Norochcholai coal-fired power plant probe:
By Dr Janaka Ratnasiri
The Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has said at a meeting of COPE, held on Tuesday, (24th) in Parliament, that the entire country is affected by the Norochcholai coal power plant (CPP). This was reported in several print media, including The Island of 26.11.2020. He has further said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) must also be involved in assessing its impacts as issues created by the power plant, for example air pollution, has an impact on the entire country, without leaving it in the hands of the Environmental Authority of the Provincial Council of the North Western Province (NWP) alone.
FLY ASH FROM COAL POWER PLANTS
The three CPPs at Norochcholai were burning a little over 2 Mt of coal, annually, during 2016 – 2019, as reported in the CEB Annual Statistical Digests. Assuming that the ash content, in coal, is 16%, which is the maximum permissible limit, the three CPPs generate about 300,000 t of ash, annually. Out of this, about 20% is collected at the bottom as bottom ash and the rest is directed into the stacks. After getting filtered in the stack, the balance is released into the atmosphere as fly ash. Therefore, over the life time of a CPP, they jointly will release over 8 Mt of fly ash.
The Chairman has said that about 6.58 Mt of fly-ash is already stored in the premises. He also said that LKR 26 million was spent annually to spray water on the fly-ash to prevent their dispersion. In response to many complaints received from the public of loss of livelihood among farmers and fishermen, due to deposition of ash on agriculture land and sea, the CEB is planning to construct a wind barrier 1,200 m long and 15 m high to prevent wind blowing away the fly ash into neighbouring areas, at a cost of Rs. 724 million, which was approved by the Cabinet on 19.01.2018. There have been complaints from the CEB staff, at the plant site itself, of increased respiratory ailments among them due to high levels of air pollution within the premises. A public-interest organization has, in fact, filed a law suit against the CEB, demanding measures to be taken to reduce pollution by the CPP.
Coal ash is said to contain many toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, zinc as well as radio-active material, according to overseas literature. With nearly a decade of existence, the CEB has not made any effort to get the coal and ash analyzed to find out the actual amounts of these toxic metals present in them and how they depend on the source of coal. Adequate analytical facilities are available in the country for this purpose. What is lacking is a drive.
MERCURY IN FLY ASH
In view of the heavy mercury pollution caused by an industry which had released mercury compounds into the Bay of Minamata in Japan many years ago, and the subsequent adverse impacts it caused on the health of people who consumed fish caught from the Bay, the Minamata Convention on Mercury was adopted in October 2013 and entered into force on the 16th August 2017, with a view to phase out Mercury emissions world-wide. It is interesting to note that it had taken over 10 years for the UN to take this preventive measure since first detection of neurological diseases among the affected people. Sri Lanka is a Party to this Convention and is therefore obliged to comply with it. The Parties agreed to collect data on the prevalence of Mercury in their countries and its impacts, to begin with.
In response, a local study was undertaken within the fishing community in Puttalam. The study revealed the presence of high levels of Mercury in women’s hair, attributed to regular consumption of fish containing high concentrations of Mercury (Sri Lanka J. Aquat. Sci. 23(2) (2018): 179-186) released by the CPP. Among the harmful effects that can be passed from the mother to the foetus include neurological impairment, IQ loss, and damage to the kidneys and cardiovascular system. At high levels of mercury exposure this can lead to brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures and the inability to speak.
Another global study undertaken for the same purpose, found that in Puttalam, the Mercury content in the hair of women living near the lagoon was significantly elevated, with a mean of 2.74ppm ± 2.8ppm. Of great concern is that 50% of the women had a level that exceeded 2 ppm Hg and 13% exceeded 4 ppm Hg. “Of all women who participated in the sampling, 77% had a body burden of mercury exceeding the 1ppm reference level”. (https://ipen.org/sites/default/files/documents/ipen-mercury-sids-v1_5-en-web.pdf). Regrettably, the COPE members appeared to be unaware of this problem, even though it was given publicity in local media recently.
MANUFACTURE OF BRICKS FROM COAL ASH
The COPE has, however, shown concern about the accumulation of high volume of ash at the CPP. CEB officials have responded by saying that efforts are being made to use coal ash in the manufacture of bricks and the matter had ended there. What the CEB officials did not tell the COPE was that bricks are already being manufactured and used in construction work. For example, the headquarters building of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) was constructed recently using these bricks. See http://www.ft.lk/columns/Built-from-ash-A-building-that-houses-Sri-Lankan-science-speaks-silently/4-703849.
The question is how safe is coal fly ash for the manufacture of bricks used in the construction of dwellings. The reason is because fly ash contains high amounts of radioactive nuclides which can get distributed country-wide if bricks are made out of coal ash. In a study undertaken by the Nuclear Science Department of the Colombo University, coal and ash sampled from the Norochcholai plant were found to contain radionuclides of Uranium, Thorium and Potassium, according to a paper presented at the Annual Session of SLAAS in 2013. The radio-activity of these substances is given in the Table, according to which coal from South Africa was found to contain Uranium and Thorium levels significantly above the global averages.
It is desirable if the CEB, therefore, undertakes two studies before they start manufacturing these bricks on a large scale. One is to determine the concentrations of radio-active nuclides present in coal and coal ash, with samples originating from different countries. The second is to carry out a survey on the ambient radio activity in buildings constructed with bricks manufactured from fly ash. The CEB could outsource these studies to institutions generally undertaking such assignments. It is important that the findings of these studies are made public.
DISPERSION OF EMISSIONS FROM COAL POWER PLANTS
The COPE Chairman has said at the COPE meeting that air pollution from the Norochcholai CPP has an impact on the entire country. In a CPP, various gaseous emissions, such as Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Particulate Matter (PM) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are generated during combustion of coal. These are first sent through filters to capture the excessive amounts of SO2 and PM and the balance released into air. The captured particulate matter is stored as fly ash. This filtering equipment fitted in the stacks include a Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) unit to reduce SO2 emissions and Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP) or Fabric Filters to reduce PM emissions. However, they can reduce only a certain fraction of emissions and their efficiency declines with time, particularly under coastal environments. It is also reported that these pieces of equipment sometimes breakdown resulting in the entire pollutants generated getting released into air.
The emissions released into the atmosphere get dispersed within the airshed covering the North Western and North Central Provinces, the extent and quantity depending on the wind pattern which varies hourly, daily and seasonally. During the SE monsoon period, prevailing winds blow interior and the possibility
of emissions reaching the Western and Eastern Provinces cannot be ruled out. These emissions, after getting transported over a certain distance depending on the wind regime, get deposited back on the ground adding to their concentration at ground level generally referred to as the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ).
EMISSION STANDARDS AND MONITORING
The CEA has published Regulations in the Gazette announcing stack emission standards (SES) for power plants and also on AAQ standards. In respect of stack emissions, the regulations say that “any person who fails to comply with the above regulations, shall be liable to an offence under the National Environmental Act, No. 47 of 1980”.
The Regulations on SES were published in the Gazette Notification dated 05.06.2019 specifying maximum permissible levels of SO2, NO2, PM and smoke. These values are given in the SES in units of mg/Nm3 (Normal cubic metres). Their conversion in to other useful forms such as parts per million (ppm) or mg/GJ or mg/kWh needs certain assumptions to be made on the fuel quality and plant efficiency. The CEB claims that they monitor the stack emissions on all pollutants regularly using remotely operated sensors but this information is not made public.
The Regulations on AAQ Standards were published in the Gazette Notification, dated 15.08.2008, specifying maximum permissible concentrations of several pollutants including Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), SO2, NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 present in ambient air. The last two refer to particulates with diameter 2.5 micro metres and 10 micro metres, respectively. The measurements are to be averaged over periods of 1 hour, 8 hours and 24 hours and carried out according to methods specified in the Regulations.
According to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the original CPP project, at least two permanent AAQ monitoring stations need to be installed in Puttalam area, and data displayed in public places. The writer believes this has not been done. The CEB has assigned a contract to the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) in 2018 to monitor AAQ around Puttalam using ITI’s new mobile facility. ITI had done the AAQ measurements covering all seasons (Personal communication), but the data is not available in public domain, despite the condition laid down in the EIA. The COPE Chairman should have inquired as to whether the CPP complies with these two sets of standards, SES and AAQ and if not, the reasons.
AUTHORIY FOR PROJECT APPROVAL
The COPE Chairman also has directed the CEA to get involved in overseeing the operation of the Norochcholai CPP without leaving it in the hands of the Environment Authority of NWPC. This Authority has wide powers according to its statute, according to which all prescribed projects that are being undertaken in the NWP by any Government or private institution or an individual will be required to obtain approval under this Statute for such prescribed projects. It is noteworthy that out of all Provincial Councils, only the NW Provincial Council has established its own Environmental Authority.
In the event the Minister assigns a different project approving agency, such agency will have to grant approval for a project only with the concurrence of the Provincial Authority. Hence, it is a question whether NWP Environment Authority (EA) will listen to CEA, because it is not bound to do it according to its statute. The CEB Chairman has said at the COPE meeting that the EIA study for the new CPP would be done jointly by CEA and EA of NWP. Actually, there is no need to spend millions of Rupees on EIA studies when it is obvious that a CPP causes heavy pollution while clean alternative options are available.
What generally happens in an EIA is that various measures are pledged to minimize impacts on which the EIA is approved, but there is no guarantee the pledges are kept once the project is implemented. Sometimes, projects are given approval subject to certain conditions, but these conditions are not published, which tantamount to giving an open approval. What is important is to select projects that do not intrinsically generate pollution.
One would expect such a powerful body like EA of NCP to maintain a website giving information on projects being considered by the Authority, projects that have been granted approval. Also, in the case of Norochcholai CPP, the environment data being collected by the CPP should also need to be posted in the website for the information of the public. But the Writer found no such site when searched in the Google. The data are not even posted in the CEB website which posts all other data such as generation and sales data promptly in its website.
CEB’S FUTURE PLANS FOR POWER GENERATION
The Cabinet, on 22.01.2020, granted approval for the construction of two 300 MW CPPs as an extension to the existing CPP at Norochcholai, together with construction of two 300 MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plants operating with natural gas, one jointly by CEB and India/Japan, and the other with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The CEB Chairman, however, confirmed only the construction of two CPPs at the COPE meeting and not the construction of two 300 MW gas power plants already approved by the Cabinet. He said that according to the long-term plan of the Norochcholai CPP, a 300 MW (coal) plant was to be added to the complex by 2023 and a further 300 MW (coal) plant by 2026. According to the CEB Draft Plan for 2020-39, two more 300 MW CPPs are to be built within this decade.
Though the Cabinet had granted approval for building CPPs in January, later the Cabinet granted approval again for including the first CPP as a project to be carried out urgently as a post-COVID activity. This means that the CPP could be selected and purchased without going through the normal procurement procedure, despite the fact that the cost of a 300 MW CPP could exceed LKR 80 billion. Naturally, everyone is eyeing to take control of this purchase because of the many benefits amounting to millions if not billions of Rupees that would get transacted. Building a CPP has no relation to COVID for it to be included as a post-COVID activity. It is only an unethical way of circumventing the tender procedure. It is surprising why the learned COPE members did not see through this unethical practice and question the CEB Chairman.
Gas power plants (GPP) are also included in the CEB’s latest long-term plan for 2020-39, meaning they are acceptable as low-cost options to be added to the grid. In addition to the two-gas fired 300 MW GPPs approved by the Cabinet at the January meeting, the Cabinet has earlier granted approval for building a 300 MW GPP on BOOT basis at Kerawalapitiya by Lakdhanavi for which proposals were called in 2016 November and the award finalized now.
According to media reports, however, the Attorney General’s Department is trying to hold it back citing some shortcomings in the tender documents issued 4 years ago, but the Minister of Power wants to pursue it despite AG’s objections. Had this tender evaluated within a year as indicated in the tender documents without CEB dragging it for 4 years, the country would have had the benefit of a 300 MW of clean energy supply by now. The COPE should have inquired about this long delay from the CEB.
PROBLEMS ASOCIATED WITH COAL POWER PLANTS
A CPP is more complex than a CCGT plant and requires several days of waiting for a plant to be energized after an unannounced shut down, whereas a CCGT Plant could be energized within a matter of a few hours. The CEB still depends on Chinese technicians to maintain and operate the Norochcholai CPP even after a decade of its operation. A CPP can function only as a base-load plant whereas a CCGT Plant can function both as a base-load and a peak-load plant. This is another matter that COPE members overlooked.
A CCGT Plant is more compatible for operation with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power plants with fluctuating outputs than a CPP which cannot respond to such fluctuating supplies. Unlike a CPP, a GPP does not generate even a gram of ash, any SO2 and no particulates. Even the NO2 generated and warm water released from a GPP are much less that that from a CPP.
It is surprising therefore that none of the leaned members of COPE questioned the CEB Chairman, why CEB wants to pursue building more coal power plants when they cause so much pollution as described earlier and pose problems in operation and maintenance in preference to a natural gas power plant which does not cause any such pollution and easier to operate. Currently, there are three CCGT Plants being operated and maintained by Sri Lankans for decades. Obviously, the COPE members appeared to have not done their homework before coming to the meeting.
The other important aspect of a GPP is that CO2 emitted by a GPP is only about half that of CO2 emitted by a similar capacity CPP. Hence, shifting from coal power to gas power is an acceptable means of mitigating carbon emissions as quired under the Paris Agreement. In a paper the Writer submitted to the 2019 National Energy Symposium, he showed that by shifting from CEB’s coal power-based Base Case Plan for 2015-34 to a no-coal case given in the 2018-37 Plan, the amount of CO2 emitted during 2021 – 2030 period could be reduced by 25%, which is more than the reductions targeted from all sectors.
Further, shifting from coal power to gas power altogether will help in achieving the President’s target of meeting 70% of energy consumed in generating electricity from renewable sources by 2030, as announced at a meeting he had on 14.09.2020 with the Power Minister, Renewable Energy State Minister and officials of the two Ministries and institutions coming under them. This is because the fossil fuel share will get reduced significantly with GPPs compared to that with CPPs.
Though the COPE had a meeting specially for looking into the affairs of the Norochcholai CPP, members appeared to have probed into matters seen on the surface instead of looking deep into its affairs. In particular, COPE has overlooked the following aspects of the Norochcholai CPP.
1. Whether the stack emissions from the plant conform to the National Emission Standards for Power Plants, violation of which is a punishable offence, and why the data are not made public.
2. Whether the AAQ measurements made by the CPP conform to the National AAQ Standards, and why the data collected are not made public.
3. Whether the CEB is aware of loss of livelihood for many in Norochcholai caused by deposition of ash on agriculture land and sea, and whether any compensation was paid for them.
4. Whether the CEB is aware of high levels of Mercury found in hair of women living around Puttalam Lagoon and why no action has been taken in this regard.
5. Whether the CEB has got the coal and ash from the CPP analyzed for their toxic heavy metals and radio-nuclides present in them, and if not why.
6. Whether the CEB is aware of the presence of radio-nuclides in coal ash and hence their unsuitability to manufacture bricks for use in house construction.
7. Whether the CEB is aware of the fact that it is difficult to achieve the President’s targets for RE share in power generation (70%) by 2030 by building more coal power plants.
8. Whether the CEB is aware of the fact that by shifting from coal to gas for power generation, the country can easily meet its obligations towards the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
9. What justification is there for planning to build more coal power plants causing heavy pollution when non-polluting power plants burning alternative clean fuels are available.
10. What justification is there for CEB to take four years to evaluate and make an award of a tender for building a 300 MW GPP operating with gas on BOOT basis.
11. What justification is there for the CEB to include building a coal power plant as a project to be executed urgently as a post-COVID activity which is nothing but an unethical measure to circumvent tendering.
The writer expects the COPE will probe into above matters at its next meeting with the CEB.
- News Advertiesment
See Kapruka’s top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka’s unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.
Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development
There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.
The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.
To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.
Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.
It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.
All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.
Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.
If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.
In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.
However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.
It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.
The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.
It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.
A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.
Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.
Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka
By Sanjeewa Jayaweera
It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.
The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.
We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.
This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.
Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!
At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.
One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.
It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!
ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!
The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.
When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!
I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.
I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.
I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.
Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!
I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.
Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.
We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.
Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?
Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!
To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.
Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.
The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..
How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!
If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.
And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!
Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.
Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.
With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.
I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.
Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.
He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.
Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.
He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!
I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:
“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.
“There is no science to beat common sense.”
But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!