Suspension of bulb exports
Local industry faces darkness

by Shamindra Ferdinando

A leading Sri Lankan energy saving bulb exporter warned that a recent Commerce Department decision, to suspend exports under the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA), would destroy the growing industry.

The suspension came into effect yesterday (1). This decision was taken after several unscrupulous persons were detected taking advantage of the ISFTA.

"They import complete bulbs on the pretext of importing raw material and then export them to India under the ISFTA," M. D. Kamal Priyawardane, a director of Siya Luckwin (Pvt) Ltd, told The Island yesterday. "They took undue advantage of the ISFTA. We welcome punitive action against them but unfortunately the Commerce Department decision threatens the entire industry including the genuine exporters," he said.

Priyawardane accused South Korean expatriates and their local collaborators of abusing the ISFTA facility. "Their actions prompted the Commerce Department to take action," D. Ambagahawatte, another senior representative of the Siya Luckwin, a BOI approved project told The Island.

They rapped the expatriates for unethical action that had jeopardized the entire industry. They accused them of trying to destroy the industry as they prepare to move on to another country. "They are ready to go. We are in a crisis due to their actions. The actions of an unscrupulous few," Ambagahawatte said, warning that a prolonged ban on exports would have a detrimental effect on the genuine exporters.

"We donot dispute the Commerce Department decision to take action. But wouldn’t it be better if counter measures were directed at those unscrupulous men, who are trying to earn a fast buck at the expense the industry," Priyawardane said.

Commerce Department Director Gen. K. J. Weerasinghe recently warned that shipments wouldn’t be permitted unless the Customs confirmed that exporters concerned had imported the required law material. Weerasinghe has emphasized that all exporters should apply for Certificate of Origin ahead of effecting shipment.

Answering questions, Priyawardane said, "`85We are seriously concerned. Our workers are upset as their jobs are on the line. Authorities must act swiftly to save the industry."

He said that Siya Luckwin had employed about 100 persons, about sixty of them on permanent basis. "We began operations in December, 2002. Since then we have exported over 5.7 million bulbs. India’s largest importer is with us," he said, adding that the crisis is having a harmful impact on the Siya Luckwin. "We are a 100 per cent Sri Lankan operation. The ongoing crisis is threatening everything we did over the past two years," Priyawardane, formerly of the CEB said.

"The guilty must be punished. There is no dispute over that. But why should we suffer for their sins," he said.


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