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Join the Club, ‘Make in Sri Lanka’ – –Automobile Industrialist Nalin Welgama

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BY SANATH NANAYAKKARE

A policy framework (SOP) is to be unveiled on 15 March 2021, to gradually move away from importing vehicles to Sri Lanka, and simultaneously create a solid ecosystem for the assembly of automobiles and facilitate original equipment manufacturer (OEM) status for local auto component manufacturers.

The Ministry of Industries has designed this SOP (Standard Operations Procedure) to empower the vehicle assembly industry having taken on board the views, experiences and input of local automotive companies that have already set up their assembly lines in the country.

Ideal Motors is one such company which has set up its Mahindra Ideal vehicle assembly Plant in Welipenna, Kalutara. The Island recently had an interview with Ideal Group Founder and Executive Chairman Nalin Welgama, to learn about the reasons why the SOP document had been created and whether it would help create a level playing field for any potential investor or another automotive company to venture into the industry.

“The SOP to which we have given our input will entail a mechanism to ensure greater clarity, transparency and fairness for any potential investor or another automotive company in Sri Lanka to enter the auto assembly industry,” Welgama said.

“It will ensure not only a level playing field for all potential investors and existing players entering the vehicle assembly sector, it will also remove any barriers, obstacles and bottlenecks that hinder their operations. The Cabinet approval has been given to Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa to unveil and implement the SOP governing assembly of vehicles in Sri Lanka. In fact, this would be a policy framework and a quality manual on national and international standards for automobile assembly in Sri Lanka as a sustainable alternative to importing vehicles to Sri Lanka in line with the ongoing import ban on automobiles.”

The Ideal Group founder added that Upali Wijewardena, the pioneer in auto assembly in Sri Lanka, had been the first Sri Lankan who set up an assembly plant under Upali Group to assemble Fiat and Mazda cars in the country. At the time, the company didn’t have a direct connection with the parent companies and thus a globally recognized automotive manufacturer was not here.

“Otherwise, there would have been R&D and technology transfer to make the assembly operations viable in the long term,” he said.

Welgama said that since then two other companies have engaged in similar assembly operations here. However, neither have had any direct partnership with a global automotive giant nor was there an investment from an overseas parent company or the required R&D and tech support. They also didn’t do car assembly on a daily basis as an established production base, he said.

“They brought down kits from time to time, assembled them here and released to the market. That was not a sustainable model as producing a reliable car is a complex workmanship. In contrast, the approach we have taken at Mahindra Ideal car assembly plant in Welipenna, has addressed these issues in a practical way. Mahindra & Mahindra which enjoys its presence across 100+ countries and operates in key industries have partnered with us making a 35% equity in the joint venture. And they have committed themselves to providing our youth with the necessary tech skills to assemble vehicles of global specifications and standards in Sri Lanka. That is just one part of the transformation we have been able to achieve for Sri Lanka as a result of our partnership with Mahindra. Secondly, and most importantly, Mahindra-Ideal partnership has paved the way for emerging automobile component manufacturers in Sri Lanka to make their presence in the global supply chain as original equipment manufacturers (OEM).”

 

 



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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