With the Underutilized Assets Act abolished will Daya Gamage get back the sugar companies?

by Staff Writer 20-06-2019 | 9:27 PM
Colombo (News 1st): The Revival of Underperforming or Underutilized Assets (Repeal) bill was passed in parliament today (June 20). 91 votes were cast in favour of the bill while 69 voted against. Representatives of the Moneragala district under which the Pelawatte and Sevanagala sugar factories belong to, Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara and MP Ananda Kumarasiri were not present at the time of the voting. The proposal was presented by Minister of Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Lakshman Kiriella. Speaking in Parliament Minister Lakshman Kiriella said according to the decision made by the cabinet, 22 properties of the Board of Investments and 6 properties of the Urban Development Authority have been vested. He noted district secretaries have been appointed to Moneragala, Hambantota, Badulla, Ampara, Colombo, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa districts. The Minister added in 2011 during Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime, a law was introduced to take over businesses and this act demotivated the investors to come into Sri Lanka. He stated during the presentation of the budget, the Cabinet promised to abolish the act and this is why the bill is presented today. UPDA MP Bandula Gunawardena questioned if he can confirm that this draft bill is presented with the intention of returning those properties to the close friends, previous owners or to anyone else. Responding to this Minister Kiriella noted that there is no such thing. He said Minister Naveen Dissanayake will bring in an amendment to make sure that once the company is taken over by the government, it can only be given to someone other than the owner, with the approval of the subject minister. UPFA MP Gamini Lokuge questioned the reason to take over 36 entities by the government? He noted that these 36 companies had not paid the EPF to its employees and the bank arrears have not been settled and taxes weren't paid. MP Lokuge said this was done for the betterment of those employees and once it's taken over if these things are done properly, that entities will be re-established. He said, however, what is being done by this act is not what is mentioned by Minister Kiriella. The parliamentarian went onto note that this is a program to hand these over to their best friends. The most important aspect of this is, what did the UNP do when the government privatized the Sugar Company. He added that in 2002, the sugar company had 1Rs 1500 billion in investments in the banks and stocks of sugar. He questioned if they think this should be given to Daya Gamage again? Responding to this Minister Kiriella noted that if that's what they really want, they do not want to present this act. He said it can be given even now. MP Lokuge requested them to stop this system where they are trying to hand these over to their best friends. Adding to this JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti noted that according to the act, the Pelawatte and Sevanagala sugar factories cannot be given to Daya Gamage. He said when this act is abolished, anything that's under the Treasury can be given and the life span of the government is over. He said he knows that in their group meeting, Daya Gamage boasted about Sevanagala and cried and now they are attempting to give this back to him before their tenure ends. MP Handunnetti said even if they say that the treasury will not give this back to businessman Daya Gamage, he (Hadunnetti) can assure them that they will. Presenting facts to the Deputy Speaker he noted that the Sevenagala has not taken a single rupee from the treasury since 2011, instead, it has given about Rs 1000 million for a year to the treasury and it has boosted employment in the area. Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri added that he has no argument in the facts, however,  he cannot stay in his position and answer this question. MP Hadunnetti said;
"I know that. Why is this government making respectable representatives like you unanswerable. Why have you locked your own conscience. Do you go to this extent to show gratitude to the salaries, electricity bills of Sirikotha? This is a national crime."
UPFA MP Ranjith Zoysa stated that when this government is toppled, they will take them back under the government. He requested the Prime Minister to not commit this crime.