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Contemplate filing FR pleas as MTD refuses registration
400 buyers of BOI company’s assembled vehicles left in the lurch

In an unprecedented development, 400 persons who had purchased motor vehicles assembled by a BOI-approved company in Sri Lanka are contemplating filing individual Fundamental Rights (FR) pleas before the Supreme Court following the Motor Traffic Department’s sudden refusal to register their automobiles.

A considerable number of vehicles assembled and sold by this company, Vehicles Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., were initially registered by the Department and are now in use, but this process was abruptly halted sparking protests from buyers, who had invested millions of rupees to acquire them.

"We have been left in the lurch", a buyer, who is spearheading the campaign to move the Supreme Court to seek justice, complained last week.

"At the time we purchased these vehicles, they were being registered and scores of them were on the roads, but this was suddenly stopped", he said. "We are now in a fix".

Assembled and sold under the brand name ‘Emperor’, the vehicles are competitive in price, he said. "They cost far less than most Japanese models".

Vehicles Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., was established in 2003 at the Minuwangoda Industrial Zone under a BOI investment. Its key line of business is importing vehicular parts, assembling and selling the units in Sri Lanka.

The process of filing the FR applications has been set in motion with the BOI Chairman, Finance Ministry Secretary, Transport Ministry Secretary, Economic Development Ministry Secretary, Motor Traffic Commissioner General, Customs Director-General, IGP and Managing Director, Vehicles Lanka Ltd., to be listed amongst the respondents, he said.

"We purchased these automobiles without any hesitation because they were assembled and sold by a BOI-approved company and moreover, they were registered hassle-free earlier", he explained.

"There is no provision under the law to register these assembled vehicles", a senior Motor Traffic Department (MTD) official asserted. "That’s why we are not doing it".

"There is clear legal provision under the Act, as amended, for registration", countered Harsha de Silva, Managing Director, Vehicles Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.

He referred to Section 241 of the Motor Traffic (Amendment) Act, No. 8 of 2009, which stated "(3) A person who on the date of the commencement of this Act, carries on the business of manufacturing, assembling, fabricating, innovating, adapting, modifying or changing the construction of a motor vehicles as the case may be, shall within three months from the date of commencement of this Act, apply in the prescribed Form to the Commissioner-General, accompanied by the prescribed fee, and obtain the written approval of the Commissioner-General for such business of manufacturing, assembling, fabricating, innovating, adapting, modifying or changing the construction of a motor vehicle as the case may be".

There is also provision under the Act for the Commissioner-General to refuse to grant approval if this had been done in an improper or unsatisfactory manner, not in conformity with the provisions of the Act or in a manner likely to endanger road safety or the environment.

This project was approved by the BOI because there was no legal impediment to do business, he noted. "The amendment has made the picture clearer".

"The Motor Traffic Department had registered around 400 of our vehicles earlier", the Managing Director asserted. "But, this was suddenly stopped".

He said the company moved the Supreme Court and the then Chief Justice, in an order, directed that the government should take a policy decision on this issue. This led to an amendment being introduced to the Motor Traffic Act of 2009 encompassing the business of manufacturing, assembling, fabricating, innovating, adapting, modifying or changing the construction of a motor vehicle

"We are in discussion with relevant officials pertaining to the implementation of the law, as amended, and look forward to clearing the way for registration again", De Silva noted. "We are doing our best".

"There is no option but to seek legal seek redress as we cannot use our vehicles without registration", the exasperated buyer pointed out. "Apart from assurances nothing tangible has happened".

He said that they also appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the relevant Ministers, but no relief has been forthcoming. "We continue to suffer and nobody in authority seems to care".

He requested people who are now in a quandary after purchasing these vehicles to contact him on 0772959070 so that they could join the campaign to seek justice.

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