President of the National Trade Union Centre (NTUC), K.D. Lal Kantha, alleged the electricity bill of Minister of Mass Media and Information, Keheliya Rambukwella, was Rs 121,114 for the month of March. “This is the bill for his private home. These private bills are paid by his ministry to the CEB. Why can’t the President and the Cabinet, as a start, enact a law, to prevent the use of the public money to pay the bills of the ministers?” he questioned.
The people of the country must fight to totally abolish the electricity tariff hike in the coming days, without limiting themselves to the reversal of the new electricity tariff plan. He expressed these views addressing the media in Colombo, at a convention organized by the Coordination Committee for the National Trade Union Alliance (NTUA), in response to the remarks made by President of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA),
Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, regarding the essential role played by electricity in the daily lives of the masses.
“We have to continue the fight even after the islandwide strike on 21 May, in a bid to totally eradicate the practice of paying for the privilege to use electricity,” Lal Kantha said. “The numerous faults at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) are not the reasons for the current state of the power sector of the country, and the consequence of the increased electricity bill,” he added.
“There is something wrong with the policies adopted by the government. They are only concerned with burdening the people of the country with the consequences of their own mistakes, and not rectifying these mistakes, as should be done,” he further said.
He further claimed the people do not have to accept the new tariff plan without questioning it, if the government failed to show that they had done everything possible to avoid such an increase in the bill, in the first place.
Outlining a list of demands, he said, “The trade union strike is set in stone, and could be avoided, provided the President listens to and implements the demands being made,” he added.
“First of all, a Cabinet paper must be approved to prevent the use of the people’s money for the payment of ministers’ bills. Furthermore, all Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) between the CEB and Independent Power Producers (IPPs) must be scrapped at once.
If needed, new, fair and balanced agreements can be made, or going even further, the CEB should obtain total ownership of these IPPs by paying compensation,” he said.
The intended strike actions are by no means a politically motivated manoeuvre, he said and emphasized, “This is not a United National Party (UNP) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) joint venture. There are no politics involved, and nor should there be.”
Secretary of the Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees’ Union, Anton Marcus, FUTA President Dr. Devasiri, President of the Inter-Company Employee’s Union, Wasantha Samarasinghe, UNP MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Post and Telecommunications Officer’s Union Treasurer, Muditha Karunamuny, and Ceylon Teacher’s Services Union Secretary, Mahinda Jayasinghe, were among those who addressed the gathering.
The attempts to contact Minister Rambukwella were not successful as he has gone abroad.(Ceylon Today)