“Our intent in investing in Sri Lanka is to address the needs of a valued neighbour. As a responsible corporate, we see this as a necessary part of the partnership that our two nations have always shared. We are clearly disappointed by the detraction that seems to have come about. The fact is that the issue has already been addressed by and within the Sri Lankan Government,” said a spokesperson of the Adani group.
MMC Ferdinando, the chairman of Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), resigned today, three days after he claimed before a parliamentary panel that he was told by President Rajapaksa about PM Modi pressuring him to give the wind power project directly to the Adani Group.
The government has not reacted to the claim, which the official retracted on Sunday evening and which President Rajapaksa has emphatically denied.
The allegations involve a 500-Megawatt renewable energy project in Sri Lanka’s Mannar district. A video of Mr Ferdinando’s comment at the parliamentary hearing has been widely circulated on Twitter.
“On November 24, the President summoned me after a meeting and said that India’s Prime Minister Modi is pressuring him to hand over the project to the Adani group. I said ‘this matter doesn’t concern me or the Ceylon electricity board and this consists of the board of investments’. He insisted that I look into it. I then sent a letter that the President has instructed me and that the Finance Secretary should do the needful. I pointed out that this is a government-to-government deal,” the official said in Sinhala in the video, addressing the panel.
On Sunday evening, following a strong denial by President Rajapaksa on Twitter, Mr Ferdinando also withdrew his comments, claiming he had been “overcome with emotion” while facing questions that suggested wrongdoing by him.
President Rajapaksa had tweeted: “Regarding 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.”
His office followed it up with a longer statement “vehemently denying” the charge. The President has “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 statement 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,” said President Rajapaksa’s office.
The controversy erupted a day after Sri Lanka changed its laws to remove competitive bidding for energy projects. The Adani group figured in the parliamentary debate on the Electricity Amendment Bill before it was passed amid opposition protests. The opposition accused the government of ramming the bill through parliament to facilitate large renewable energy deals to the Adani group, which signed an unsolicited government-to-government agreement to build the Mannar wind power plant.
The main opposition SJB in Lanka asserted that projects beyond 10 MW capacity should go through a competitive bidding process, but government MPs voted against it.
The Adani Group reportedly won contracts to develop two wind power projects, in Mannar and in Pooneryn, in December.
Gautam Adani had visited Sri Lanka in October and had tweeted about his meeting with President Rajapaksa.
In 2021, the Adani Group had 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.