SLPP rebels vow to scuttle New Fortress deal

By Sirimantha Rathnasekera and Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

No one should abuse the mandate that 6.9 million people had given to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa said yesterday, addressing the media at Pita-Kotte, together with the representatives of constituents of the ruling SLPP coalition.

Weerawansa added that they would do whatever it took to ensure that the aspirations of the people were met.

“The Cabinet paper authorising New Fortress company to supply LNG was not discussed at the Cabinet. We are against this deal because we are ministers, and can’t ignore our conscience,” Weerawansa said.

The Minister added that although Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the President, others were misusing his mandate to their advantage. “I don’t know whether Dullas Alhapperuma lost the Ministry of Power portfolio because he was considered an obstacle to the New Fortress deal. But there is a reason for us to think so. According to the agreement, we will have to purchase LNG from the US company and pay for gas whether we use it or not.”

Minister Weerawansa added that the government had been elected for five years, and it was not possible to support an agreement beneficial to a nation that had been an enemy of Sri Lanka. “There are two other agreements signed with New Fortress Energy and the country has to be ready to oppose them too,” he said.

“We don’t want to topple the government or bring the Opposition to power.

We want the government to act in accordance with the mandate given by the people,” Minister Weerawansa said.

Leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that the agreement with the US energy company was highly problematic.

“This is a company that did not bid for supplying LNG. For the first time in Sri Lankan history a company that didn’t take part in the tender process has won a contract. This did not happen even under the governments of JR, Premadasa, CBK or Ranil Wickremesinghe.”

Minister Gammanpila said that the energy security and sovereignty of the country would be undermined by the agreement.

“The US said that it would impose sanctions on the country if we did not punish our war heroes or agree to federalism. Now, we are enabling the US to control one-third of our energy needs. What if the US turns off the power and demands that we punish our war heroes or make a federal Constitution? There is the real danger,” he said.

Minister Gammanpila added that the agreement at issue would also ruin the prospect of extracting natural gas off Sri Lanka’s shores.

“This will also lead to a diplomatic crisis. Chinese and Pakistani companies too have made bids. But we have given the tender to a complete outsider. We have chosen to embrace an enemy. This is a serious problem. We will lose our good friends.”

State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, representing the SLPP, said that all patriotic forces were against the agreement with New Fortress Energy.

Leaders of constituents including Vasudewa Nanayakkara, Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera, ALM Ataulla, Tiran Alles, Dr W. Weerasinghe and Gevindu Kumaratunga were also present.

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