The UNP yesterday lashed out at the government for a controversial move to rush through a Bill titled ‘Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets’.
The UNP has alleged that the Rajapaksa administration is playing politics with the national economy.
In a letter to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga has warned that some provisions of the Bill are bound to have an adverse impact on the economy.
The following is the full text of MP Amaratunga’s letter:
“The Government has referred to the Supreme Court a Bill titled “Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets” as an urgent Bill in the national interest and reportedly the Supreme Court has held that the Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution and could be enacted with a simple majority in Parliament.
We also learn that the Government intends presenting this Bill in Parliament and passing it in sitting week beginning 8th of November, 2011.
The purport of the Bill as set out in Section 2 is to vest in the Secretary to the Treasury what are described as underperforming enterprises or underutilized assets which are deemed to have an adverse impact on the national economy.
Underutilized Assets are described as follows in Section 9:
(a) land, that was owned by the Government or a Government Agency and alienated within a period of twenty years prior to the date of the coming into operation of this Act, to any person by transferring freehold or leasehold rights or through a divestiture on the basis that the related operations proposed to be carried out on such land will result in generating employment, foreign exchange earnings or savings or economic activities, beneficial to the public, but where such benefits as aforesaid have not accrued, being prejudicial to the national economic and public interest;
(b) land owned by a person that had been granted within a period of twenty years prior to the date of the coming into operation of this Act, either, any tax incentives under any law relating to the imposition an recovery of any tax, incentives under the Board of Investment Law or regulations framed there under, or any Government Guarantee, on the basis that the related operations proposed to be carried out connected thereto will result in generating employment, foreign exchange earnings or savings or economic activities, beneficial to the public but where such benefits as aforesaid have not accrued, being prejudicial to the national economy and public interest.
While Underperforming Enterprises are described as follows also in Section 9:
A Company or other authority, institution or body established by or under any written law for the time being in force, in which the Government owns shares and where the Government has paid contingent liabilities of such enterprise and the Government is engaged in protracted litigation with regard to such enterprise which is prejudicial to the national economy and public interest.
Among the many Underutilized Assets set out are (Schedule 2):
(1) Land Comprising of Pelwatte Sugar Industries Limited
(2) Land Comprising of Sevanagala Sugar Industries Limited
(3) Ceylinco Leisure Properties Limited
We strongly object to the manner in which the Government is seeking to rush through with this legislation which in addition is violative of the fundamental rights of a citizen to engage in lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise.
We also wish to point out that Pelwatte Sugar Industries Limited is by no means an Underutilized Asset, it is an on-going fully operational and profitable enterprise and is a public quoted company.
Sevanagala Sugar Industries Limited though a privately owned company is also a fully operational on-going, profitable venture. So much so that His Excellency the President himself renewed the lease on this land just a few months ago.
Ceylinco Leisure Properties Limited belongs to Ceylinco Group of Companies. The depositors in several of the troubled Ceylinco subsidiary companies are now in Court seeking return of their investments and this property if bound to be included in any compensation scheme with the courts will finally draw up.
In the circumstances we of the United National Party strongly urge the Government to reconsider this Bill in this entirety and in any event special consideration be given to three companies mentioned above.”