Renowned Electrical Engineer...becomes CEB's Acting General Manager

P Sandanawali

January 18, 2022


The Board of CEB resolved on 14-01-2022 unanimously to appoint Dr. M. N. Susantha Perera as the Acting General Manager of CEB on temporary basis, pursuant to the order of the Court of Appeal dated January 12, 2022, under the powers vested in the Board in Section 5 (1) of the Ceylon Electricity Board Act, No. 17 of 1969. The Court Order states clearly that the Board should make the said appointment on temporary basis under Section 5 (1) of the CEB Act. The Court order does not state that its order should be read in conjunction with any other provisions in the CEB Act. Specifically, the Court order does not state that the age of the person selected for appointment as the General Manager on temporary basis should be below 60 years, or the said appointment should be subject to Section 5 (4) of the CEB Act. However, this is a moot point since the retirement age of all CEB employees has been increased to 62.The order of the Court of Appeal is an interim order that will remain in force until the final determination of the case. The CEBEU claims that the above appointment of Dr. Perera as the General Manager is illegal and violated the order of the Court of Appeal, based on its own interpretation of the said Court Order. The CEBEU has conceded that the suitability of the person appointed as the General Manager shall be determined in terms of Section 5 (1) of the CEB Act. Hence, the CEBEU cannot second guess an order issued by the Court of Appeal and take the position that the said order should be read together with Section 5 (4) or any other provision in the CEB Act when the Court has not made any reference to such provisions in its order.Section 5 (1) of the CEB Act states that “the Board shall, with the approval of the Minister, appoint a competent and experienced person as the General Manager of the Board.” In communicating the Board’s decision taken on 14-01-2022, the Chairman of CEB has stated that he obtained the Minister’s concurrence to appoint Dr. Perera as the General Manager based on the Court order.Dr. M. N. Susantha Perera is eminently suited to be appointed as the General Manager of CEB in terms of competence, academic qualifications and industry experience of over 36 years. Dr. Perera received his primary education at Royal College Colombo and entered the University of Moratuwa in 1979. After obtaining the B.Sc. (Engineering) Degree in December 1983, he joined the Ceylon Electricity Board in April 1984 as an electrical engineer. He was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania, a prestigious Ivy League university in the United States, to undertake doctoral studies in Energy Management and Policy. He returned to the CEB service after completing his Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania and remained there until his retirement in November 2020 as the Additional General Manager (Transmission). Thereafter, he served in the Ministry of Power as its Additional Secretary (Technical) until his current appointment to the post of General Manager of the CEB.The General Manager is a CEB employee and subject to all CEB rules and regulations, including the disciplinary rules applicable to CEB employees. The CEBEU’s argument that the person appointed as the General Manager should not be an outsider, or a person “not eligible to be appointed as a CEB employee” has no basis since Section 5 (1) or any other clause in the CEB Act contains no such requirement.The function of the General Manager of CEB is “subject to the general direction of the Board on matters of policy, charged with the direction of the business of the Board, the organization and execution of powers, functions and duties of the Board, and the administrative control of the employees of the Board.” Hence, the General Manager shall discharge his/her duties under the direction of the Board.In any event, if the CEBEU believes the Board has violated an order of the Court of Appeal, it should bring the matter to the notice of the Court, without engaging in frivolous arguments on matters of law, which should be left to the legal professionals.