Sri Lanka planned expropriation law under fire

Nov 01, 2011 (LBO) – A secretly written expropriation law which has not yet been presented to parliament has come under fire from a lawmaker and an ex-chamber chief for undermining freedom of citizens and future investment prospects. The proposed bill, which was reportedly written by a private law firm, seeks to vest in the state ‘underperforming enterprises and underutilized Assets’ in what was called the ‘national interest’. The assets listed are mainly land.

Several of the enterprises are defunct but it also includes two listed companies.

The bill has slated for state take-over 6,300 acres of Pelwatte Sugar Industries Ltd, a firm now controlled by Harry Jayewardene’s Distilleries group and Hotel Developers Lanka Plc, which has the Colombo Hilton franchise and is largely state controlled.

Chandra Jayaratne, a retired business executive who is now active in campaigning for citizens liberties and just rule of law said the ‘selective criteria’ defined classifying underperforming and underutilized assets could be applied to many other listed and unlisted firms.

No private investment would be safe because the list could in the future be expanded by simple parliamentary majority by the administration, he said.