The gala opening ceremony of the plant at Muthurajawela was a timely morale-boosting event that somewhat lifted the gloom two months after the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in several places on this island nation that left 258 people dead.
The plant, owned by Hyrax Oil Sdn Bhd and financed by loans from Malaysia’s Exim Bank Bhd, marks the resumption of investments in Sri Lanka by Malaysians after a long spell of inactivity and is the first foreign investment from Malaysia during the current government that came to power four years ago under President Maithripala Sirisena and Wickremesinghe.
In his speech at the ceremony, Wickremesinghe spoke fondly of Hyrax Oil founder and group managing director Datuk Hazimah Zainuddin, whose grandfather happened to be a Sri Lankan from the Gall Province.
Hazimah is also the chairman of Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Bhd, the key entity that gives out loans to finance small and medium enterprises.
“Her grandfather came from Gall and now the grand-daughter has come back to invest in Sri Lanka that will boost trade and cultural relations between our two countries,“ said the prime minister to the cheers of a large gathering of guests who included ministers, deputy ministers, provincial governors and members of Parliament.
Wickremesinghe said after the recent Easter terrorist attacks, he had met with many trade delegations from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia and this showed their continued confidence in Sri Lanka’s potentials for investment.
“In the past, many countries such as Malaysia and Singapore were behind Sri Lanka on development, but with the war we fought for 35 years, these countries developed ahead of us. Therefore, we have many responsibilities to ensure that correct leadership is given for the development of the country,“ he said, referring the civil war waged by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for a separate homeland in the North East that finally ended 10 years ago.
Wickremesinghe also pointed out that when his government came to power, the Sri Lankan economy was in a bad state due to too many loans taken by the previous government that were due for repayments.
“We didn’t have the money to pay the loans but due to the great effort put in by the government, we were able to service the due repayments with the greatest difficulty. We had to go through a difficult time and the people of the country faced many hardships during this time,“ said Wickremesinghe.
But he said plans were in place to ensure Sri Lankans would have a good future ahead.
He also disclosed that the government had changed many laws to boost further investor confidence following feedback received from many investors in many countries about the existence of laws that were not investor-friendly.