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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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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months



Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands



Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB



By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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