Faced with an indifferent and inefficient CEB at a time of crisis Open letter to the Minister of Power and Energy At 4.15 a.m. on January 31, I began to get a strong smell of smoke that seemed to me like burning plastic. Then suddenly all the plug points in my home fused and we [...]


Letters to the Editor


Faced with an indifferent and inefficient CEB at a time of crisis

Open letter to the Minister of Power and Energy

At 4.15 a.m. on January 31, I began to get a strong smell of smoke that seemed to me like burning plastic. Then suddenly all the plug points in my home fused and we lost power. Our home was full of smoke and we heard a loud noise. When my father and I ran out to investigate we found the Main Distribution Board, that is installed by the CEB up in flames. The flames were beginning to find their way through the brick wall.

I wasted no time. At 4.28 a.m. I called 1987 – the hotline of the CEB and explained to the gentleman who answered the phone what was happening and asked him to please deploy an emergency crew. He then told me that “these things are not relevant to him”, and to call 0114 498 498. I did so and a young lady answered the phone and asked me what the problem was. I explained the situation again and begged of her to make haste. She took down my particulars and told me she will notify the crew. I received the SMS notification with my complaint reference number (19013427) at 4.35 a.m.

I then proceeded to call the Fire Services (110), at 4.37 a.m. They took down my details and the fire engine was at the location in 25 minutes, (which in my opinion is far too late for an emergency response time from Dehiwala to Colombo 5 at the time the incident took place). They proceeded to use the CO2 extinguisher but since the brick wall was now beginning to catch the flames and work itself into a steady burn, they broke through the distribution board and quelled the fire.

They asked me why I had not called the CEB. I told them I had but there was no response. The Fire Services HQ also called the CEB with no success. If Fire Services had not helped us, this situation would have escalated.

I called 0114 498 498 again at 4.58 a.m., and 5.04 a.m. but there was no answer. In between these calls I called 1987 again at 5.06 a.m. and pleaded with them to please help me. The gentleman, quite annoyed with me said “it is not his job and there is nothing he can do and to call the other number”. I asked him why he couldn’t  help me and then he raised his voice and said, “you have a complaint number so call them and not us”. I called 0114 498 498 again at 5.11 a.m.. The lady, waking up from her sleep answered the phone. I pleaded yet again, asking her  where the crew was and she just said “oh I have told them already, I will remind them again”. I was at the end of my tether. I reminded her I am a tax payer and I have a right to better service. She then repeated, “I have already told them, I will remind them again”.

The CEB arrived at the scene just minutes before the clock struck 6 a.m. – this was over an hour after I had reported the fire.

Minister, this is callous, irresponsible, unprofessional and unacceptable. Your CEB admin and call centre staff are atrocious. They have no service culture. It is as though they are doing me a favour by answering the phone. They are rude, inefficient and downright offensive.  Also the technicians had not been notified that they had to return to our home to replace the distribution board and restore power. We had to call the technicians at the Siebel Office CEB Maintenance office and ask them to come to restore power for us and to please make sure we are safe. Thankfully, your technicians have a far better idea of what service culture is and they did a brilliant job.

I am a citizen of this nation. I am a taxpayer. I have the right to an explanation from the CEB  that falls under your purview.  Your processes and coordinating systems are ineffective, inefficient and of no use to the public they are meant to serve.

I demand an explanation. I am exercising my right as a citizen of this nation and I am writing to the Minister in charge. If we are to exercise a culture of good governance in this nation, then sir it must start from the top. You, the Chairperson, the relevant deputies and all members of senior management are responsible. It is you who are culpable.

Shyamila Hettiarachchi  Via email

Set up a pool of professionals who can run state institutions

The Business Times edition of January 27 carried the news item ‘State machinery runs without cog wheels’ on its first page.  It is pathetic to note that state institutions in our country at the moment are compelled to operate without Boards of Management.

Does our country lack qualified managers to run these enterprises?  No.  Our country is blessed with enough qualified and experienced managers. Or is it a question of selecting persons with the right political affiliations for the vacant positions? Yes, it is the question of selecting the person with the right political affiliations for the vacant positions. Are we on the right track? The answer is no. If there is any political upheaval the development of the country could be derailed.

There are enough qualified and experienced candidates who could fill these positions. But what is lacking is a mobilisation process to pool this man power. A pool of professionally qualified and experienced managers should be set up, who can manage state enterprises efficiently and effectively. When necessary, recruitment could be made when positions become vacant. When appointed these professionals should be set certain targets to achieve within a certain timeframe. Their decisions and performance should be evaluated annually. Those who fail to run institutions with the set objectives, performance criteria and tenets of good governance (Yahapalanaya), should be shown the exit door.

It is high time the government takes serious note of this situation, and acts swiftly.

M.Hakim Usoof  Gampaha

First see to basic amenities before giving tabs

I refer to a recent news item regarding an announcement made by the  Education Minister that tabs will be given to A’Level students and teachers this year.

The minister hailing from Wayamba should first do a survey of remote schools in his province and other provinces such as North Central, Uva etc.

The schools in these provinces do not have even basic amenities such as proper toilets, running water, proper class rooms etc. Many a time we have seen over electronic media the difficulties faced by these poor children to get to school and back on dilapidated roads and bridges, fording overflowing rivers often endangering their lives.

Therefore before giving tabs, his attention should be drawn to these shortcomings.

Further parents of most students in popular schools can afford to buy them tabs if needed. With decisions like this it is no wonder the UNP is unpopular in rural areas.


Ganganath Kariawasam  Via email

Apartheid at public toilets

If this is not apartheid I don’t know what is. Railway Stations in Sri Lanka display notices at rest rooms and washrooms “Only for foreigners”. In other words Sri Lankans are not allowed and the reason is obvious – the officials feel that locals are not capable of maintaining the expected standards of hygiene.

Can a Bangladeshi or an Indian go into these places demarcated for foreigners? They also look like us Sri Lankans. Are their living standards higher than Sri Lankans?

There are also some hotels and restaurants in Hikkaduwa that shut their doors to locals in favour of foreigners.

This discrimination where foreigners are treated above their hosts does not take place anywhere in the world  – we are projecting to the whole world that we live in an unsanitary way that our visitors need to be given separate demarcated places to wash and rest in public.

Give our foreign visitors everything to make them comfortable. But bear in mind that 90 percent of the foreigners who visit this country are cheap-spending tourists who travel in public trains and buses. The high spending foreigners simply fly over Sri Lanka and end up in the Maldives.

Over to you the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Transport.

C. Jude  Moratuwa


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