“Totally corrupt process implemented at the expense of the country”
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Dissident SLPP lawmaker Dr Nalaka Godahewa has warned against clandestine moves to sell off profitable businesses in the public sector. – determined to strip the Treasury of cash cows.
Referring to a recent statement made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the former top private sector executive questioned the rationale for the privatization of Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) at a time when public s expected the government to restructure loss-making enterprises. .
Along with key dissenting lawmakers Prof GL Peiris and Prof Charitha Herath, Dr Godahewa said there could be no justification for further delaying the start of the restructuring process regarding Sri Lankan Airlines, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB ) in trouble. , Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Water Supply and Drainage Board.
Dr. Godahewa, a prominent ex-Viyathmaga activist, pointed out that the losses suffered by the above-mentioned SOEs this year would be far greater than the total revenue of the state.
Dr. Godahewa pointed out that restructuring cash-strapped businesses and selling profitable businesses are two entirely different things. The legislator said that the current economic crisis should not be exploited by powers contrary to public expectations.
Commenting on what he called the despicable decision by Sri Lanka Telecom, MP Godahewa said that the government owned more than 49.5% of the shares in this particular company. Referring to the shares held by the EPF, ETF and SLIC in the SLT, Dr Godahewa said the government controlled more than 50% of the shares. Therefore, there could be no justifiable reason to privatize internationally recognized operations, the MP said.
Dr Godahewa also attacked the government over the alleged SLIC decision.
The MP recalled how the Supreme Court struck down the sale of SLIC, Waters Edge and Lanka Marine Services on corruption charges. Stating that the country’s privatization and restructuring process had been tainted, Dr Godahewa said the sale of SLIC for Rs 6 billion during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s tenure as President despite the fact that the state-owned company had assets estimated at Rs 30 billion exposed the completely corrupt system in place.
According to him, during the tenure of the late Presidents Ranasinghe Premadasa and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (1990-2003), a total of 94 public enterprises were privatized under controversial circumstances. The former minister alleged that those who bought these companies for a song sold them at huge profits.
Lawmaker Godahewa said the Hambantota Port deal finalized in 2017 also exposed how deals were struck at the expense of Sri Lanka. The MP said that even today there is no clear idea how the billion dollars received from China is being used.
Corrupt deal allowed buyer to sell state plantation company he bought for double the amount in 24 hours, lawmaker said, warning those planning to profit at a time when the country was declared bankrupt.
The former minister urged all concerned to be cautious and vigilant because the country had to spend 5 billion dollars a year for several years. It would be a grave mistake for Sri Lanka to ignore the growing crisis although the public has received some relief due to the government’s suspension of debt repayment.