CEB Engineers’ Union raises alarm over Govt.’s push for controversial Electricity Bill

Saturday, 8 June 2024 01:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) has expressed deep dismay and concern regarding the Government’s decision to proceed with Sri Lanka Electricity Bill on Thursday. 

Issuing a statement they noted that the original draft of the bill, published in December 2023, was criticised for containing numerous errors, contradictions, and vague policies. 

Despite revisions, the updated version still includes provisions that CEBEU and other stakeholders find objectionable. These concerns led to 14 petitioners, including CEBEU, other unions, political parties, and professionals, challenging the bill’s constitutionality in the Supreme Court.

A three-member Supreme bench found the bill unconstitutional in its entirety, necessitating a referendum for approval. Several clauses also require a special majority in Parliament. The Court indicated that the bill could pass with a simple majority if amended according to its instructions.

“Despite the Supreme Court’s determination and requests from opposition parties to delay the second reading for further review, the Government and the Minister of Power and Energy decided to proceed,” they claimed.

The trade union criticised this approach, highlighting that no stakeholder discussions or reviews have addressed the policy issues within the bill. They argue that the bill could lead to increased electricity prices and the transfer of national assets to foreign entities at minimal or no cost.

The CEBEU has long advocated for reforms in the power sector and provided unsolicited proposals during the current reform process. They lament the lack of stakeholder input and the secrecy surrounding the reform process, which they attribute to the influence of a single individual.

The Union also condemned the Government’s heavy-handed tactics, including the use of the Essential Services Act to curb trade union actions and dismiss employees protesting the reforms. They expressed regret over the support of international organisations like the World Bank and USAID for what they describe as a ‘dictatorial reform process’.

Despite CEBEU urging Parliamentarians to consider the grave implications of voting in favour of the bill, it was passed with a majority on Thursday. 

Thus, they reminded Government members that there was no mandate for such electricity reforms in the ‘Saubhagye Dekma’ manifesto of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which remains the only mandate given to the current President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Government by the people of Sri Lanka.