Expropriated ventures: Owners’ second chance

By Bandula Sirimanna

Former owners of business ventures taken over under the Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets law are to be offered a second chance to run their ventures, a Finance Ministry official said yesterday.

This will be done only if they provide a “viable business plan” to develop them in conjunction with the Competent Authorities already appointed. The Government will, however, retain the ownership of these enterprises. They will remain vested with the state.

The new law makes provision for existing operators or owners to reach an agreement with the CAs to continue to manage the enterprises. As an initial step, a Finance Ministry official said, the CAs will assess the assets including machinery, equipment and other facilities before formulating their next course of action.

He said the government had not taken action to seal these enterprises because the employees were reporting to work. Legal action would be taken against the owners if they had removed any movable property or withdrawn any material including machinery belonging to the expropriated enterprises; he said adding that he believed no such thing happened because of constant vigilance of employees.

Daya Group of Companies Chairman Daya Gamage who owned the Sevenagala Sugar Industries Ltd. said his company was ready to move out of Sevenagala but the government should pay proper compensation. He said he had no intention to continue operations and it was up to the CA to take a decision.

Mr. Gamage said he was not informed about the procedure that would be followed by the government.
Ariyaseela Wikramanayake, Managing Director Pelwatte Sugar Industries PLC, said the company was continuing its operations as it was not informed about the expropriation procedure. He said there was no sugar crushing at the factory now because of the off season but the replanting of sugar cane was underway.

Mr. Wikramanayake said his company was prepared to present a business plan if the government requested it. Anyway the company had doubled the sugar production capacity from 2700 MT to 4500 MT of sugar cane at present, he claimed.

The government has appointed competent authorities, a ministerial committee and a 3-member compensation committee to oversee 37 expropriated assets and enterprises and assets. Lawyer Kalinga Indatissa has been appointed competent authority for Lanka Tractors (properties in Pettah and Narahenpita), Chalmers Granaries (in Pettah), Ceylinco Leisure Properties Ltd (Kollupitiya) and Intertrade Lanka (Pvt) Ltd (in Fort).

Lawyer Senaka Walgampaya has been appointed as CA for Hotel Developers Lanka, the management company of Colombo Hilton. The Hambantota District Secretary has been appointed as the competent authority for Pelwatte Sugar, the Moneragala District Secretary as CA for Sevenagala Sugar, the Badulla District Secretary for property of Colombo Commercial Company in Badulla.

Tuly Cooray has been appointed for other expropriated assets, which are Board of Investment approved defunct factories.

A ministerial committee chaired by Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa has also been appointed. The other members are Ministers Dilan Perera, Reginald Cooray, Lakshman Seneviratne, and Deputy Finance Minister Geethanjana Gunawardena.

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