A senior Sri Lanka official Ferdinando, who was addressing the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), can be heard saying that
Rajapaksa “told me that he was under pressure from Modi”. The senior official told the committee that the President had asked him to give the project to the Indian company.
The controversy comes just days after Sri Lanka had changed its laws to do away with competitive bidding for energy projects.
The opposition Samagi Jana Balwegaya party alleged in Parliament during the passage of the amendment that the change was made with the intention of regularising the award of the Mannar contract to the Adani Group.
SJB parliamentarian Nalin Bandara pointed to concerns that competitive bidding was being done away with “to make way” for projects like the Adani Group’s.
Another party member, Harsha de Silva, proposed an amendment to ensure that projects beyond 10MW go through a competitive bidding process, and said eliminating competitive bidding would open the door to corruption.
CEB unions are also angry and had threatened a country-wide strike.
But they called it off after a presidential order declaring electricity an essential service.
He also told the committee that CEB has never given unsolicited proposals in the past, even on a government-to-government basis.
This has send ripples in Indian politics as Congress leader and MP rahul gandhi has responded with immediate tweet
In aftermath the discussion between Rajapaksa and Ferdinando had allegedly taken place when he was summoned by the President following a meeting chaired by him.
Also Indian Foreing Minsitry officials are tight lipped about what was transpired between India and Lanka
But the day after his appearance before the panel, Ferdinando withdrew his statement, claiming he had become “emotional” due to some of the questions he was asked that appeared to insinuate wrongdoing by him.
Rajapaksa, meanwhile, issued a swift denial, first on Twitter, where he said:
“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.”
Later, his office issued a longer statement, “vehemently denying” influencing anybody in awarding the project. The statement said Rajapakse “categorically stated that he had not at any time given authorisation to award a wind power project in Mannar to any person or any institution.”
“The President vehemently denied the statement made by the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board at the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises in this regard.”
The statement also said: “Sri Lanka is currently in an acute shortage of power and President desires to expedite implementation of mega power projects as early as possible. However, no undue influence will be used in awarding such projects. Project proposals for large-scale renewable energy projects is limited, but special attention will be paid to the selection of institutions for the projects, which will be carried out strictly in accordance with the transparent and accountable system by the government of Sri Lanka.”