Call for establishment of a strong, independent Public Private Partnership Unit to encourage investment to Sri Lanka 
Posted on July 26th, 2016

Sarath Obeysekera  ( Phd-in small letters !)

July 25, 2016, 7:53 pm             Business News –The Island    ………….

By Malith Mendis, who is currently the chairman and Managing Director of Mendis Cobain Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, is the Immediate past president of the Association of Consulting Engineers Sri Lanka. A former Head of the Lanka Hydraulic Institute, (which was heavily involved in the design of Colombo South and Hambantota harbours), Mendis is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka and also a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, UK. He is also the Country Representative of the Dispute Resolution Board Foundation and a Member of the Capacity Building Committee of FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Engineers) and Society of Structural Engineers Sri Lanka. Furthermore he has carried out Contracts Training in Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Samoa, Brunei, Maldives, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Seychelles.

I do not have many  letters at the end of my name except three letters  of qualification I got from  a free education in Communist Russia .You do not have to be a lawyer or an Harward Trained  expert in economics to understand and implement PPP .

We have seen ordinary medium educated Sri Lankan living in Sri Lanka mooting PPP’s Even if the government has the wit to implement PPP’s there is no Endurance to Sustain .I personally wrote many many times about the PPP.s.and elaborated the importance.

China Russia and even Vietnam with basic -communist ideology in governance are going for PPP,s and even full privatization .

To implement any program of PPP,it is essential that, not only a corporate entity becomes partner but also the workers and the people .

I will tell you a classic example of three industrial establishments I personally got involved which are quite successful today .

Colombo Dockyard ( CDL) ,Walkers Colombo Shipyard in   and Walkers Galle Shipyard  in Galle are all based in PPP concept in many ways .

CDL which was an organization fully owned by the government was privatised in seventies under UNP  and 51% shares were taken over by a Japanese Company.

When It was privatised , a particular union was  objecting .

Government agreed to give 10% of the shares to the workers and balance shares were floated in the share market .Few state agencies have also acquired shares .When I took over helm of this new PPP- entity from mismanaged corrupted and infested with directors appointed by the ministers and President,during the first board meeting we kicked out all the stooges in the board who has promised  10% shares  to the workers, and it was never given

.I personally went to see the president of the country at that time HE Wijethunge with the progressive Trade Union Leader and explained that we have to allocate the 10% shares to the workers.

There is an interesting dialogue  when I went to see him .

I never  did politics and I never met the president  before .

By that time I was holding two jobs .I was the Chairman SLLRDC and CEO of CDL.

Though I was not supposed to hold one job in Government sector and another one in Private sector.I was told to stay by the minister until they find an alternative.

Chairman President Wijethunga asked who am I ,and also my background .

I told him that I am still the chairman SLLRDC in addition to being CEO of CDL.

I told him that I am Sarath Madduma Banda Obeysekera !

In  Sinhala I told him that I am Sabhapathi Pahath Bim Sanwardane Manadalaya” and he quipped how can an obeysekera working in low lying area” in Sinhala  Kohomada obeysekera kenek ‘pahath bim walee wada karran ??!!”

He may have been a proud Kandyan !

That was his wit and humour and he was a very genuine leader and  kind hearted .I explained that workers of CDL are entitled to 10% shares and the government has neglected the promise .

He immediately called Chairman Bank of Ceylon which held more than 10% shares and called Secretary  of Treasury to transfer shares to the company .

I distributed shares to all the workers ( except myself as  I was not entitled) within two weeks. Workers became part public owners of the company .I bought few thousand shares myself from stock the  market. ( became a  private share holder !)

Important thing is he did not ask even the prime minister to initiate action .

My story may be confirmed by Minister Rajitha Senaratne who was with HE at that moment !

Today ,can  you find any President or a Prime  Minister or Finance Minister who can take  a bold step like what President Wijethunga did.   ???

The Union affiliated to a leftist party which keep hampering all the PPP’s in the country were dumfounded by  my action and kept quiet for  almost five years .

After more than over 20 years I returned home from greener  pastures and mooted two more small shipyards on similar basis, where government has become  partners of the Business Entities in Mutwal and Galle by sharing profits and Royalties   for using the state lands .

We have politicians today who are globetrotting and making speeches in Davos ,Singapore ,China ,Hongkong and India.

But the President ( short lived) who was running the country during  my time in CDL with no much qualification such as Sorbone ,or Law College or Oxford  took bold decisions an felt the pulse of the people

Today when such request or need arises government caves into Union pressure ( This Union which are of the minority –but being able to install low cost  Cudgen Hut   ( sic ?) made of coconut leaves and some nicely written eye catching banners- who either go to Lipton Circle or Ayurveda Junction where all the motorists stuck in traffic jams watch and think Oh is this public or private opinion ?” ) and never being able to implement PPP .

I tend to call PPP as follows

Push for People’s Participation

Because the word Private  in  Private Public Partnership  is hated by Unions ( like   kerosin to a snake   !!!!!!!( Garandiya) –

President should take charge and guide the nation by becoming a Benevolent Dictator like Wijethunga

( if this article/opinion  is never published because press gets scared .I intend to write memoirs and include it for future generation to read )

Sarath Obeysekera  ( Phd-in small letters !)

One Response to “Call for establishment of a strong, independent Public Private Partnership Unit to encourage investment to Sri Lanka ”

  1. Nimal Says:

    We must allow the hardworking private sector to run our services. Services such as the national airline, most of the banking should be run by the private sector companies without the interference of the crooked politicians.
    Part of the Cylinco group’s business was taken over by the state in 1960 which was not fair.
    Politicians must run the country without getting involved with business ventures or ventures where they take commissions thus putting the future of the country into debt.Politicans must put the country’s welfare at heart, serve the people but not themselves..

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