New Delhi: Two days after the chairman of Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of pressuring the Sri Lankan government over the allotment of a wind power project to the Adani Group, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has dismissed the allegation and the remarks have been withdrawn.
In a statement late Saturday evening, as the controversy began to spiral out of control, CEB chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando withdrew the remarks he made at a parliamentary committee meeting a day earlier.
Ferdinando said he had become “emotional due to pressures and unreasonable allegations” levelled against him during the testimony.
“Therefore, due to unexpected pressure and emotions, I was compelled without limitation to express the word ‘India agamathi bala kara bawa kiwwa’ (stressed by the Prime Minister of India), which is totally incorrect. Hence I wish to withdraw the relevant statement and record my apology unconditionally,” local media reports quoted Ferdinando as saying.
“In regard to the clarification made by me at the COPE (Parliament’s Committee on Public Enterprises) meeting held on 10 June 2022, in replying to the allegation made against me on the proposed Mannar and Pooneryn wind and solar projects with Adani Green Energy Limited to generate renewable energy of 500 MW, I explained the circumstances behind my letter dated 25 November 2021,” Ferdinando said.
Even before the chairman of the state-owned CEB – which is the largest power generation and distribution company in Sri Lanka – apologised for his remarks, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had already dismissed the claims made by Ferdinando.
“I categorically deny authorisation to award this project to any specific person or entity. I trust responsible communication in this regard will follow,” Rajapaksa wrote in a tweet on 11 June.
Re a statement made by the #lka CEB Chairman at a COPE committee hearing regarding the award of a Wind Power Project in Mannar, I categorically deny authorisation to award this project to any specific person or entity. I trust responsible communication in this regard will follow.
— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) June 11, 2022
New Delhi, on the other hand, is yet to issue an official statement on the remarks, which Ferdinando has now withdrawn.
A senior government official, who refused to be identified, told ThePrint that the CEB chairman’s claims were “baseless”, adding that as per protocol, important discussions at the government-to-government level, and also between heads of states, are “noted and recorded”.
On 10 June, in his testimony to the COPE, Ferdinando had said that he was summoned by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 24 November last year. He further claimed that Rajapaksa said “India’s Prime Minister Modi is pressuring him to handover the project to the Adani group”.
“I said this matter doesn’t concern me. I said this matter doesn’t concern me or the CEB and that this concerns the board of investments… I pointed out this is a government-to-government deal… In the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding), the CEB inserted an exit clause, and then allowed the company (Adani) to do a feasibility study at their own expense,” Ferdinando had told the parliamentary watchdog.
The Adani Group reportedly bagged the contracts to develop two wind power projects, one in Mannar and another in Pooneryn, in December last year. A subsidiary of the Adani Group – Adani Green Energy – had submitted a proposal to the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka and the CEB in this regard.
In 2021, the Adani Group had also signed a $700 million deal with the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to develop and run the strategic Colombo Port’s West International Container Terminal.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
Also Read: Sri Lanka walks a tightrope — Chinese ‘credit card’ on one side, Indian friendship on other