An Adani project in Sri Lanka is once again at the center of controversy, India’s Narendra Modi pressured Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to award a 500 MW wind power project to industrialist Gautam Adani, a top Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) official told a parliamentary panel. This was told to him by Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself. At the same time, Rajapaksa refused to ask any institution to award the project for this claim. Now the officer has apologized for this.
Two days after the chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pressured the Sri Lankan government to award a wind power project contract to the Adani Group. Responding to the claim, Rajapaksa has denied asking any specific institution to award the project. And by Sunday night, two days after he first made his sensational claim, the head of the electricity authority had made a U-turn, claiming he had told a “lie” after being overcome with “feeling”.
In the open hearing of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said the Sri Lankan President had told him that the Indian Prime Minister was pushing for a 500 MW wind power plant to the Adani Group.
CEB Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando issued a statement late Saturday after controversy erupted over his remarks and retracted the remarks made at a parliamentary committee meeting a day earlier.
Ferdinando said in the statement that he had become “emotional due to the unnecessary allegations and pressure” against himself during his testimony.
“On November 24 , the President called me after a meeting and said that Prime Minister Modi of India was pressurizing him to hand over the project to the Adani Group. I said this matter does not pertain to me or the Ceylon Electricity Board and it pertains to the Investment Board,” he said, according to a translation by NewsFirst.
In his statement before COPE on June 10, Ferdinando said that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had summoned him on November 24 last year. He further claimed that Rajapaksa had said that “Prime Minister of India Modi is pressurizing him to hand over the project to the Adani Group”.
In 2021, the Adani Group signed a $700 million deal with the government-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to develop and run the West International Container Terminal at the strategically important Colombo Port.
During the hearing, panel chair Charita Herath asked whether the wind power deal would be considered “unwanted”. “Yes, it is a government-to-government deal, but negotiations should be in accordance with the minimum cost policy outlined in the Act,” Ferdinando said.
A day later, President Rajapaksa denied the head of the public sector. He tweeted on Saturday evening, “As per a statement made by the Chairman of #lka CEB in a COPE committee hearing regarding the award of a wind power project in Mannar, I wish to award this project to a specific person or institution categorically deny authorization.”
“I have retracted that statement,” Fernando told News 1, a Lankan news outlet, adding that the CEB chief “only realized he had made such remarks in error when the minister asked him on Saturday ( 11 June) morning inquired about the matter.”
Following this, Fernando issued a statement to Herath on Saturday night in which he apologized, saying that due to “unforeseen pressure and feelings”, he was forced to name the Indian prime minister, Sri Lankan daily The Morning reported.
The public hearing took place on Friday, a day after Parliament passed an amendment to the 1989 Electricity Act that removed competitive bidding. The principal opposition, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), claimed that the main reason for bringing forward the amendment was to accommodate the “unwanted” Adani deal. The SBJ demanded that projects above 10 MW capacity should go through a competitive bidding process.
While on one hand food security is the priority of almost all the countries of the world, there is shocking news in this context from neighboring Bangladesh. In fact, recently Bangladesh decided to reduce food subsidies for the poor due to the rising cost of fossil fuels. According to a new report released by Growthwatch India and BWGED Bangladesh, Bangladesh may lose US$400 million annually on one of its electricity distribution deals with Indian company Adani.
In the wake of this development and the global energy crisis, civil society representatives in both countries have called on the government to reconsider the agreement. The report, titled “An Achilles Heel of the Power Sector of Bangladesh”, examines the cross-border power transmission agreement between Bangladesh and Adani’s Godda coal plant in Jharkhand. According to the report, Bangladesh will pay around US$11 billion over the 25 -year life of the coal plant.
Highlighting the Bangladesh government’s recent decision to reduce food subsidies for the poor due to rising fossil fuel costs, Hassan Mehdi, member secretary of the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED) and co-author of the report, called on the Bangladesh government to Priorities to question.
“It seems that the Bangladesh government is prioritizing the import of fossil fuels over food for the poor. Coal, oil and gas are expensive but solar and wind are cheap. Shouldn’t governments pay attention to the economic condition and health of their citizens?Hassan Mehdi, Co-Author of Report
Rising global fossil fuel costs have forced the Bangladesh government to reduce its food subsidies for the poor by around US$100 million. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina-led government instead plans to further subsidize fossil fuel imports.
Mehdi adds, ” While Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is cutting US$100mn from its food subsidy budget, She is planning to pay 4 times to Adani for coal power. When Bangladesh doesn’t need it.”
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