JEDB estates on the brink of insolvency

By Steve A. Morrell

Plantations managed by state controlled Janatha Estates Development Board (JEDB) are nearing insolvency. Apart from financial inputs for payment of wages, working capital funding have been withdrawn by the government which controls the JEDB, sources said.

The Secretary General of the Ceylon Planters’ Society Lt. Col. (Ret) Leslie Marshal said reports received from these estates were so serious that the JEDB estates numbering about 20 faced closure.

Repercussions of such limitations on funds allocations, will have serious down grading effects on production. Results will be disastrous. The JEDB is responsible for crediting the estates with working capital to ensure normal routine would not be disrupted. Sources said the JEDB have not credited these funds as required, sources said.

Additionally, two Estate Superintendents have been issued arrest warrants because EPF and gratuity have not been paid. They have informed the JEDB that they are leaving the estates fearing arrest because these statutory payments were not made. They said the JEDB were adequately informed that these payments were mandatory and there was no choice but to make these payments. They had informed the JEDB long before this crisis but they were not taken seriously by the main office in Colombo.

The absence of funds in the JEDB accounts had provoked felling of trees to make good these payments. The domino effect of indiscreet felling of trees would have serious effects on the environment, and they strongly deprecated these moves.

Although trees were felled on estates for fuel, such trees were selectively sawn. The fuel trees were numbered and specific inventories of growth were maintained. On reaching maturity, usually in about twenty years, trees were felled under strict supervision. This was no more the applicable norm, sources said.

All fuel allowances have been withdrawn, including requirements to run water pumps for maintaining plant nurseries. These nursery plants are progressively dying because of lack of water.

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