Financial Times

Sri Lanka, Myanmar help each other - Minister
By Quintus Perera
Mervyn walks in
Controversial Labour Minister Mervyn Silva walked into the exhibition hall even before it was opened on the inaugural day on Saturday. While Dr Amunugama was waiting for the auspicious time to declare open the show, Mr Silva entered the exhibition venue and later walked out before puzzled invitees waiting for the opening.

Despite its difficulties with trade sanctions, Myanmar has helped to improve the gem industry here in Sri Lanka is prepared to assist them in the same manner – just like how Sri Lanka exported tea to Iraq when that country was under strict sanctions, noted Minister of Enterprises Development and Investment Promotion Dr Sarath Amunugama.

Speaking at the 18th Facets Sri Lanka, the Premier Gem and Jewellery Show held at the BMICH last week, the Minister said gem and jewellery sourcing countries such as Madagascar, Indonesia and Myanmar from a disorganized position are now organizing to improve and develop the industry and now have brought (their own) in new laws. It would be a challenge to Sri Lanka's industry. But, he said that this country should not be jealous or critical of those attitudes and while trying to help them wherever possible, Sri Lanka should change its attitudes to maintain its standing as a top gem sourcing country.
He said the presence of the two delegations - one from Myanmar and the other from China - indicated that distinctive recognition of the fair is in place. He appreciated the hard work of the Facets organizers to conduct the fair successfully for the 18th consecutive year.

Foreign exhibitors at the Fair.

He stressed the importance of holding national and international exhibitions and trade fairs and said that they are the latest methods of attracting buyers, specially international buyers, for Lankan products. He said that this method has shown great results as many countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and China are reaping rich dividends by holding international trade fairs and exhibitions. He said that when the commerce and industry sector gets better, the country also gets better.

The Minister said that now is the opportune time to make proposals as the national budget is now being prepared. He said that the Gem and Jewellery Association gave some proposals last year and all those proposals were incorporated in the budget.

He said the aim of the gem industry is to reach a target of $1billion within a couple of years, but there are so many challenges and the industry must change to face these challenges and achieve the desired target.

Macky Hashim, Chairman, Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association, said that Sri Lanka has been known as one of the major sourcing countries of precious stones in the world. He said the Facets Show has been very successful and the success is portrayed in holding this show for the 18th consecutive year.
He said that everything has been finalized to establish a laboratory to test gem stones and the necessary funds have already been allocated. Once this laboratory is established it would be equipped to issue certificates on gems that would be internationaly recognized.

Ahsan Refaj, Managing Director, Zam Gems (Pvt) Ltd, a Sri Lankan company who had a stall at the Exhibition, told The Sunday Times FT that they own the second most valuable gem stone in the world - 'Alexandrite' - valued at a massive $1.3 million. The most valuable gem in the world is owned by the Queen Elizabeth.

The country of origin of 'Alexandrite' stone is Madagascar and it was purchased by a syndicate, one of whom is Mr Refaj and was originally purchased as a rough stone. Later Mr Refaj paid the other partners and owned the entire gem. It weighs 41 carets. He said that in daylight it glitters in green and in artificial light it glitters in Rose berry Red. They were not willing to exhibit this most valuable gem at Facets, as it involved a massive security risk.

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