The Adani project is once again arousing controversy in Sri Lanka

An Adani project in Sri Lanka is once again at the center of controversy, after a senior Ceylon Electricity Board official informed a parliamentary panel that a renewable energy project in the island’s northern Mannar district had been entrusted to the Adani Group, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi “pressured” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

CEB Chairman MMC Ferdinando made the remark on Friday before the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), but later withdrew it, saying he was moved. Between his statement on Friday and his quick withdrawal, there was a tweet from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday that read: “Re[garding] a statement made by the #lka CEB Chairman during a COPE committee hearing regarding the award of a wind energy project to Mannar, I categorically deny permission to award this project to any specific person or entity . I hope that responsible communication in this regard will follow.

The president’s office followed up with a statement vehemently denying the CEB official’s remarks. “Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a severe power shortage and the President wishes to expedite the implementation of energy mega projects as soon as possible. However, no undue influence will be exercised when awarding such projects. The project proposals for large-scale renewable energy projects are limited, but careful consideration will be given to the selection of institutions for the projects, which will be carried out in strict accordance with the transparent and accountable system of the government of Sri Lanka.

Amendment of the Electricity Act

The development comes days after Sri Lanka amended its electricity law, eliminating tenders for power projects. This decision drew criticism from the opposition and government critics. During the parliamentary debate on the bill, which subsequently passed, opposition MP Nalin Bandara raised concerns about the scrapping of tenders “to make room” for projects like the group’s Adani, according to the Colombo office. Sunday time.

This is not the first time that Sri Lankans have questioned the Adani Group’s entry into the island’s energy sector, or mentioned Prime Minister Modi’s name in this regard. Following an agreement between the Group and the CEB in March 2022, to execute renewable energy projects in the northern districts of Mannar and Pooneryn, the main Sri Lankan opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB or United People’s Force ), said the Indian businessman was making a backdoor entrance and accused President Gotabaya of coddling Modi’s notorious friends.

The energy project is the second major venture in Sri Lanka involving the Adani Group, having struck a strategic deal with a port terminal in Colombo. The Group was brought in to execute the West Container Terminal project at the port of Colombo, with majority stakes, after Colombo unilaterally canceled a trilateral agreement between the governments of Sri Lanka and India and Japan to jointly construct the terminal to containers East in the same port. The Adani Group, the Sri Lankan ministers said, was the Indian government’s candidate in both cases, indicating that there was no bidding process. Similarly, there is no information of a tendering process that preceded the energy agreement signed by the Group and the CEB. Even the deal was not officially made public by either party and was only revealed after the Sri Lankan media reported on the development.

India and Sri Lanka, in all recent high-level meetings – including former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi in March – discussed bilateral cooperation in the field of finance. ‘durable energy. India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) also signed an agreement in March with the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to jointly install a solar power plant in Sampur, in the eastern district of Trincomalee in Sri Lanka.

Additionally, India is also running hybrid power projects in three islands off the Jaffna Peninsula, after displacing a Chinese power project. Although China won the contract for the project through an international competitive bidding backed by the Asian Development Bank, Sri Lanka opted for the Indian grant project, following New Delhi’s concerns over a near Chinese project. from the south coast of India.

Meera Srinivasan is The Hindu’s correspondent in Colombo

Published on

June 12, 2022

Comments are closed.