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USD 300 mn agreement on Kantale Sugar Factory to be finalised



The government, MG Sugar and Singapore based SLI are about to finalize an agreement on the discarded Kantale sugar factory land.

The nominated representative of MG Sugar Anura Fernando yesterday (15) told The Island that the USD 300 mn Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would be a big boost against the backdrop of the economic slowdown caused by the rampaging coronavirus.

Having entered into an agreement with the Board of Investment (BoI) recently, MG Sugar and SLI were expecting to conclude the contract for the relevant land with the Treasury, Fernando said. The government and SLI owned 51% and 49% of MG Sugar, respectively.

A number of previous attempts to restore the Kantale operation had failed. During the previous administration, two senior government officials, including Chief of Staff of the then President Maithripala Sirisena, were arrested for allegedly receiving a massive bribe to allow a foreign party access to Kantale premises.

The Singapore headquartered enterprise would make the investment.

According to Fernando, the company met the stipulated conditions, including the bank guarantee and awaiting the finalization of the contract to proceed with the operation. Fernando emphasized that a delay in finalizing the leases for the Kantale land could cause a severe setback.

The investors planned to set up a state-of-the-art factory, Fernando said, adding that world-renowned SLI experts Moussy Salem and Mendel Gluck would spearhead the project. The team consists of Booker Tate, Grupo TSK would handle industrial EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) and O&M (Operations and Maintenance) along with Netafim-world leaders in irrigation technology and equipment, for the agricultural EPC and O&M, the company said in a statement. Hogan Lovell together with financial advisers Fieldstone, have developed all contracts and financial models for the Kantale project, the company stated.

The company said: “The landmark project will welcome a 27.5 MW maximum capacity cogeneration plant from biomass, with an export of 10 MW to the National Grid. This will produce 80,000 tons of direct consumption sugar per annum to the local market, resulting in foreign exchange savings of approximately US$50 million per annum in payments for imported sugar.

This project will offer progressive solutions to the economic development of the Trincomalee district region and wider rural economy. Direct employment opportunities will see 3,500 local people salaried, and a further 3,000 farmer families will benefit. To fulfill the proposed expansions, plans to train a cadre of skilled workers will be put in motion, and 10,000-15,000 indirect employment opportunities will be created nationwide. 

The plans also outline additional infrastructure development in the area, and will see the establishment of new schooling and health facilities. The wider social support will assist in solving health issues and related public costs arising from consumption of illicit alcohol. Sri Lanka’s economic and social development is intrinsically linked to the Kantale Sugar Factory, and the onset of the project is a cause for national celebration.”

Fernando said if the final agreement could be concluded before the end of this year, the plant could be commissioned by July 2023 (SF).

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CB Governor: Lanka now in a position to pay for essentials



‘Inflation will not be as high as initially expected’

Inflation will not be as high as initially expected and there are signs of economy stabilising, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says.Dr. Weerasinghe said that during the past few months a number of initiatives had been made to improve the economy and they were yielding the desired results.

“During the last review, we thought the inflation would reach 70%. However, now we believe that the inflation will not be that high even with the electricity tariff hike,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the severity of the shortage of foreign currency had lessened. The country was now in a position to import fuel, gas and medicines.

“This has become possible because of the decisions we took. Imports have decreased. Export revenue has somewhat increased. Even without short-term loans we have been able to meet our basic needs. This is a positive development,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.The CB Governor said that inflation driven by demand had lessened because the expansion of loans had been curtailed.The supply side inflation too would drop with price and foreign exchange stabilisation.

“Still the inflation is about 60% and that’s why we need to maintain the current high policy rates. Once the government adjusts the fiscal policy, tax, and presents the new budget, things will improve. I think you can also see this. We are seeing positives,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe also urged exporters to bring back the foreign exchange earnings, and that the Central Bank had taken steps to ensure that exporters abided by the CB regulations.

“The irregularities due to open accounts, hawala and undial are being controlled and the black market premium is dropping. The foreign exchange liquidity in the banking sector has increased,” he said.

The Governor added that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made good progress. An IMF delegation was expected to visit Sri Lanka by the end of August to reach a staff-level agreement.After Sri Lanka reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF, it had to start engaging with its creditors on debt restructuring.

“Once we reach an agreement with the IMF the situation will improve further,” he added. (RK)

(See related stories in the business section)

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CID arrests Mervyn 15 years after he forcibly entered Rupavahini



By Norman Palihawadana

Former Minister Mervyn Silva was yesterday arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for forcibly entering the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and attacking some employees there in 2007.On 27 Dec. 2007, Silva and his associates entered the SLRC premises and assaulted its news director for not airing a speech he had made in Matara.

SLRC employees held Silva incommunicado for hours, and the police intervened to secure his release. A few weeks later, some of the workers involved in the incident came under goon attacks.Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President at the time.

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Aeroflot affair: flights yet to resume; MP questions status of probe into detention of SU 289



ByShamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka hadn’t been able yet to convince Russia to resume Aeroflot flights and tourists from there to Sri Lanka suspended in the wake of the detention of SU 289 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of June 02, authoritative sources said.

Sri Lanka grappling with an unprecedented foreign exchange shortage desperately needs tourists from an important destination like Russia, which earlier accounted for a sizeable share of the incoming traffic. Responding to The Island queries, sources said that relevant authorities were in the process of looking into the issue at hand.Having summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage soon after the incident at the BIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning over the incident.

In the wake of the Russian warning, the then government took measures to lift restrictions imposed on the aircraft that was to be detained till June 16. The detained SU 289 was allowed to leave on June 06.Former Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (18) told The Island that no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the government should inform the Parliament of the progress of the investigation and what steps it intended to take as well as measures already taken to mend relations with Russia.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff said that those in authority should investigate whether a court ruling issued in respect of a case filed by Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Trading Company Ltd., against Aeroflot had been manipulated by interested parties.

It transpired that no sooner High Court Judge, S. M. H. S.P. Sethunge, in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, Attorney-at-Law Aruna de Silva accompanied a fiscal officer of the same Court to the BIA at lightning speed to deliver the ruling.

Lawyer de Silva appeared for the plaintiff with Avindra Rodrigo, PC, (litigation) of FJ & Saram, leading law firm from the colonial times. The law firm has previously declined to comment on this matter.High Court judge Sethunga is on record as having said that he didn’t order the BIA not to permit Aeroflot SU 289 to take off on the afternoon of June 02.

Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nagasena, Coordinating Secretary to Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC yesterday (18) said that the Justice Ministry recommended action against the Attorney-at-Law to the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC. Nagasena said that the fiscal officer who served the Justice Ministry had been interdicted, pending further investigations. As regards the lawyer, it would be handled on the advice of the CJ, the official said. Responding to another query, the official said that the Justice Ministry hadn’t been informed yet of the progress of the investigations.

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra yesterday said that ministry officials on Wednesday (17) discussed ways and means of resuming Aeroflot flights with relevant authorities, including the Russian embassy. Ruwanchandra said they were hopeful reaching a consensus on this matter soon. The official said so in response to The Island queries.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Saliya Pieris, PC, yesterday said that they could initiate an inquiry only on the basis of a formal complaint. He said so when The Island asked him whether the BASL initiated an inquiry into the lawyer’s conduct in this regard. The President’s Counsel said that normally the BASL wouldn’t launch an investigation into a matter inquired into by the CJ.

At the time of the BIA incident, Prof. G.L. Peiris had been the minister in charge of foreign affairs. Since the change of government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the new minister of foreign affairs.

Russia has pointed out that action was taken against SU 289 in spite of an assurance given by Sri Lanka in respect of regular flights to Colombo.Sri Lankan Airlines in late March suspended flights to Moscow in the wake of imposition of what the airline called operational restrictions in the wake of war between Russia and Ukraine.

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