No plans to retake Sevanagala: Daya Gamage

Friday, 21 June 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



  • Calls on lawmakers to support investor-friendly legislation as controversial Takeover Act repealed 

By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

Tycoon-turned-politician, Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Minister Daya Gamage yesterday insisted he would not be resuming management of Sevanagala Sugar Industries even though the controversial Takeover Act introduced by the previous Government had been repealed. 

Minister Daya Gamage

Minister Gamage, calling on lawmakers to vote in favour of repealing the controversial Revival of Underperforming Enterprises or Underutilised Assets Bill, said: “I don’t want the Sevanagala sugar factory back. It has continued to incur losses after being snatched by the Rajapaksa Government. The loss in the Financial Year 2019 alone comes to Rs. 46 million. I turned around the loss-making Sevanagala sugar company. Compared to any other lawmaker, my wife and I paid the highest tax to State coffers. We have not evaded tax. By repealing this Act, we will be able to re-establish investor confidence to a certain extent for both local and foreign ventures willing to come to Sri Lanka.” According to Minister Gamage, he was not in politics when he took over Sevanagala by winning a tender. “I was not in politics when I took over Sevanagala, which had made a loss of Rs. 146 million then. As an ordinary businessman, I took part in the tender at the last moment with an offer of Rs. 550 million to take 90% of the stake. I found the money for this tender by joining hands with a Chinese investor who was keen to invest with me. Due to his enthusiasm, I proposed he invest 75% of the required capital while I put the remaining 25%. The security bond was Rs. 55 million, which was placed using a personal deposit I had in Sampath Bank,” he said.

“During the Rajapaksa era, the Government took over an Indian company and a Singaporean company. Having received a telephone call from the Indian High Commission, the Indian company was returned back to its owners. The Singaporean Government forced the President to return the Singaporean company before his scheduled visit to Singapore. So, the Singaporean company was also returned. But the Government took the Sevanagala sugar company from me forcefully, leaving behind over Rs. 1,100 million worth of bank loans obtained for the development for me to settle,” he said.

The Minister also held that, currently, Sri Lanka’s sugar production was far below its potential and this could be increased to 100% by harvesting 65,000ha of land and cultivating sugarcane. 

Highlighting political reasons for which he and his businesses got penalised by the Rajapaksa Government, the Minister said: “I haven’t seen a person as bad as Basil Rajapaksa. He was the first person in this Parliament who moved a motion to take over the property of another MP by raising a hand. I was in the Parliament Gallery when the debate took place. I met Mahinda Rajapaksa. He proposed I join his party or leave politics. I was also offered the role of organiser for Ampara. We are UNP-ers and have seen the policies of the party that developed the country. This is how the former Government destroyed the Sinhala Buddhist businessmen. 

This is similar to the destruction of Sinhala bus companies by Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s Government. Last year’s balance sheet shows a loss of Rs. 46 million during the last Financial Year. Governments can’t run businesses. SriLankan Airlines is another example. Who will bear the loss? It is the public and the employees who would suffer. I request all lawmakers to, regardless of the side you take, please think about the people of this country.”