Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena’s allegation early this week that the tobacco industry had attempted to bribe him enough for many generations to stop new legislations on pictorial warning has shocked corporate Sri Lanka whilst Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc (CTC) has denied the move.
During a felicitation ceremony on Monday at Royal College in Polonnaruwa in recognition of WHO’s special award for him in recognition of his service, Minister Sirisena had alleged that tobacco industry had attempted to bribe him. The money offered to him was sufficient for 14 generations to live in a first world country, he had claimed.
However, CTC in a statement yesterday said: “As the only legal cigarette manufacturer in Sri Lanka, we categorically deny any involvement in the activities that have been referenced in recent media coverage.”
“CTC has operated lawfully in Sri Lanka for over 100 years. It is one of the best governed companies in the country with an impeccable reputation built on the highest standards of corporate conduct,” the statement added.
Analysts said given the standing of CTC in the corporate world and the fact that it is a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, the sixth largest company listed on the London Stock Exchange, the Minister’s allegation was serious and had a direct bearing on credentials for doing business and investing in Sri Lanka.
“Ideally, the Minister should lodge a complaint with the Bribery Commissioner for necessary action. If not he should not make statements that endanger the credibility of a multinational in Sri Lanka,” they opined.
The 111-year-old BAT has a market-leading position in over 50 countries and operations in around 180 countries.
Minister Sirisena alleged that the tobacco industry had sent some person to him for a discussion while others wanted to see him at home or in Parliament. He claimed that many in the tobacco industry wanted him to stop his anti-smoking campaign and he didn’t want the money offered.
The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Gazette notification issued by the Health Ministry to have pictorial health warnings on 80% of the cover of cigarette packets until 22 January 2014 in view of pending hearing of related cases.