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Plan to privatise Sri Lanka Telecom delayed

In the wake of the Sectoral Oversight Committee (SOC) on National Security stating that it will not recommend privatising Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) as matters sensitive to national security could be exposed, the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation, and National Policies said that they are not ready to reverse its reform agenda for any reason, The Daily Morning learnt.

Speaking to The Daily Morning yesterday (12), the State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe said that the Government could assure that nothing harmful to the country’s national security would take place during and after the privatisation process.

He also said that the Government had given its topmost priority to national security and that special attention was being paid to such issues when restructuring State-Owned Enterprises.

“We can assure that we don’t make any decision that affects national security during this restructuring programme. We are much concerned about such sensitive matters and we will not be irresponsible to jeopardise the security of our country. Anyway, I would say that the ministry is not ready to reverse the reform agenda that we are working on, especially based on these baseless arguments,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Daily Morning yesterday (12) contacted an expert in the telecommunications sector and a former Director General (DG) of Telecommunications, Prof. Rohan Samarajiva who emphasised that national security should not be a slogan but that it was something based on facts and real concerns.

Prof. Samarajiva said that Sri Lanka had previous experience of working with foreign investors related to the telecommunications sector, even in a more turbulent period of time than the present. He said that these types of “cheap” slogans would make the situation worse, adding that therefore, the Government should move on with a correct plan.

“Sri Lanka had a situation where in the midst of the war, the SLT was completely managed by Japanese people. All the top positions were held by them. There was no issue. In fact, national security improved in the time of the Japanese.

“For example, the international gateway, which is a software based technical facility, continued to be located at the headquarters located in Lotus Road. This was a site of more than one bomb blast, with no backup or restoration capabilities. When I gave directions as the Telecommunications DG, the Japanese made the necessary investments to create a duplicate site. These are facts,” he said.

He further said that what was required at the moment was a hard-headed look at what the national security concerns were and taking precautions to address them, rather than thinking that having the President’s brother or a Director Board with the Government’s majority ownership was going to address national security issues. The Morning

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