ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 02

Telecom deal not finalised – Minister

The Government dismissed Opposition allegations that it was involved in under hand deals regarding the speculated sale of shares of Sri Lanka Telecom held by NTT to a Malaysian company.

Minister of Finance (non Cabinet) Ranjith Siyambalapiatya told Parliament on Friday that with the sale, the price of SLT shares would rise and the main beneficiary of this would be the Government given the fact it was the biggest share holder with over 50% of the shares.

At present NTT holds 35.2% of the shares while the Sri Lanka government holds 49.5 per cent while 15.3% of the shares are vested with the public. Government spokesperson described the uproar as yet another futile attempt by the Opposition to use disinformation as a means of slandering the Government.

The Minister made these comments during an adjournment debate that was moved by UNP Kurunegala district MP Dayasiri Jayasekera and seconded by JVP Colombo district MP Wimal Weerawansa, alleging irregularities in the deal.

The UNP MP called for the appointment a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into the sale of 33% stake of SLT shares to Maxis, a subsidiary of Global Telecommunications Ltd by NTT . He said that even if such a deal was done, a future UNP regime would scrap the deal.

Jayasekara charged that the deal was already a done deed and the sale of shares had been done secretively. He claimed this was illegal as the shares had to be sold in the stock market in keeping with the law. He demanded government make public details regarding the sale. Mr. Weerawansa said the government should buy the shares that NTT wanted to sell so that it could take control of SLT which was a vital to national security.

“The Government cannot say it does not have the money. It has started Mihin Air,” he said. Mr.Weerwansa said the fact that the owner of the Malaysian company is a Tamil is not an issue, but even if there was the slightest possibility that control of this vital sector could be used in a manner beneficial to the LTTE, it had be stopped.

He also urged the government to buy back the Telecom shares from NTT. “Our economic polices of selling off state assets has been a dismal failure as can be seen from the analysis of the past three decades. “It has bred waste and corruption but not served the interest of the people of this country”, he said.

Posts and Telecommunications Minister Rauff Hakeem said no agreement had been reached regarding the sale of shares. He said a Committee had been appointed by the Cabinet to report on the issue and any decision would be made only after this report was handed in.

We have the same concerns as the opposition, he said. The security issue was important to the government and it will ensure national security will not be compromised in any way, he said.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.