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Electricity Bill sparks controversy in Parliament

June 06, Colombo (LNW): Today (06), the Sri Lankan Parliament is set to debate the government’s proposed Electricity Bill for its second reading, amidst strong opposition from various quarters, including MPs, trade unions, and civil society groups.

The government argues that the bill aims to establish independent and accountable corporate entities, promote competition, ensure consumer protection, and foster renewable energy growth.

However, critics have raised several concerns regarding its implications.

One major issue is the bill’s constitutional inconsistencies. The Supreme Court recently declared it inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution, suggesting amendments for its passage.

Opposition MPs have criticised the rushed approach in passing the legislation, advocating for more time for thorough analysis and debate to address concerns.

Despite these objections, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera affirmed the bill’s scheduled presentation for debate.

The bill’s significance lies in its potential to reform the electricity sector, including unbundling Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) services and facilitating private sector participation, meeting the requirements of the bailout programme executed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Critics, however, argue that the bill neglects consumer protection and could politicise the electricity sector.

Trade unions have threatened to defeat the bill, alleging it offers no benefits to workers or consumers, they pointed out.

Furthermore, concerns about national security have surfaced, with some politicians alleging attempts to integrate Sri Lanka’s energy system with India’s, threatening sovereignty.

Industry experts have also voiced apprehensions, criticising the bill’s approach and its potential for political interference.

The proposed National Electricity Advisory Council composition, they argue, lacks adequate expertise in the electricity sector.

Moreover, the bill’s impact on the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) has raised concerns, with fears of weakening its regulatory authority.

Whilst the bill aims to modernise the electricity sector, its current form faces significant opposition and scrutiny, highlighting the need for comprehensive review and amendments to address the concerns raised.

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