Colombo (News 1st); It is reported that Indian Ocean Garnet Sands Company Pvt. Ltd had signed a memorandum of understanding with a welfare association in Kirinda for the extraction of mineral sands from the area.
The parent company of Indian Ocean Garnet Sands Company Pvt. Ltd is based in Tamil Nadu, India.
Indian Ocean Garnet Sands Company Pvt. Ltd had reportedly signed the MoU with the Kirinda Andaragasyaya Human Resources Development Welfare Association, which is said to be a body registered with the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha.
However, the Chairman of the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha said the welfare association had not informed the local government body about this MoU and its signing.
The Opposition Leader of the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha speaking to News 1st said on one particular day all the members of the Pradeshiya Sabha were summoned to a hotel and were promised a hybrid car and an overseas tour if they do not oppose the signing of the MoU.
Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera however, stressed the government has not reached any decision to allow an Indian company to extract mineral sands.
He said a local welfare association representing around 1800 families had written to the President requesting permission to extract mineral sands and sell the product to an Indian company.
On Saturday (27) Minister Wimal Weerawansa, visited Kirinda to negotiate the acquisition of an ilmenite and garnet deposit in the beachside by the state-owned Lanka Mineral Sands.
However, he faced strong opposition from the locals as the representatives from Welfare Association disclosed that they have already agreed with an Indian company regarding the deposit where workers are to be paid Rs. 4000 a day despite the number of hours worked in a day, according to the agreement.
Weerawansa, in response, said that this was false and foreign companies should not be allowed to waste the country’s resources. As the Minister was leaving, he was jeered by the residents.
On Monday (29), Minister Wimal Weerawansa said only a state-owned enterprise can engage in such a task without any problem adding if the project goes to a private company or a partnership, the resources will be lost by the state.
The Minister stressed the mineral sands extraction project should only be done by government enterprises.
“Any agreement reached between the locals and the foreign company is invalid. The resources do not belong to the residents alone, it belongs to the entire country,” said the Minister.
The Minister said the Cabinet of Ministers will be informed to terminate the permit given to the overseas company and to award the project to the state-owned Lanka Mineral Sands.
However, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa alleged the government after committing serious destruction to forests is now attempting to destroy the mineral sand deposits as well.