PM came to know only in the morning: Rajitha

Published : 8:04 am  January 26, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 


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By Sandun A Jayasekera
 Cabinet spokesman, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne yesterday said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe got to know about the investor of the proposed tyre factory in Horana only in the morning of the stone -laying ceremony and was considering whether to go or not.

BUP(EH)LATE-CITY-DM-1He added that Mr. Wickremesinghe decided to participate in the ceremony on January 5th as it was a major employment-generating investment and the plaque had already been erected at the site.   

Minister Senaratne also said the government would reassess the land value of the 100 acres given to the proposed tyre factory in Horana and added Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reluctant to participate in the stone-laying ceremony on January 5th after he learnt as to who was the investor.   

Addressing the weekly Cabinet news briefing yesterday, Minister Senaratne said it was a blunder made by the subject minister to give the 100 acre plot of land at Rs. 100 per acre on a 99 year lease for the controversial project and added the land would be given on lease on its commercial value.   

Minister Senaratne admitted that the clearing of the land at the site has been suspended at the moment.

  “When I was the Minister of Land, I changed the law in 2003 that permitted the lease of state lands for Rs. 45 per acre that had been enacted during the colonial period. Under the current law, no state lands could be sold and maximum lease period is 99 years.

 Therefore, this land will be re-leased after a proper assessment and charged the commercial value of the land,” Minister Senaratne said.   Responding to a journalist, Minister Senaratne admitted that the investor Nandana Lokuwithana was a close buddy of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family and aided people with money change their colours as and when they feel opportune.   

Mr. Lokuwithana is to invest US$ 75 million (Rs.11. 25 billion) as a BOI project and the stone laying ceremony was held on January 5th.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) has also given a huge tax holiday to the project in addition to leasing the land for a pittance.   

Under the agreement reached with the BOI, Mr. Lokuwithana will also receive a discount of 70% for the premium he must deposit for the 100 acres at Rs. 10,000 per year for the 100 acres.   

Minister Senaratne said the Cabinet and the CCEM discussed the project at length and President Maithripala Sirisena decreed that the subject Minister must submit the Cabinet paper for any project hereafter despite the CCEM giving the nod to go ahead for any project.