world leaders ? He has already made him a naive man, and us being a naive nation, but why does the bugger waste people s funds again for this trip ?
      He should not go out of his hotel room, because the danger is really high, if SRILANKENS trapped in that country will surely tear him off to pieces. Their angers are beyond estimation as of today looking at the manner, Rajapkashes treat own people and those diaspora working as guest workers in Middle East region.
      :

      • 5
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        Dear Sensitive Readers,
        .
        Please watch the video below.
        .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfzEPP-UjV4

        AKD is the most sensitive politician in today s context. All what he has been explaining in this speech is the truth. Sarath Weerasekara will be lynched by their own men to the manner that innocient SINHALAYA WAS murdered in Pakistan day before yesterday. We will see it happening in this country for sure. Not my wish, but the bugger deserves it.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwsdWGgVj_I

        • 1
          1

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        • 2
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          My Dear LM: Recently there was a fine “Drama” staged in courts, but the “Media Mafia” did not care to give what was due publicity to the decision made. Please look at what this young patriot from abroad says. The link is below:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg7MgU3_mAQ

          Go to Google and type above if you don’t get it here. The young Lawyer who presents this is Baharatha Tennekoone.

          • 2
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            Dear Simon, thanks. Bharatha thennakoon is one of the few good YT presenters that produces meaningful videos. He is always right about his arguments. Thirisannu in power today abuse their might no different to the manner illiterate dominated Pakistanies lynched our Priyantha Kumara 2 days ago in Pakistan. Ghanasara threatened a good monk y day in public assuming no law would be kept above them, all these were well predicted by us before the rascals returned to power, my angers go up on Sorysena not to have done the due once the bugger was empowered to do so, and that is why we are today thrown to a situation that our our eyes cant believe but no choice. This Rajapakshe public masturation can only be stopped by electing NPP, we want to see Ghanasara be hung by his balls so as that Thissa Kutti dog. Saman Vidyaratna made it clear that these bitches sons would have no chance under their rule next. Ghabasara s aggressive acts prove he has 🐕😉🐕😉🐕no choice but a therapy in a prison under 24 h observation 🐕😉🐕😉🐕😉🐕😉🐕

  • 8
    2

    Until the Yakkos are forced into accepting that their judgement and decision making skills are retarded and that they are collectively dim witted for ushering in this murdering robbing thuggish spectacle their is no hope for the nation. Daiyo gave them a decent government they trashed it dashed it and decimated it. The curse of gods alone is enough to last forever. The worst is yet to come. Enjoy living in hell. This time created by your own selves. We the wise have taken every precaution and wait saddened but relieved that we do not suffer due to our own luck of living abroad. Deepest sympathy to those who did not vote for the spectacle.

  • 5
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    This article is well presented with an element of respectful sarcasm, though being a narration of events with some points to ponder and will make the average man (who can appreciate the author’s writing) to think where Sri Lanka would move to in the coming days. In the wake of the tragicomedies unfolding with the recent regimes elected, one is entitled to think whether democracy is a viable working model for Sri Lanka. Getting to basics, a country is usually governed by elected individuals supported by appointed individuals. Both must be governed by a set of norms encompassing decency. We hear breaches of these standards of governance everywhere in the world. In good number of territories whose standard of governance is well above average and such breaches are dealt with timely curative and preventive measures. Sadly, Sri Lanka is one such country where the norms are more observed in the breach than otherwise. Hence democracy appears as a farce. Next time a joker will say “Give us the power for the next 20 years to turn Sri Lanka around” only to remind us of days when individuals were cremated alive in executing orders from the top.

  • 3
    5

    So here is the thing! One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand. Currently visited Buddhist pilgrimage towns do not exist in maps drawn before 1800s. The British have taken the history that belong in the island and transplanted it to north India. It’s now all out in the open. They might try to take revenge for revealing it to the world from the Sri Lankans. They used minorities since 1948. It’s highly likely the easter bombings were also done by the British in partnership with their allies. So any kind of unusual activity going forward should take this into consideration. The best option however is bite the bullet and let the world know what the British are trying so hard to hide. Let the world know the correct history. That will pre-empt the need to destabilise the island.

    • 6
      1

      Jambu dear,
      “Currently visited Buddhist pilgrimage towns do not exist in maps drawn before 1800s.”
      That’s because they weren’t pilgrim sites then. It was your own Anagarika who turned them into pilgrim sites, and he definitely wasn’t around before the 1800’s.
      Oh, and in case you don’t know, Nuwara Eliya, Borella, Nugegoda, Ella, and Kataragama don’t exist in Dutch maps. There seems to be a lot that these evil Brits have to answer for. Why don’t you go get a life, Jambu?

  • 1
    1

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  • 8
    0

    No need to write a magnum opus …….. unless Sinhala_Man, the Lankan man about town, ol’ bon vivant, is marking it from 1 – 100 ……… for perfection in the English language.

    Analyze the country as if it’s a company you would like to invest in – shares you want to buy.

    First look at the CEO and the upper level management. Are they there to make a profit for the shareholders, focusing on the future growth of the company …….. or are they there for a quick reward and vanish.

    The answers are there to all to see ………. no need to go to school even …….. it’s just common sense …… plainly visible if ye vision is not blurred/clogged ………

    The inability to see reality is not the fault of reality ………. it’s got to do with all the unexamined childhood emotional insecurities that clog ye mind ………

    The craziest thang is …….. the ultra-realists are the Rajapakses ……. who see the reality for what it is ………. and robbing the country blind …….

    In the same position I would’ve done the same! Easy money.


    If ye need to sort out ye insecurities ….. Native Vedda is the foremost specialist to consult …….. now that Eliantha White is dead ……………

    • 6
      0

      This would’ve got cut off

      If ye need to sort out ye insecurities ….. Native Vedda is the foremost specialist to consult …….. now that Eliantha White is dead ……………

      • 3
        0

        nimal fernando

        “If ye need to sort out ye insecurities ….. Native Vedda is the foremost specialist to consult …….. now that Eliantha White is dead “

        Do you want me to die at the age of 48 years from COVID 19 or are you advising Gota to send me a Gas Cylinder?

        • 4
          1

          NV,
          .
          dont you know that everyone is almost dying in the country today under the leadership of Medamulana Criminals.
          .
          Not just Medmulana criminals but people are to be blamed on the self-created mess. All these were crystal clear before they dressed him ” that cloak”: Gota is believed to have spent lots of idling hours during his entire 15 years before he was awarded with ” so called DEFENCE SECRETARY POST by his mlechcha brother”; also giving him a new under cover “newly born patriot”:
          All these were well bought by our punnaku drinkers dominated nation. So good riddance.

    • 5
      2

      I don’t expect perfection in English, nimal!
      .
      Me – “ol’ bon vivant” indeed! I’m only a VishramikaGambadaIngirisiIskioleMahattaya (Retired Village English “Gentleman”).
      .
      Just see what this guy told me here:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/church-of-ceylon-anglican-democracy-choosing-the-best-to-be-put-over-us/
      .
      More can be said there today.

      No, nimal, I don’t resent thee really. Life will be duller without thee. And I do accept thy apology of sorts.

  • 1
    0

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  • 1
    1

    A Solar Street light produces its own electricity during the day, stores this energy At dusk (once sunlight is no longer available) the solar street light will begin. so that the burden of generating energy will be less powered and bereak down will not often happen,

    Not enough Litro Gas and Laugfs Gas introduse solar power oven and demand of high power will be less. Stubborn price hike and stocking or hiding for the price hike will controlled and more safety

  • 4
    0

    While the country was burning, Sri Lanka’s prodigal Nero was seen playing his trumpet in Abu Dhabi.
    Three foreign trips within three months! Doesn’t it sound familiar? When Maithri was the President, he travelled overseas almost every 20-30 days during his entire tenure.
    Now, Gotabhaya is following Maithri’s footsteps; creating a crisis and running away from the country!!!

    • 2
      1

      Maithree was caricatured by msfia boss in last days of his tenure but the man no different to that Dhammika pani maker aka Nandaseeni, is blindly puppeted by that hexe Ghanakka..
      .
      People should raise the question even a gog would work with own conscience more if had the chance to live that long in a developed country but why Rajapakshes would nt? We can only sing that Neth mal pibidhewa by electing public bankers in to the office. 🐕😉🐕🐕😉🐕😉🐕😉☹🐕

      • 1
        1

        Appologies for typo.
        .
        People should raise the question even a dog would work with own conscience more if had the chance to live that long in a developed country but why Rajapakshes would nt? We can only sing that Neth mal pibidhewa by electing public wankers in to the office. 🐕☹🐕☹🐕☹🐕

  • 1
    0

    The composition of the gases, volatility & safety in transportation are concerns for the gas supplier & whether stringent health & safety legislation are in place or not, it is the moral responsibility of the supplier to protect consumers from such hazards. An obvious precaution would be to ensure the max. pressure within the gas container is not exceeded & the condition of seals to prevent leakages. Now, with deaths resulting gas from ‘explosions’, obviously, the supplier has to take responsibility & the govt. should investigate the cause for sudden ‘accidental’ explosions & prevent such happenings in the future by introducing new legislation if necessary. In any developed country, the suppliers would be accountable & the victims compensated by law. Is the SL govt. doing anything about it?

    Cont.

  • 1
    0

    Cont.
    Deviating from the tragic events, I was amused by the apparent invitation for GR to deliver the key note speech, “Ecology, Economy, Epidemic”, at the Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) in Abu Dhabi. Seems the organisers have more faith in GR than most of us have for him in SL. The speech writers must be scratching their heads, but, no doubt, the influence of Buddhist teachings & overnight transformation to organic farming (as in his COP26 speech) will be key points, as well as, negotiating with our friendly countries, rather than turning to capitalist IMF, would certainly be shown as prudent economic thinking. Wonder if our blessings from gods to eradicate the pandemic would also be in the speech.

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