Presidential Committee contradicts Litro Chairman
By Rathindra Kuruwita and Shamindra Ferdinando
A simmering controversy over gas-related explosions has taken an unexpected turn with Prof. Shantha Walpolage, the Chairman of the Committee appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to probe the recent gas explosions, concluding that the change in the composition of gas was the primary reason for the recent gas-related explosions,
They came to the conclusion following theoretical and on-site inspections, Prof. Walpolage said.
“The composition of the gas had changed but cylinders, regulators, stoves and other equipment have not,” he noted.
Since November 2021 around 900 gas related explosions have taken place.
A Committee was appointed by the President on November 30 to look into those incidents.
Attorney-at-Law Nagananda Kodituwakku moved the Supreme Court against the gas suppliers recently. The case is pending in courts.
However, the Presidential Media Division on Monday (20) quoted Litro Gas Limited Chairman Theshara Jayasinghe as having said that there was no change in the composition of Litro Gas and steps had been taken to obtain recommendations from foreign experts in that regard and that the people should not have any undue fear when using LP (Liquefied Petroleum) Gas. The Chairman said this while speaking at a media briefing organised by the Presidential Media Center on Monday (20). President’s Media Spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka moderated the media briefing. Though some factions had suggested that the cause of the gas leaks and explosions was a change in its composition, it had now been confirmed that none of the incidents reported so far had been caused by a change in the composition of LP gas, Jayasinghe said.
The Chairman of Litro Gas Limited said that the company had agreed to provide an insurance cover of one million rupees per person if such an incident is reported due to the poor standard of the gas.
Former Executive Director of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Thushan Gunawardena several months ago warned of the danger posed by the change of the composition of gas. Gunawardena told The Island that he had brought the crisis to the attention of Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane, Consumer Affairs State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna and other officials.
Gunawardena, who quit his post on 22 Sept. over a dispute with Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane and Co-operative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna following the exposure of the garlic scam at Lak Sathosa said that months before his resignation he brought the situation to the notice of the two ministers. Litro suppressed the change of composition ratio of Butane and Propane in domestic LPG cylinders. The change of composition posed a grave danger, Gunawardena said, pointing out that his repeated warnings were discarded.
The CAA Chairman retired Maj. Gen. Shantha Dissanayake ignored his concerns as regards the grave danger posed by increasing the propane ratio in the composition. Gunawardena made available to The Island the entire set of e-mails exchanged among officials in this regard in the wake of Litro introducing what it called a new premium hybrid 18 litre LPG (9.18 kg) cylinder priced at Rs 1,395 in April this year. Litro withdrew the new product several weeks later in the wake of media outcry over Litro actually over charging hapless consumers Rs. 151.96 per kilo whereas the regular 12.5 kg gas cylinder at that time cost Rs.1, 493. In Oct the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder was increased by Rs. 1,257 and the major domestic cylinder sold at Rs. 2,750.
Responding to another query, Gunawardena said that when the CAA raised the composition of domestic gas cylinder, Litro deliberately deceived the regulator. Declaring that tests proved the Litro had lied to the regulator regarding the relatively sharp increase in the propane ratio in the composition at the expense of safety and security of the consumer, Gunawardena emphasized the failure on their part to take tangible measures.
In addition to the Cabinet minister and the State Minister, the unprecedented threat posed by change in Propane and Butane ratio in LPG cylinders was also brought to the notice of the President’s Office, the Attorney General’s Department, Board members of the CAA, Trade Secretary and Co-operative Services, Marketing Development and Consumer Protection State Secretary, Gunawardena said.