Industrialist turned Ampara district UNP organizer Daya Gamage who owns the Sevanagala Sugar Industries Ltd. yesterday said direct and indirect livelihoods of around 50,000 people would be at stake due to the government’s plan to acquire properties of his factory through the proposed ‘Revival of Underperforming and Underutilized Assets Bill’. Addressing a hurriedly summoned media conference, Mr. Gamage said the entire manufacturing process had come to a standstill with a stock of sugar worth Rs. 300 million stuck inside the factory as of yesterday.
Mr. Gamage who is also the opposition leader of the Eastern Provincial said some ‘goons’ had surrounded the factory blocking the entrance while one of the directors had been assaulted. He also alleged the Sevanagala police backed by the goons had made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a stay order from courts to prevent the transportation of stocks.
“I had to endure a lot of hardship in my life to become a successful entrepreneur. My father died when I was three, and my mother when I was six. My uncle who looked after me also died when I was 16. I terminated my school education at that time to do some work to finance the university education of my sister. After I stopped my studies, I went to Ampara with Rs. 50 only in my pocket. I cultivated the lands that belonged to my father. I achieved my current position through many difficulties,” he said with tears streaming down his cheeks.
He said the country’s sugar production would decline because of the prevailing situation. Mr. Gamage said distribution of sugar cane seedlings to the farmers had also come to a standstill though the cultivating season had begun.
“It is the country which is going to suffer. I have nothing to lose,’ he said again with tearful eyes.
Mr. Gamage who came out with what he had to undergo after buying over Sevanagala Sugar Industries said only 469 hectares were transferred to him during the privatization process out of which 46 hectares were taken over by the people in the area through forceful encroachment in 2004. This he said was a result of political influence. Coming up with more details on his bitter experience he said he was forced to form a micro finance company to provide financial assistance for the farmers to purchase fertilizer when leading state sector banks refused to provide credit to him.
Mr. Gamage said he was able to turn the company into a profit making company and earned Rs 600 million profit during the past three years. He said the profit had exceeded Rs 200 million this year as well. The Sevanagala Chief said the factory was currently run by power generated from sugar cane waste instead of furnace oil
“Do not consider me as a politician but as an entrepreneur and let me play a part in the country’s development,” he said alleging that someone had misled President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the cabinet to bring what he called this draconian piece of legislation. In addition he said attempts were being made to brief President Rajapaksa on the situation.