Columns - Political Column

Grave concern over the effects of urgent bill

  • Sevenagala sugar factory owner sees political motives behind acquisition
  • Opposition says foreign direct investment will be severely curtailed
By Our Political Editor

Sitting on top of a six billion rupee empire extending to several spheres, he is easily one of Sri Lanka's top notch business entrepreneurs. Apparel, sugar, electronics, computer software, aviation and construction are just a few among them.

The billionaire that he is, 51-year-old Daya Gamage is perhaps the only businessman in the country to own a private jet. Some days, he boards his six -seater Beechcraft C55 for a flight to Ampara where his main apparel complex is located. By afternoon, he is back in Colombo for a meeting at his three-storeyed Daya Group building at Pepiliyana junction, just a kilometre from Kohuwala. By evening, he is off again by road to one more of his business ventures in the outskirts of Colombo.

A look at the wall of his modestly furnished third-floor office speaks of the company he has kept or is still keeping. There are portraits of the bearded businessman posing with former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, winning an entrepreneurial award from President Mahinda Rajapaksa and seated shoulder to shoulder with UNP leader Ranil Wickrmesinghe. At one end, several statues of Lord Buddha of varying sizes lay on a table. Gamage, however, is not an apolitical businessman though a devout Buddhist.

He is United National Party's main organiser for the Ampara electorate and leader of the opposition of the Eastern Provincial Council. He unsuccessfully contested the April 2010 parliamentary elections for that district. He is known to be one among the wealthiest who had bankrolled the United National Party (UNP). A senior UNPer known for his sense of humour described Gamage: "He is to the UNP what the International Monetary Fund is to the government." The one time minister seeking anonymity added laughingly, "Of course, unlike the IMF, there are no tranches, no conditions and no interest." Instead of Gamage, his wife Anoma entered Parliament last year on the UNP National List. The exceedingly heavy pressure Gamage is facing is beginning to tell on him.

Last Friday, Gamage looked as if he was stung by a swarm of honey bees. Midway through calls, he cut his mobile phone leaving callers puzzled. During meetings at his ground floor boardroom with visitors, he rose from his seat to rush to his third-floor office promising to return within minutes. He did not come back. He shudders somewhat in anger at some of the calls he receives. Other moments he hands his mobile telephone to a police officer in uniform and rattles off a couple of names of callers he would answer. The officer is one assigned to his wife Anoma, the MP. The issues for him centre on fears that he would soon lose one of his showpiece ventures, all because of his political affiliations, he said.

In 2002, the Gamage Group purchased 90 per cent of the shares of the Sevenagala Sugar Complex for Rs 550 million. It is located in a beautiful village in the Moneragala District from which the company draws its name. This village is a vivid example of the exacerbating human versus wild elephant conflict. As jungle area had given way for sugar cane growing, elephants have not only been left with smaller habitats but found the luscious cane growth a veritable source of fodder. It has become a nightly challenge for the farmers. With the remaining ten per cent of the shares being given to the workers, there was no longer any government control in the venture. When he took over, the sugar complex ran at a loss of Rs 148 million, according to Gamage.

"Three years later, there was a complete turnaround. We doubled our profits during the third year," he told the Sunday Times. However, he refused to give figures of the exact profits made except to say it was more than Rs 250 million per year. The turnover that had stood at around Rs 350 million after three years, he said, had shot up to Rs 1.1 billion. The growth of the sugar complex over the past 26 years, Gamage said, had transformed the village. There was not only increased cane production where prices paid to farmers rose from Rs 1400 to Rs 4000 per ton. In addition, the establishment of 20 MW power plant, a bio gas project, a security scheme to protect the complex by drawing villagers for employment, two garment factories for farmer's children, a dehydrated food processing plant, an "out growers" cultivation project for papaya and pineapples with the help of USAID were among new ventures.

"All these years, I have overcome all forms of political pressure. Politicians in the area including a minister instigated strikes forcing a work stoppage. The politician's goons climbed a crane once prompting a work stoppage for weeks. When the government gave a fertilizer subsidy, they induced farmers to stop growing sugar cane. They turned to paddy cultivation. I had to formulate a scheme to give incentives to growers," said Gamage.

Daya Gamage broke down in tears at Friday's news conference

When the property was acquired by him, it had included an extent of 459 hectares obtained on lease from the Mahaweli Authority for an annual payment of Rs 8 million. That was for a period of eight years. A change of government in 2004 led to a call for a re-valuation of the property. The annual lease rent was raised to Rs 50 million, he said. "Without using land as collateral, we have raised bank loans to fund on-going development work. Guarantees have been given by Daya Group and the directors are personally responsible," said Gamage.

Daya Group will be one of the business houses worst affected by the new draft legislation titled The Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets Bill that the Government will introduce in Parliament on Wednesday. The aim of the proposed Act "is to provide for vesting in the state in the national interest, identified underperforming enterprises or underutilised assets; to appoint in Respect of each one or more of such Underperforming Enterprises or Underutilised Assets a Competent Authority; to provide for their effective management, administration or revival through alternative utilization and the payment of compensation in respect thereof; and to provide for matters connected therewith or and incidental thereto."

Other than sugar, Daya Group also exports apparel and a variety of items to United States and European markets.

The government wants to pass this Bill as an urgent item. After the Cabinet approved it on October 20, the draft was sent to the Supreme Court for determination on whether it was consistent with the Constitution. A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Shirani A. Bandaranayake and Justices P.A. Ratnayake and Chandra Ekanayake examined the provisions of the Bill on October 24. The court's determination, already sent to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, is expected to be announced when Parliament meets on Tuesday. At a party leaders meeting last Tuesday, a three-member UNP delegation pleaded for a two-day debate on the draft bill. However, the government side insisted it should be confined to a day.

That showed that the government wants the new law to take effect at the earliest leaving not much room for public debate. The UNP delegation comprised co-deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya, Chief Opposition Whip John Ameratunga, and Dayasiri Jayasekera (MP - Kurunegala District). The trio argued that the draft Bill needed careful study in the light of the serious implications it would cause to the economy and specifically discourage investor confidence. The government side was represented by Leader of the House and Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Nimal Siripala de Silva told the opposition members that they could, if they wish, move amendments to the draft Bill.

Jayasuriya, a onetime Chairman of the National Chamber of Commerce said several private sector organisations had expressed concern to him "over the proposed draconian law."

Whilst claiming that it is using the private sector as an engine of growth, the government is throttling it day by day with various sinister measures. Sooner than later, most ventures will either be under state control or function under decrees issued by the state, he said.

The reason why the government wants to rush through this controversial piece of legislation is given in a two paragraph preamble. It reads: "Whereas in furtherance of the expeditious development policies being expeditiously implemented within the country in the backdrop of the favourable economic environment, the Government having regard to the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution considers it necessary and expedient to ensure to its people the maximum benefit from the limited resources available, by securing and protecting as effectively as the Government could, a social order in which social, economic and political justice would prevail:

"And whereas it has become necessary in the national interest to vest in the State, certain identified Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets, in order to ensure the effective administration, management or revival of such enterprises or assets, through alternate methods of utilisation, such as restructuring or entering into management contracts."

A 13 page Schedule lists one “Underperforming Enterprise” and 36 with what is described as “Underutilised Assets.”

Of this, almost four pages are devoted to Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited. In 28 different paragraphs, all the lands allotted to Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited in the Moneragala District have been identified for takeover. Details of the allotment numbers of the land, AGA divisions where they are located, survey plans and extents are set out in the case of Sevanagala Sugar Industries Limited.

However, in the case of some other ventures, only the company name has been mentioned. In terms of the draft law, "Underutilised Assets" means "land, that was owned by the Government or a Government Agency and alienated within a period of twenty years prior to the date of the coming into operation of this Act, to any person by transferring freehold or leasehold rights or through a divestiture on the basis that the related operations proposed to be carried out on such land will result in generating employment, foreign exchange earnings or savings or economic activities, beneficial to the public, but where such benefits as aforesaid have not accrued, being prejudicial to the national economy and public interest.

"Land owned by a person that had been granted within a period of twenty years prior to the date of the coming into operation of this Act, either, any tax incentives under any law relating to the imposition and recovery of any tax incentives under the Board of Investment Law or regulations framed there under, or any Government Guarantee, on the basis that the related operations proposed to be carried out connected thereto will result in generating employment, foreign exchange earnings or savings or economic activities, beneficial to the public but where such benefits as aforesaid have not accrued, being prejudicial to the national economy and public interest."

"Underperforming Enterprise"according to the draft law "means a company or other authority, institution or body established by or under any written law for the time being in force, in which the Government owns shares and where the Government has paid contingent liabilities of such enterprise and the Government is engaged in protracted litigation with regard to such enterprise which is prejudicial to the national economy and public interest."

Protests outside the gate leading to the Sevanagala Sugar Factory in Moneragala

"We have not underutilised any of our assets," contended Gamage. "If the issue is about 40 hectares of state land under our control which has been encroached upon, we are helpless. The encroachers are backed by politically motivated groups. When we complain to the local Police, our employees are arrested," he lamented.

He said there were also a number of cattle sheds near the sugar plantations. The cattle were feeding on the sugar cane and the local officials were frightened to act due to political reprisals. He said his group had spent funds to build an electric fence to keep wild elephants away. He had also imported fire fighting equipment from Japan after a section of the sugar cultivation was once destroyed by fire. All this have cost millions. "The takeover bid reeks of political revenge," complained Gamage.

Even before the new draft bill becomes law, he alleged that a rival group backed by a government politician had blocked the movement of sugar from the Sevanagala Sugar Industries Limited Factory. They had even asked the staff to get out. As a report elsewhere in the Sunday Times reveals, a group of some 300 supporters of the politician reportedly took over the sugar complex on Friday. People were prevented from going past the gates by members of the group. Local media in the area were also disallowed entry. "This obstruction shows they were preventing my enterprise from functioning as a commercial venture," he added.

"I will give you an example," he said, citing the tenders called for the development of the Hingurana Sugar Factory which had remained non-operational for 15 years. "It is no secret that I was the successful bidder at the tender. I offered to pay Rs 510 million. However, they gave it to two private sector enterprises with the state holding 51 per cent of the stake. The Treasury infused more than Rs 750 million. They have still not been able to turn it around," claimed Gamage.

Until today, he said, there had been no official intimation to me that Sevanagala Sugar Industries Limited is an "underperforming enterprise." If the reasons for such a decision were spelt out, we could have countered them point by point, he argued. He also said he had been prevented from seeking any legal recourse.

Gamage has also been lobbying the Colombo based western diplomatic missions this week over the proposed law. At a news conference on Friday at Hotel Renuka, Gamage wept over the misfortune that faces his sugar factory.

The government's response to Gamage's remarks came from Moneragala District UPFA parliamentarian Jagath Pushpakumara. He is the Minister of Coconut Development and Janatha Estate Development. He said: "In 2002 when the Sevanagala sugar factory was running at a profit, the then government decided to sell it to Daya Gamage. At that time its assets were around Rs 590 million including Rs1 50 million worth of sugar stock and loan money for Rs 120 million which was meant for farmers. The total assets came up to about Rs 590 million but he bought it for Rs 550 million. It was jackpot for him. When he failed to run this company at a profitable level, he started blaming others."

Nevertheless, the question that begs answer is whether financial gains in a business venture qualify it to be listed as "underperforming" and thus warrant a state takeover. That too, without any form of explanation being sought from those owning the venture. Making matters worse for those affected is the fact that they have no legal remedy. Yet, a group of the company's employees filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court on Friday. See box story for details. There were multi-billion rupee ventures which were privatised through questionable means. The Supreme Court has ruled on some such ventures which have been purchased by its current owners for a mere slice of their worth. Yet no formal action has ever followed.

Among the other highlights of the draft bill are:

  • Shares of any "Underperforming Enterprise" held by shareholders or owners will be vested in the Secretary to the Treasury.
  • A Competent Authority will enter into management contracts with regard to "Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets."
  • No director of an "Underperforming Enterprise" shall perform or discharge any power unless expressly authorised by the Secretary to the Treasury.
  • The Cabinet will appoint a Compensation Tribunal comprising the Chief Valuer and two other persons "having wide experience" in commercial valuation. Award of compensation, as the Tribunal deems necessary, would be made within a period of six months. An appeal against such an award to the Court of Appeal would be only "on a question of law."
  • Those refusing to deliver possession to the Secretary to the Treasury shall on conviction after summary trial before a Magistrate be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to a fine not exceeding Rs 10,000 or both.

The main opposition United National Party's objections to the draft bill were spelt out at a news conference on Wednesday by Dr. Harsha de Silva (National List MP and consultant economist), Ruwan Wijewardene (MP - Gampaha District) and Ajith Perera (MP - Kalutara District). Here are excerpts:
Harsha de Silva: "We are totally against the proposed bill. We are against them brining this as an urgent bill.

There is no necessity to bring this as an urgent Bill. If there are loss-making institutions, it could be first discussed and the matter could be taken up in courts or later in Parliament and action taken. These are not matters between life and death where laws should be brought within 48 hours. Just because the government has a two thirds majority it should not force down laws. We are also against the content of the proposed Bill. This is because there are laws under which these issues can be dealt with. There is no necessity for new laws.

"The interpretation of underutilized assets can be different. Sometimes an organisation which is less loss making is being taken over. This leaves a question. The government is interpreting the laws as it wants. This draft Bill has no provision for persons to object if the institution is going to be taken over.

The Pelwatte sugar plantation has also been making profits. However, the Hingurana sugar factory which was closed for about 15 years and which is still not activated is not being taken over by the government. Therefore we want to question whether there is a political motive behind this bill. A Gazette notification has been issued that the Shangri-La hotel project should be operational within 42 months of taking over the land. The question is whether the government will take this over if they cannot get operational by that time. Which investor is going to come into this country? The government says that there is more direct foreign investment into the country. According to the BOI website it says that Article 157 of the constitution guarantees safety of foreign investment. But how can they assure this guarantee. There is confusion over what the government is saying. This is a hindrance to attracting foreign investment. This kind of action will clearly discourage foreigners investing in the country."

Ruwan Wijewardene: "The UNP totally condemns this Bill which is a danger to the economy and for democracy. The business sector could be affected. Any person who has opposing views to the government could find his business ventures taken over. Even during the tenure of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike as Prime Minister, we have seen cases of political victimization. We are warning that a similar situation can arise. We have raised objections about the proposed Bill to the Speaker and will oppose this when it is put forward in the form of a draft Bill. We see the taking over of the Sevenagala Sugar Company Limited as a case of political victimization. The government will take the country towards a disastrous path. The government will be deprived of valuable foreign investments. We will continue our struggle to protect our local businessmen."

Ajith Perera, MP: "If business is to improve in Sri Lanka investors should come into the country. After the end of the war this is the best opportunity to move forward. In 1956 properties owned by Sinhala businessmen were taken over. The nationalization of the bus industry, the mineral industry, Insurance, the Lake House are some of the examples. The estates were nationalized by the SLFP. This government speaks of the rights of the Sinhalese. But it is the SLFP led governments which have been harming the Sinhalese by taking over their properties and businesses. Some of the main businesses to be taken over under the new Bill are owned by Sinhalese. The businesses can be acquired and disposed of according to the government's wishes. Some of these businesses have been built with great difficulty. This is similar to what Robert Mugabe did in Zimbabwe. We are calling the government not to resort to this type of action as it will go against the country. Nobody knew that this Bill was coming and it was done secretively. It took us as the main opposition party one week to get a copy of the draft Bill. As MPs we were not given copies. If this is approved, which is most likely to happen, it will be a dangerous situation. The Bill states that this is of national interest. What is the national interest is our question."

On Friday, Dr. Hasha de Silva told the Sunday Times, "The proposed laws will raise significant risks linked signals and country profiles in the minds of business leaders, entrepreneurs both in Sri Lanka and abroad. It is reminiscent of the fearsome Business Acquisition Act which has since been repealed on the grounds that it was a deterrent to investor confidence." He pointed out that if obtaining land grants from the State as included in the "underutilized enterprises" cover those in free trade zones and privatised businesses in agriculture, manufacture and tourism sectors, they could face the risk of acquisition." He said new foreign investment is vital for Sri Lanka. The government's estimates of new foreign investment flows needed to maintain an adequate savings ratio to "deliver the targeted high annual GDP growth rates" makes it imperative. This is at a time when additional "inflows of four billion dollars annually are needed to leverage commercial borrowings for infrastructure development coming under increasing pressure."

Even UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, hit out on Thursday. He said the government should introduce legislation to seize assets of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) overseas than appropriate those of local businessmen. He was speaking to wives of three-wheeler scooter taxi owners who are among those in the party's Lak Vanitha Front. He referred to the proposed takeover of the Sevenagala Sugar Company Limited which was running at a profit. Government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella argued at Thursday's media briefing that the purpose of the proposed legislation was to acquire ventures "which continue to make losses or are run against the will of the people." He claimed that "most of these enterprises did not have a corporate plan. The takeover will put an end to this negative trend and in a way increase investor confidence."

Schedule I of the draft Bill lists only one "Underperforming Enterprise." It is Hotel Developers (Lanka) PLC but no details of the land allotted or other assets are listed. However, this is the owning company of Colombo Hilton. The land on which the hotel is located is the property of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and has been given on a 99-year lease to this firm. The company is enmeshed in litigation over various issues. The accumulated losses of the company are said to be Rs 10.3 billion. It is alleged that even the lease money has not been paid.

Schdeule II of the draft Bill lists 36 ventures that are described as "Underutilised Assets." Among them are:

  • "LAND COMPRISING OF PELWATTE SUGAR INDUSTRIES LIMITED: "The allotments of land forming the property of Pelwatte Sugar Industries Limited situated at Pelwatte in the District of Moneragala in the Uva province and containing in extent approximately 6300 acres."

In marked contrast to Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited, the schedule does not give details of land allotments, survey plans and the AGA divisions among others. Pelwatte Sugar Industries PLC (PSIPLC) is a Sri Lanka-based company engaged in cultivating sugar cane, manufacturing sugar, as well as marketing sugar and molasses. The Company's ultimate parent entity is Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka PLC, both owned by business tycoon Harry Jayawardena. This is a listed company that has shown increasing profitability. During the year ending September 30, 2011, Pelwatte had made a nett profit of Rs 778.4 million. In the previous year, its nett profit was Rs 408.05 million.

However, there is no mention of the Company's three subsidiaries: Pelwatte Sugar Distilleries (Private) Limited, which was active in manufacturing and selling spirits; Pelwatte Agriculture & Engineering Services (Private) Limited, which was involved in land preparation, repairing vehicles and machineries; and Pelwatte Dairy Industries Limited, which was ventured into producing and selling milk and milk-based products.

  • SINOTEX (LANKA) LTD. - Details of six different properties are given. Two years ago, Sinotex Lanka Ltd, a long established garment manufacturer in Sri Lanka and part of the Hong Kong based Crystal-Martin Group, is shutting down its factories after 27 years in business. A notice issued by the company said its decision to terminate operations was due to lack of orders from the US.
  • CEYLINCO LEISURE PROPERTIES LIMITED - Two different land allotments of this crisis ridden group are listed. They are unfinished multi-storied buildings along Galle Road, just near St Thomas' Preparatory School. These are prime properties which the government wants to complete and put to use.
  • JAQALANKA LIMITED - An extent of land in the Investment Promotion Zone in Katunayake is listed. Jaqalanka Ltd and Jaqalanka International Garment factories, manufacturing Nike brand apparel at Katunayake Free Trade Zone were closed down in 2008 displacing around 1,400 workers. This was due to a financial crisis and trade union problems.

The controversial draft legislation comes at a time when the government's attention is focussed on issues both locally and abroad. Anytime next week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa will receive the final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The western diplomatic community, that awaits the LLRC's findings, seemed even more concerned with the latest draft Bill. There is little doubt they would discourage entrepreneurs in their countries. They may even ask them to think twice before investing in Sri Lanka. However, Minister Rambukwella claims, the proposed new law "will not affect foreign investment." Only time will tell.

Sugar factory employees seek stay order from SC

Eleven employees of the Sevenagala Sugar Industries (Pvt) Ltd have complained to the Supreme Court that the Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets Bill to be introduced in parliament as urgent legislation is unconstitutional. They say it seeks to vest in the legislature powers which are executive and is anathema to the rule of law and good governance.

In a fundamental rights application, the petitioners including the General Manager (Joseph Chandran Attygala Abeyrathne of the Sevenagala Sugar Industries (Pvt) and ten other employees have cited Finance Ministry Secretary P.B .Jayasundera, the Prime Minister, 60 other CabinetMinisters (the entire Cabinet) and Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga as respondents.

In a petition filed by Paul Ratnayake Associates, the employees have sought for leave to proceed and requested for an interim order until the final determination of their application. They have sought a stay order on the operation of the decision to acquire the assets of the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited listed in schedule II of the draft Bill. They want the Court to quash the decision of the Cabinet to place the Bill before Parliament as urgent in the national interest. The petition has been listed for hearing on Tuesday - the day when Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, will announce the determination of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the draft Bill.

The petition before the SC details out the history of the Sevenagala Sugar Project/Plantation, commissioned in 1970, as part of a sugar manufacturing project to increase the domestic production of sugarcane and sugar to reduce imports and save foreign exchange.

The petition states that on or about January 2002, the Public Enterprises Reform Commission (PERC) called for proposals/bids from the Private Sector to purchase 90% of the issued capital of the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited. On or about 20th June 2002 Daya Apparel Exports (Private) Limited having been the successful bidder, entered into a share sale and purchase agreement with the Government and Sevanagala Sugar Industries Ltd whereby Daya Apparel Exports (Private) Limited had invested Rs.550 million to purchase 90% of the issued shares in the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited. The balance 10% of the shares were held by the employees of the company.

The petition adds: "they are aware that since then a further sum in excess of one billion rupees had been invested in modernizing the factory, equipment and for the purchase of the balance 10% shares held by the employees of the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited.

"Thereafter the Sevenagala Sugar IndustriesLimited entered into a lease agreement with the Government of SriLanka to lease out the lands under an agreement for 50 years with effect from June 20, 2002. The Sevanagala Sugar Industries Ltd. was being run as a viable enterprise contributing to the national economy as a result of which the employees of the company and cultivators of the area vastly benefited.
"They have become aware that a Bill titled the 'Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets Bill' had been referred by the President to the Supreme Court as an urgent bill in the national interest and asking for a determination in terms of Article 122 of the Constitution as to the Constitutionality of the said Bill. The Schedule II of the said Bill contains 28 properties which have been leased out to the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited by the State which are described in the said Bill as underutilized assets.

"They verily believe that the first Respondent (Secretary to the Ministry of Finance) has been instrumental in wrongly and/or without merit holding out to the President and the Minister of Economic Development that the Sevanagala Sugar Industries Ltd. has underutilized the 28 properties of Sevanagala Sugar Industries Ltd., listed in the Schedule II of the said Bill. All the properties which are leased to the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Limited have been utilized fruitfully especially in comparison to the manner in which they were utilized when it was a state enterprise.

"The Government of Sri Lanka presently owns two sugar enterprises namely Kanthale and Hingurana and both of them are non-operational and the decision to take over properties of a profit making institution while the government is unable to even operate similar organization is meritless. The Chairman of the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Ltd. and Daya Group of Companies Mr. Daya Gamage is a Provincial Council Member from the United National Party and also the organizer of that party for the Ampara Electorate. His wife Mrs. Anoma Gamage is a Member of Parliament from the National List of the United National Party and is also a Director of Daya Group of Companies, as well as Sevanagala Sugar Industries Ltd.

"The employees verily believe that the move to take over the assets of the Company is mala fide and is tainted with political bias and gravely affect their rights."

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Thursday granted leave to proceed in another fundamental rights petition filed by eleven employees of the Sevenagala Sugar Industries (PVt) Limited, alleging that they were unlawfully arrested. The case was listed for hearing on January 30, 2012.

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