30 September, 2020

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Mangala & Malik: Shady Or Senseless?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Ministers acting like headless chickens and/or crooked shysters;  Mangala and Malik: Shady or Senseless?

No reasonable person will accuse this column of a pro-Rajapaksa or pro-SLPP bias, I am on record calling them financially corrupt proto-fascists. But it is not possible to refrain from calling a spade a spade, and when necessary a bloody shovel. This government is so adept at self-destruction that it no longer needs an opposition. A public outcry and trade union action by Customs personnel forced Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the Cabinet to tuck their tails between their legs and reinstate Mrs. Sarojini Charles, Director General of Customs. But as we have little knowledge of what really happened the public must assume the worst; rogues to the right of us, rogues to the left of us, inept and insane, they volley and thunder. An exemplary public servant of high integrity, on the tail of crooked businessmen and smugglers with high political connections, she is the kind of person much needed in public life; Samaraweera to judge by his somersaults on this occasion is not.

This column has often spoken well of Samaraweera, his broadminded attitudes and his sensible approach to Sinhala-Tamil problems. Up to now I have had no reason to doubt his financial integrity. But what now? Was Mrs. Charles sidelined to scuttle investigations she was spearheading against smugglers and corrupt businessmen? What’s in it for him? One version is that high officials in the Finance Ministry were on the take, but can officials trigger a huge crisis unless the Minister gave them a nod and a wink? Or are there bigger fish and the Minister a mere (but ready and willing) cog in the wheel? The last question arises because the whole blithering Cabinet partook in the decision to dump Mrs. Charles. The electronic media carry stories about which businesses and smugglers are likely being protected by Minister, Cabinet or people higher up.

And curiously, why has the lady been reinstated for three months only? Is it reckoned that the miscreants can endure pressure for a short period and then laugh all the way to the bank after bequeathing their ‘hard-earned’ share to their political overlords? The public must insist that Mrs. Charles’ reappointment has no time limit other than her normal retirement from the public service. Temporary “reinstatement” is a pyrrhic victory, a sham.

After the stink he created Samaraweera had the gall to shower Mrs. Charles with praise upon her reinstatement. He expressed “Full confidence in her abilities to bring the business mafia operating in the Port to book; she is an iron lady.” Is this man who fired her now suffering from schizophrenia? Does politics dive its practitioners to insanity? And he went on to say: “I saw that even for her who faced Prabhakaran fearlessly the Mafia in the Ports was a challenge. That is why I decided to take her into the Ministry and appoint a former Navy Officer”. The Minister should go tell this to the Marines! Does he think we were all born yesterday? And a sailor with a background in gunboats, however competent at that job he may have been but without experience in the Public Service and without the support of Customs personnel would be a gift to the crooks.

Samaraweera has acted in bad faith in: (a) removing Mrs. Charles, (b) his hypocritical adlib when reinstating her which surely snarled his tongue in knots, and (c) worst of all, reinstating her for the shortest possible time merely to placate howls of protest. He has fallen under a pall of suspicion for which he has none but himself to blame.

Gigantic blunders loom in the power sector

Two issues undermine the electric power (CEB) expansion outlook; hence there will be power shortages and a spike in the price at which the CEB is compelled to buy electricity from private power producers for resale to consumers. The issues are the proposed Kerawalpitiya 300MW gas-fired plant and the proposal to build LNG landing terminals at Hambantota and Colombo together with two or three 500MW combined-cycle generators. Both are very disturbing as government ministries are forcing through contracts in a manner that is technically unsound and ethically inappropriate. The two ministries involved in awarding power and energy contracts are Malik Samarwickrama’s International Trade Ministry and Ravi Karunanayake’s Power Ministry.

I will pass over Kerawalpitiya quickly as plaint has been filed alleging bad practice and multi-million-dollar corruption. As the matter is subjudiceI can say little. Initially the lowest cost bidder, a local company Lakdhanavi was selected, but China GCL appealed and despite the recommendation of the technical committee was awarded the contract. The Movement for the Protection of Consumer Rights then filed a petition and the Courts held that the Power Ministry Secretary had failed to follow proper tender procedures. The case is continuing. Observe that the power shortages I warned about at the time the government peremptorily cancelled the Sampur project have arrived. The net loss from this bad decision, as I then pointed out, will pile up to Rs 200 billion.

The proposal for an offshore Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) to supply natural gas to two or three new 500MW (each) power plants is a huge scheme. I have no access to project documents and can only estimate prices from international experiences. Each FSRU terminal will cost about $150 million, and at a guess, at present-value converted prices, the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) used over the 20 year project lifespan will cost in the region of $5 billion. (The 3x500MW generators will require about $1.2 billion but is a separate matter). The consequence of bad decisions will be horrendous and will sink Lanka deep into debt. The original offer was an unsolicited bid from Korea’s SK E&S company but was redesigned as a Request for Proposals to open it to international bidding as a “Swiss Challenge”. This procedure compels the government to invite third parties to match or better the original bid. The original bidder, in this case SK E&S, will be given an opportunity to better the best which comes out of the challenge process.

For nearly two years the terms and conditions were negotiated but the CEB says technical details of the generators were not made available. This is an impediment to ensuring integration of new plant into the system and planning transmission expansion. The biggest bombshell then exploded. The Korean proposal that Malik Samarawickrama’s Ministry champions, integrates infrastructure and “take or pay” gas purchase. In simple words this means Lanka will contract for the LNG terminals and simultaneously commit to take the full quota of gas each year over the project lifetime at then prevailing market prices. The down side for a country rich in hydro is that even if we need less gas in some years we will be obliged to pay as though we had taken all the gas. Weighed against $5 billion for fuel, the offer to furnish the two FSRU terminals (say $300 million) free of charge is trivial. The Trade Ministry championing the SK E&S offer is suspicious; you don’t have to lift the lid to know what’s cooking in the pot.

It was in these circumstances that the Board of the CEB decided to opt for “Separate”, not an “Integrated” plan – two separate contracts, one for infrastructure (FSRU, pipelines and installation) and another for fuel purchase on flexible terms. The latter will be open to LNG suppliers other than SK E&S. The Board communicated its decision to the Ministry; the CEB Engineers Union supported the Board. Three CEB personnel put by government on a committee to negotiate an “Integrated” plan with the Koreans had no option but to quit since the committee’s mandate contradicted the Board’s stand. The last I heard was that things are deadlocked. Will Minister Karunanayake be emboldened by Samarawickrama and Wickremesinghe to fire the Board and replace it with quislings?

Tilak Siyambalapitiya, an independent power expert, says “take-or-pay would be a disaster as hydropower availability varies significantly from year to year”. This is correct and furthermore I am concerned that neither of the ministries involved nor the Public Utilities Commission has the necessary depth of understanding or the essential flexibility of approach to resolve the crisis after CEB planners are side-lined. The smell of cash percolates this multi-billion dollar contract!

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Latest comments

  • 7
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    The ability of Prof. Kum to expand on an incident is unquestionable. He has successfully done in the past and this article represents his hallmark. Prof. Kum makes a slight reference to broad minded attitude of Mangy boy with respect to the ethnic issue. Prof. Kum perhaps inadvertently omitted to refer to the broad minded attitude of the trade union members and other whole bunch of trade unions who were about to join the customs union rising in defense of Ms. P. S. M. Charles. Apart from the integrity and excellence of Ms. Charles, she was a good leader with good attitudes. That is why the customs officials, almost every one of them felt that what was being done to her was an intolerable crime. Cash is King. So the entire Cabinet being united on this, perhaps with a symbolic feeble opposition by MY3, when it comes to the abracadabra of fraudulent transshipment specialist politico. Remember! it appears that prominent personalities of another minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka seems to be united in getting Ms. Charles out. It goes without saying that Mangy is a good artist and a designer. So he knows how design an ooze out from a difficult situation. It is public knowledge that even some prominent politicians seem to haunt “libraries” of hotels for their entertainment and allegations are afoot that narcotics is a part of that entertainment. If as rumored such narcotics consuming politicos are to be axed I wonder who would be spared. Prof. Kum mentions of another Minister who is also another “Sam”. It is also within the public knowledge of some major similarities between the two.

    • 5
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      No doubt Sri Lanka is the Hub for drug trafficking with the help of cabinet ministers and law enforcement forces and mafia and underworld.
      There are so many stories about the connection regarding the politicians having connections with these drug smuglers, dealers , mafia and underworld and thugs including some in the law enforcement dept.
      What a shame
      Only the poor locals are arrested and the big sharks escapes.
      This is Sri Lanka Man. This is how the country runs.

      • 3
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        Kumar finally you have woken up and smell the toast!
        Mangy sacked Mrs Charles so that US military cargo can be unloaded at Lanka’s Ports without scrutiny and objection by customs officers. It was a deliberate act of sabotage of Customs Institutions just as immigration was bi-passed by planes flying from Trinco to Singapore and just as the Central Bank was sabotaged by Bondscam Ranil and his mafia.
        The Euro-American Human Rights Endgame in Sri Lanka with the collusion of Washington;s Puppet Bondscam Ranil and his Butterfly mafia is US military Bases for which massive LNG landing sites are a ploy.
        Destruction of National Institutions is being done to ensure access of data to Bondscam RW’s foreign backers and setting up of US bases and or all necessary infrastructure for lilypad landing of US military in the Cold war with China.
        The Euro-American Human Rights Endgame in Sri Lanka with the collusion of Washington;s Puppet Bondscam Ranil and his Butterfly mafia is US military Bases for which massive LNG landing sites are a ploy.
        US is also waging low intensity economic warfare against Sri Lanka as in Venezuvela to crash the rupee with the Washington Consensus (IMF, WB, MCC) debt trap, and asset strip, land grab and access marine and transport infrastructure in the Cold War against China in Indian Ocean.
        55 Percent of Sri Lanka’s debt is owned by US and its Euro-Japan Banks linked International Sovereign Bond traders and it is Fake news to say China is the cause of Lanka’s massive debt trap; 75 percent of Sri Lanka’s sovereign debt is owned by US and its -Euro-Japan proxies, with ADB and JICA having 25 percent.

        During 2018-2022 the increase in Sri Lanka’s debt servicing of US$ 5 billion, which is why the ruppee is crashing, is driven by the maturing of US-Euro dollar International Sovereign Bonds according to the head of the External Resources Department (ERD) Ms. Visaka Amerasekera and not by loans from China.

        • 2
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          KD are you living in dreamland.
          Why do you think the corrupt crook Penthouse Ravi K was made minister of energy when an mountain of evident exists to prosecute him”?
          Bondscam Ranil and his corrupt mafia who work for America First and the Global 1 percent are as great a security threat as US Citizen and War Criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his corrupt brothers to the people of Lanka.
          Lets hope the JVP can pull off a win as the people are fed up of both UNP and SLFP-PP corruption racket.

          • 0
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            The internationally funded local corruption game called Debt Trap Development of Sri Lanka by Bondscam Ranil and his mafia, is played and sanctioned by Washington Consensus (MCC, IMF, USAID, WB).
            These fake aid and development institutions have perfected the art of the ‘Debt Trap and Bail Out Business” with their experts who work for America First and the Global 1 percent at Mckinsy and Harvard Professors of the dismal Science, to ensure Trumpland’s grip on Lanka’s and other global south economies, territories and peoples..
            Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Greece, Pakistan, etc. have been borrowing for decades from IMF-WB for debt trap fake development projects from the ‘Paris Club’ of Fake aid donors aka OECD) and are deeper in debt than ever????!
            Meanwhile Washington blames China for its (Washington’s|) and IMF’s financial crimes and the IMF Bailout Business after debt trapping counties in a Middle Income Trap (MIC) designed by WB which produces fake statistics on poverty and GDP rates , so that IMF can continue to have clients..

    • 0
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      Dr. Kumar,
      The US corporate General Electric’s products like LNG turbines are to run in Sri Lanka, so that US military can operate from Lanka and this is what has been causing all the energy sector disruptions in Sri Lanka these past 2 years.
      Neo Con Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which drafts Washington puppet Bondscam Ranil’s Economic policies to benefit US security Interests and business interests in the Indian Ocean Cold War against China, has been marketing scandal and debt hit GE Products.
      First MCC wanted to sell GE train engines for up country train tracks, now they are desperate to have GE turbines operating the LNG plants in Lanka to supply US military vessels.
      The Washington Consensus fake development aid debt-trap noose around Lanka is being tightened by the Hyper-marine securitization of the island by Japan, US and Euro fake aid project in the harbours and marine fisheries and energy sectors.

      Kentaro Sonoura, MP and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Japan yesterday assured his country’s support to Sri Lanka for strengthening coastal and maritime security. Sri Lanka’s development policy is land locked and islanded while vast live and non-live marine ocean resources are being looted by fake aid donors.
      The drug war is also played on Lanka to hyper-securitize and enable transfer of DATA to Trumpland.Sonoura, who is on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, gave this assurance when he called on President Maithripala Sirisena at the President’s official residence in Colombo Friday. During the meeting, it was also proposed to sign a new cooperation agreement between Sri Lanka and Japan on Coastal and Maritime Security and the President instructed relevant officials to prepare necessary arrangements.

      The discussions also focused on the Maritime Security and Coastal Surveillance conference that will be held in Sri Lanka this year.

      Japanese Prime Minister’s Special Advisor also agreed to gift a modern ship to Sri Lanka to provide coastal security training to sailors at the request of the President.

  • 0
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  • 6
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    Dear Good Sense,
    .
    There can be no disagreement about the quality of Prof. Kumar David’s mind, his mastery of many fields, and his essential goodness. I often read and marvel, but don’t comment, because he gets the message across so well – provided, one fears, the reader is sufficiently sophisticated.
    .
    Yes, I think that could be a problem for some because engineer though he is, his English flows so effortlessly, displaying beneath it all an amazing breadth of reading. Here it was just the echo of that “potboiler” Tennyson’s Light Brigade. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned round and, without obvious condescension, showed me that there is some complexity in the poem. But, I thought, I don’t really know much about his life. I searched, and found this:
    .
    http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=149154
    .
    And with what mastery he speaks:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6rIEhYknOE
    .
    Perhaps I’ll try to add some thought of mine, but I know myself incapable of adding anything on power generation after a man like him has spoken.
    .
    Thanks, Prof. Kumar for keeping us on our toes.

  • 2
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    Suffice to say the Cabinet is a band of rogues, big, small and invisible.
    They assume different roles at different times, so the public is confused about the collective complicity of the whole group.

    When convenient, RW is deaf, dumb and blind. At other times, he makes profound announcements. At no time is the intention to make a change in the country that will be of long-term benefit for all. It is all about navigating the immediate hurdle.

    The expectation is another crisis, real or created, will distract everyone’s focus.

    A lazy and corrupt media makes all these easy possibilities.

    There is a reason why developed societies have progressed in the last 100 years despite all the perceived and real social shortcomings. A strong and educated media is a cornerstone of a involved and vibrant society. The Sri Lankan judiciary has proven its mettle, when given the opportunity to act independently. It should never be about opportunities. Its independence should be guaranteed by its own actions and not by the inaction of others.

  • 1
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    Not just shady but corrupt to the core both of them. Kumar David is scared to say this

  • 2
    5

    Whether he is professor or not (immaterial) what I gather from this article is that Kumar goes kade for Ms Charles and in a subtle way indicates Mangala that he is willing to go kade for Mangala as well fully clothed or not

  • 2
    2

    If a jumping frog happens to be in your well at the time of talking he is a man of ‘integrity’. To this day I have a vivid picture in my mind how Mangy was describing the torture camps run by Ranil. At a TV talk show he admitted that he has sold four duty free vehicle permits so far pocketing 500m. Ranil is using Rajitha, Champika and Mangala as barking dogs (Ranil doesn’t want anyone bitten – he won’t miss the next wedding invitation)

    Soma

  • 0
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    The world over, we have this chicken-and-egg situation as far as politics is concerned. Politics is shady and the shady are in politics. The shade may be light grey to black.
    Suffice to say that Mangala and Malik are politicians. The greyness of the ‘shade’ is in the eyes of the beholder.
    The Lankan political lokkas come from a circle of elites who protect each other. The political belief exuded is only a façade.
    .
    For example, take the case of some Lankans, at a birthday party in UAE, arrested by Police who say that drugs was involved.
    Lankan Foreign Ministry gagged the Lankan Embassy and consulates in UAE. Legal defense teams left or are due to leave.
    The elites have closed ranks!
    To cut a long story short: Are the lokkas worried that the Lankans arrested in UAE may squeal?
    .
    So Prof Kumar David: The stoushings over generation and distribution of electricity are lovers quarrel.

  • 0
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    Rajitha Senarathen says in private that he knows how to work to the people as well as to earn a buck while working. Excamples are his building of (when there should be a Engineering ans construction corporation) hospitals, importing drugs, importing machines and his cancer medication campaign etc., etc., HE says Sri lanka has the best health yet every Parliamentarian goes to Singapore or to NEw york, Texes etc to get even for very simple medical check ups
    Rajitha Senarathen is giving EHEALTH “cards to every one. So, the company which implements this give some commis to Rajitha Senarathne. Just think about co-ordinating issueing DRIVER’S LICENSE, NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD AND THE EHEALTH CARD. In here, the medical identity card , national identity card and the driver’s licence are just one card with the photo graph, biodata and numbers specific to the individual. IT is incompetency to earn a buck.

  • 0
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  • 1
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    After very carefully reading the article I can agree with Chun Paan

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