Sri Lanka needs more business freedom, says top entrepreneur

Feb 22, 2010 (LBO) – People who are quick witted can develop business opportunities in Sri Lanka by challenging state or private controls and by busting monopolies to bring in competition, a veteran entrepreneur has said. Wijesuriya’s latest acquisition is the Colombo Continental Hotel, the first five-star hotel that was built in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, Colombo.

One of his well-known challenges of restrictions involved the bunkering or ship fuel monopoly initially held by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and later handed over to a private firm.

Monopoly Busting

“The CPC bunkering monopoly is only for 11 miles into the sea, so I parked my bunkering barges 11.25 miles into the sea,” Wijesuriya said. “When they tried to squeeze I tried to beat the system.”

The monopoly was later handed over to John Keells Holdings (JKH), a large Sri Lankan business group, at a time when the market was expecting liberalization of the ship fuel sector.

Wijesuriya and other ship oil suppliers waged court battles against the private monopoly. He said when global shipping regulations phased out the use of single hulled ships he was left in Colombo with a full load of diesel.

“An opportuni