By Shamindra Ferdinando
General Secretary of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) Vasudeva Nanayakkara, MP, yesterday (20) said that the UNP had sold the urea plant at Sapugaskanda to a foreign buyer who set it up in an Arab country.Having brought the machinery as scrap iron the buyer had re-installed the machinery and today Sri Lanka procured urea from that facility, Nanayakkara said.
The veteran politician called what the UNP had done a crime by the nation. The former minister said so when The Island sought an explanation from him about his brief exchange with UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena on Saturday (19) during the fifth day of the 2023 Budget debate.MP Nanayakkara said that those who had sold such a valuable national asset owed the country an apology as the hapless people struggled to cope up with the ever-worsning economic-political-social crisis.
When MP Abeywardena recalled the assassination of Industries Development Minister C. V. Gooneratne about a week after he informed Parliament of an agreement Sri Lankan entered into with a US firm to produce fertiliser here, Nanayakkara asid, “Who sold the urea plant as scrap iron, please tell us?”
MP Abeywardena only said that Sri Lanka had a lot of scrap iron, which had to be disposed of. The UNPer refrained from responding to MP Nanayakkara’s query.An LTTE suicide bomber killed Minister Gooneratne along with 22 others, including his wife, at Ratmalana, on June 7, 2000.
Abeywardena entered Parliament in July this year, filling the vacancy created by Ranil Wickremesinghe’s election as the President to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksas’s five-year term.Nanayakkara alleged that Budget 2023, presented by President Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, on 14 Nov., had revealed that the latter’s strategies hadn’t changed. It was clear that the incumbent government was taking advantage of the current economic crisis and planning to dispose of many profit-making public sector ventures, the former minister in charge of water supply and drainage told The Island.
Lawmaker Nanayakkara quit the Cabinet after the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked his Cabinet colleagues Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila in the first week of March this year over their opposition to the sale of 40 percent shares of the Yugadanavi power plant to US-based New Fortress Energy.Responding to another query, MP Nanayakkara, who represented the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, said that its members wouldn’t vote for the Budget. The outfit consists of lawmakers who entered Parliament on the SLPP ticket and National List MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana of Our Power of People Party (OPPP).
At the onset of MP Abeywardena’s speech, he dealt with a spate political assassinations and attempted assassinations, beginning with grenade attack on the UNP group meeting in Parliament, chaired by the then President J.R. Jayewardena, in August 1987. Having referred to the 2019 April Easter Sunday carnage, lawmaker Abeywardena asked whether Sri Lanka’s economy was being controlled by external elements. The former minister stressed the responsibility on the part of the Central Bank to work in accordance with the policies of the government, whether they were right or wrong.
MP Nanayakkara questioned who benefited from the sale of the urea plant.Geologist Dulip Jayawardena, involved in the examination of the Sapugaskanda site, said that the plant had been built in the early 80s by British firm Kellogg Overseas Corporation. Jayawardena said that the plant built over a period of nearly four years was capable of producing 980 tons of urea a day.
The State Fertiliser Manufacturing Corporation (SFMC) had been established as a wholly-owned Government entity, under the State Industrial Corporation Act of 1973, and was expected to meet Sri Lanka’s demand, the former official said.
Jayawardena pointed out how the powers that be deprived urea plants of raw material naphtha by exporting the same. According to him, international bids were called in 1986 and the plant was sold to an Indian company. Jayawardena claimed that the selling price of the urea plant that had been in operation from 1982 to 1985 was never disclosed.