Jaffna stripped of its largest industrial venture
[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 March 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The board of directors of the Lanka Cement Company - the semi government firm which owns the Kankesanthurai (KKS) cement factory- has decided to close up this large facility in the peninsula said company sources in Colombo.
The KKS factory was the first cement production facility to be established in Sri Lanka. The natural resources for the production of cement was found in the KKS area.
Attempts were afoot since the early seventies to shift many of the large state run industrial ventures (chemicals, sugar, paper etc.,) which were located in the Tamil dominated northern and eastern provinces or to develope alternative facilties in Sinhala areas.
A cement factory was built in Galle in the southern province as part of this policy trend which continued under the UNP regime as well. Although the cost of producing cement was very much higher in Galle, the government keenly developed the factory by subsidising gypsum imports to the facility etc., The product of this factory, known as 'Ruhunu Cement', is promoted now as the only locally manfactured cement in the market.
Hundreds of Tamil skilled workers and technical staff employed at the KKS factory were left in the lurch following the closure of the facility in 1990 due to the war.
Many fell into debt and some comitted suicide as the Lanka Cement Company was neither willing to pay them retainers compatible with their remuneration when they were employed nor was it willing to give them the golden hand shake.
The decision to close the KKS cement factory is seen in some Jaffna intellectual circles as the culmination of a discriminatory policy which was drawn up in the early seventies by the SLFP regime.
A Jaffna academic told TamilNet today that the government can restart production at the KKS factory if it wants to, because the area is under the complete control of the SLA. The workforce and the resources are available, and the machinery needs only some repairs and servicing he pointed out.
What the decision of the Lanka Cement Company means in effect is that the cement manufacturing plant will be dismantled and removed to the south for enhancing production and generating employment there, sealing the hope of reviving the peninsula's largest industrial venture he said.