The Sunday Leader

Mineral Sands Employees Up In Arms

by Nirmala Kannangara

Copy of the letter from the Department of
Management Services

The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen has come under severe criticism for his attempt to make Lanka Mineral Sands Limited a cash strapped institution. Mineral Sands employees are up in arms against Minister Bathiudeen for recruiting 117 labourers as trainees subjected on casual basis last year for its Pulmudai plant although there was no such requirement.

Bypassing Election Commissioner’s strict regulations, Minister Bathiudeen had employed 117 casual employees to the Pulmudai plant although there was no work to assign them.

“Despite of the Elections Commissioner’s strict orders, Minister Bathiudeen got these workers absorbed on trainee basis after the 2015 August general election was announced. When a complaint was lodged with the Elections Commiossioner Mahinda Deshapriya, he reprimanded the higher officials not to violate the election regulations. Despite this strict warning, on the directives of Minister Bathiudeen, 120 trainee labourers were immediately recruited.  Although the letters of appointment were backdated to show the appointments were made before the Election Commissioner’s regulations came into effect, the dates of the faxes sent to them clearly shows as to when they were given employment,” sources attached to Lanka Mineral Sands Limited said.

It is also learnt as to how Lanka Mineral Sands Limited had interviewed these trainees two months after they were hurriedly absorbed to the institution.

“Although the general practice is to interview the applicants before giving them a training, what they did was to first recruit them with the view of getting votes to Minister Bathiudeen at the August 17 general election and then to interview them on October 12 and 13, 2015. In a letter dated October 14, 2015, Administrative Officer Pulmudai has written to the Deputy General Manager (Administration and Human Resources) that the interviews were held on October 12 and 13 in the presence of S. Gnaneshwaran (Mechanical Engineer), R. M. R. Bandara (Mechaical Engineer) and A. Thilakaratne (Administrative Officer),” sources said.

It is learnt that Lanka Mineral Sands Limited (LMSL) that had mined mineral sands over the past 50 years along the beach from Pulmudai Kokilai are now running dry of mineral sands and the institution is hardly making money.

“We still have bulk stocks of mineral sands and are running the institution with the sale of the stocks we have. We hardly get mineral sands along the four-mile long Pulmudai-Kokilai beach stretch now and are waiting to get the new mining licence for the Kokilai mineral deposit which is situated beyond the Kokilai Bay,” sources said.

According to the sources, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) and the Central Environment Authority (CEA) has to grant licences to LMSL to mine mineral sand in the Kokilai deposit and Minister Bathiudeen hasn’t shown any interest to obtain these licences as he wants to make this a loss incurring institution to pave the way for the almost planned privatization.

“Knowing well that the institution is now running with the remaining stock of mineral sands and once it is over, the national treasury will have to give money for its operational work, the minster recruited 117 labourers to the casual grade and several lakhs of rupees are spending on them for their salaries.

As mining of mineral sands along the Pulmudai-Kokilai beach stretch have almost come to a standstill, what made Minister Bathiudeen to give employment to these casual workers and burden the institution? This is not the first time the respective subject ministers burdened the institution with excess cardre for political mileage, but this is the first time such a large number of casual employees were absorbed at once. As the institution is facing a shortage of mineral sand, the situation is now becoming serious,” sources alleged.

The sources further accused the Minister for his proposed plan to make this government institution a public-private partnership. “Although the government is saying that LMSL has to go for a public-private partnership (PPP) in order to safeguard the institution, most of the employees also agree to have a partnership with a private company to give a value addition to the mineral sand to make high profits but the mining process has to be retained with LMSL,” sources added.

According to the sources, it is learnt that the GSMB and CEA had told the LMSL that licences would be given to mine mineral sands at Kokilai deposit if the latter goes for a PPP.

“This is understandable. Exporting our raw material over the last fifty years had not brought good revenue to the country. Unless we go for a value addition and export the finished product to the countries that buy our raw material, we cannot compete with the outer world. As we do not have enough resources to build manufacturing plants with the modern technology, we cannot give a value addition to the mineral sands that we mine. Hence we know that we need to go for a PPP but the LMSL should not allow the investor to mine the mineral deposit,” sources said.

The sources further said as to how a private company, alleged to have close connection with Minister Bathiudeen, has already come forward to invest with LMSL for the proposed value addition process, has raised concern amongst the LMSL employees.

“This particular company in their websites has claimed that they are investing with LMSL to go for a value addition. Who has asked them to invest with us? The Good Governance administration cannot offer contracts to their friends bypassing the rules and regulation but have to follow the government procurement guidelines,” sources said.

Meanwhile the LMSL employees accused the Department of Management Services of the Ministry of Finance for giving their approval to absorb 120 labourers on casual basis.

“In a letter dated September 29, 2016, Director General, Department of Management Services N. Godakanda had written to the Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce to absorb 120 labourers to grade iii/ii/i, as per the request made by the Ministry Secretary. The letter further states as thus, ‘This refers to your letter dated September 22, 2016 addressed to Secretary, Finance Ministry and copied to me on the above subject- to recruit staff on casual basis for LMSL.

‘As per the official requirement, approval is granted to recruit 120 labourers on casual basis’.

“The Ministry Secretary had made a request from the Finance Ministry to allow the 120 trainees to be taken on casual basis. Once they are taken on casual basis they will be made permanent. According to Director General Godakanda’s letter, it is made to understand that Secretary, Ministry of Industries and Commerce had sought permission to absorb these trainees on casual basis as their service is needed to the company. When our permanent employees too are now idling without proper work, what is the service he is looking from the trainee workers?” sources queried.

All attempts made to reach Industries and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen for a comment failed.

 

Clarifications on the article appeared in The Sunday Leader on the 2nd October 2016 under ‘Expose’ Column – Page 08

This refers to the article appeared in The Sunday Leader on the 2nd October 2016 under the caption of “FCID Asked to Probe Shady Deal at Lanka Mineral Sands”, quoting TERMSS Global Private Limited of 349 1/2, Cotta Road, Rajagiriya, the local agents of M/S Ventilex B.V of Netherlands of the manufacturer of the fluid bed sand dryer which has already been supplied to Lanka Mineral Sands Limited and await commissioning.

We are surprised to note the content of the said article published as per the information that has been shared directly or indirectly with The Sunday Leader by a known or an unknown source, where a great deal of accusations pointed towards TERMSS Global Private Limited with no substantial proof. Further to add,  by way of mentioning the name of the organization and its Managing Director which is not the usual practice adopted by printed media, we presume this as a deliberate attempt to tarnish the unblemished business image of TERMSS Global Private Limited and its management.

As a responsible private sector business entity with inculcated discipline and good practices, we completely deny the allegations levelled against TERMSS Global as stipulated in the article. We also stress the point that we have complied with government procurement guidelines and have not been involved in any malpractices, fraud and/or breach of trust as we have contemplated to our maximum to fulfill the contractual obligations as per the contract agreement which is still in place between Lanka Mineral Sands Limited and TERMSS Global Private Limited. In order to prove our credibility and integrity in the transaction, we have ample documentary evidence in our custody which will be showcased at the right instance.

We hereby place on record that there are a very few manufacturers in the world who are REPUTED in manufacturing the kind of mineral sand dryers as required by Lanka Mineral Sands Limited.

As indicated in the article, there may be a plenty of Chinese based manufacturers of various types of dryers for wider range of industrial applications but not specifically who are specialized in manufacturing dryers for the application of treating mineral sand. This is proven by the content of the article as when the tender was advertised for the first time, there were no bidders participated and during the second occasion, it was only TERMSS Global in spite of 5 parties having collected the tender document.

As the conditions of the tender were accepted by the authorities only, the letter of award was issued in favor of TERMSS Global by Lanka Mineral Sands and please be informed that the tender awarding procedure followed by all parties concerned is in accordance with government procurement guidelines beyond any doubt. In a holistic perspective, if the authorities of Lanka Mineral Sands were of the opinion that the machine was comparatively too expensive and lacked confidence in its performance, those who are responsible in making decisions should have cancelled the order under what so ever the circumstances were and it doesn’t seem to be logical and ethical to accuse the contractor after purchasing the machine. Ideally, the matter should have been probed no sooner the present management took office and not at this juncture where the machine has already been formally purchased and accepted by Lanka Mineral Sands under the purview and approval of the present management and delivered to the site for installation and commissioning.

Also, to elaborate, the letter TERMSS has addressed Lanka Mineral Sands which has been published through the article, doesn’t threat the Chairman/ Competent Authority of Lanka Mineral Sands but only informs him regarding the stand of our principals as Lanka Mineral Sands was on the verge of violating the tender conditions.

The issues pertaining to the project got worsened only due to lack of persistence and prudence of the management of Lanka Mineral Sands and as indicated by Mr. Asoka Pieris, the current competent authority to the author of the article to the effect that the matter has been referred to FCID to be probed, we are more than pleased to be interrogated in depth by FCID where we shall share all the necessary information pertaining to the project as we are confident that the FCID will be able to exactly clarify our level of conformity to the conditions of the tender.

Thanking you.

Wesak Wijeratne

Managing Director

On behalf of the Senior Management of TERMSS Global Private Limited

 

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