Lankan official says Modi wanted wind power project for Adani, retracts

The Ceylon Electricity Board chairman said he had mistakenly told a parliamentary watchdog, citing Gotabaya, that Modi insisted that a wind power project be awarded to the Adani Group; he retracted it the next day

Sri Lanka’s opposition charged that the involvement of the Adani Group was the main reason to bring amendments to the 1989 Electricity Act. Pic: iStock

Controversy continues to dog a 500 MW wind power plant in Sri Lanka. A day after MMC Fernando, Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), told a parliamentary watchdog that the Head of State had told him that the Indian Prime Minister was insisting that the wind power plant be given to the Adani Group, he retracted his statement.

Ferdinando on Saturday said he had mistakenly told the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) that the President told him that Narendra Modi insisted that a wind power project be awarded to the Adani Group.

Speaking exclusively to Sri Lankan news organisation News 1st, the CEB Chairman said he was very emotional when allegations were levelled at him at the COPE session on Friday. He said he was under pressure at the COPE session and admitted that he made a false statement. “I have withdrawn that statement,” he told News 1st.

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Ferdinando said he only realised that he mistakenly made such a comment, when the minister inquired from him about the matter on Saturday morning.

CEB statement before COPE

Earlier, on Friday, appearing at the COPE hearing in Parliament, the CEB chairman had said that following a meeting chaired by the President, he was summoned by the Head of State and was told that Modi was insisting that the 500 MW wind power plant be given to India’s Adani Group.

“I told him (President) that this is not a matter related to me or the CEB and it should be referred to the Board of Investment,” he told COPE.

The CEB Chairman had said that he thereafter informed the treasury secretary in writing, and requested him to look into the matter while noting that there was a government-to-government requirement on the matter.

Following Fernando’s hearing, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa categorically denied the statement made by the CEB chairman. “Statement made by the #lka CEB Chairman at a COPE committee hearing regarding the award of a Wind Power Project in Mannar, I categorically deny authorisation to award this project to any specific person or entity. I trust responsible communication in this regard will follow,” Gotabaya tweeted.

Opposition casts doubts over electricity bill

In a parallel development, Sri Lanka’s opposition charged in parliament that an unsolicited G-2-G agreement to build a 500 MW wind power plant in the northern coast with the involvement of the Adani Group was the main reason to bring forward amendments to the 1989 Electricity Act.

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The main opposition SJB wanted projects beyond 10 MW capacity to go through a competitive bidding process, but the majority of the government MPs voted against the clause. The Bill, introduced in parliament on May 17, 2022, by the minister of power and energy, qualifies an individual to apply for a generation licence to generate electricity. 

The amendment removes restrictions on the issuance of a power generation licence for a person whose generating electricity is over and above the generation capacity of 25 MW and will allow anyone to apply for it without any restriction on the generation capacity.

The Sri Lanka Electricity Amendment Bill No. 20 was passed in parliament without amendments by a majority on Thursday.