Financial Times

Harry's attempt to appoint wife foiled - Stassens saga

By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

An attempt by business tycoon Harry Jayawardena to appoint his wife as a director in Stassen Exports Plc (SEP) and Milford Exports Plc (MEP)) was foiled by the two remaining directors of these two firms when they went to courts against him on Friday.The two cases were filed by Raj Obeysekere and Zaki Alif, both directors at SEP and MEP against Mr. Jayawardena and the company secretaries of the two firms.

The two parties are currently embroiled in a battle to split their two companies. "Both these companies were to have their Annual General Meetings, (AGMs) tomorrow as per the Registrar of Companies' direction through a letter on October 9 saying they had not had AGMs and to do so before 35 days lapsed from the date of the letter," a SEP source told The Sunday Times FT. He said after this notice was sent to the shareholders, Mr. Jayawardena had sent a purported resolution proposing that his wife, Priya Jayawardena be nominated as a director. "Then Mr. Alif and Mr. Obeysekere went to the Commercial High Court saying this notice is invalid and against the provisions of the Companies' Act and the Articles of the two companies,” he said.

He said this was taken up in court and supported, with Mr. Jayawardena's lawyers vigourously opposing it. "After a suggestion by Judge Rohini Walgama saying that the two parties come to some settlement regarding the AGMs which are to be held tomorrow, they agreed to postpone tomorrow's meeting," he added.

Also the respondents will file objections to this application for the interim order next Friday. The petitioners have been allowed to file counter objections if necessary and both parties are to file written submissions on November 24.

For the Petitioners Romesh de Silva, PC with Chanaka de Silva, Aruna Samarjeewa, Sugath Caldera, Shanaka Cooray and Eraj de Silva instructed by G.G. Arulpragasam appeared. Nihal Fernando PC with Rajindra Jayasinghe appeared for Mr. Jayawardena.

The petitioners in June asked for an interim order – which was given -- preventing the company and or Mr. Jayawardena taking any step whatsoever to alter the present status quo of the Board of Directors of the company until the final hearing and determination of this action. In Stassen's, they collectively hold 49.99 percent, while at Milford their stock amount to 40 percent.

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