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EDITORIAL

Plunder at KKS

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Thursday 3rd August, 2023

The problem with most political dregs in Sri Lanka is that they are elected to Parliament, where horizontally-gifted and intellectually-challenged members far outnumber decent, educated, intelligent, capable ones. Worse, they become ministers and indulge in corrupt practices and enrich themselves with impunity.

Doomed is a nation ruled by a bunch of semi-literate ministers who are living the high life, having started out as chain snatchers, cattle rustlers, pickpockets, etc. These characters are the biggest obstacle to national progress. This may explain why Sri Lanka remains a developing country and is in penury at present.

It has been reported that heaps of scrap metal, mostly steel, are being removed from the now-defunct KKS cement factory by the people living in a nearby village. These reports are true, but there is more to the story. The village adjoining the KKS cement factory has been there since 2015, and there had been no incidents of theft of metal until about a few months ago. There is reason to believe that conditions were created for the villagers to remove small amounts of metal which they can carry with their hands so that the real racketeers who plunder steel by the truckload can scapegoat them? Behind every racket in this country, there is a politician.

It is not difficult to find out who is responsible for the ongoing plunder of the KKS cement factory assets. If a probe is launched, investigators should ascertain who ordered the army to vacate the factory premises. The presence of the army prevented unauthorised persons from entering the place. There are some more questions to which they should find answers. What action has the current Chairman of the Cement Corporation taken to prevent the theft of steel, etc? How many trips has he made to Jaffna during the past several months? Have seven persons from Badulla been stationed in what remains of the KKS cement factory? Whose henchmen are they? On whose orders were they hired, and who pays their salaries? Are the Cement Corporation officials prevented from entering the KKS factory premises?

There was a plan to revive the KKS cement factory when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the President, but it has been shelved since his ouster. Those who have been trying to rebuild the KKS cement factory insist that if it resumes operations, production costs can be kept low, due to the deposits of clinker, the main raw material used in manufacturing cement, in the area, and a bag of cement can be sold at less than half the current market price; imported cement has a very high mark-up. This will be a boon to the local construction industry, and the country will be able to save a great deal of forex. Besides, employment opportunities can be made available to the northern youth in case of the cement factory being brought back to life.

Curiously, State Minister for Primary Industries Chamara Sampath Dasanayake has retained his hold on the Cement Corporation although it has been placed under the Finance Ministry. President Wickremesinghe is the Finance Minister, and the blame for the plunder of steel, etc., in KKS will be laid at the President’s door although neither he nor his party, the UNP, has anything to do with it. State Minister Dasanayake seems to think he is above the President, and he should be asked to explain why he continues to keep the Cement Corporation under his thumb and has failed to prevent the theft of metal at the KKS factory.

If President Wickremesinghe cares to order the CID to conduct a probe into the theft of metal from the KKS cement factory, we can furnish necessary information about the amount of metal found in the abandoned factory complex when Dasanayake assumed duties as the State Minister for Primary Industries had the Cement Corporation under his purview. We can also make available reports containing images of the old machines and steel structures and the estimates of steel, brass and other metals, prepared by the Industrial Development Board. Will the President get cracking?

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