Weliweriya water issue: Factory to be relocated to a BOI zone

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Rathupaswala incident
President Mahinda Rajapaksa held discussions with Rathupaswala area residents and relevant officials on the Weliweirya water issue at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday (August 12). Pix by Sudath Silva

President Mahinda Rajapaksa today ordered the relocation of the Dipped Products Glove factory which had been at the centre of the controversy in Weliweriya, leading to protests and clashes between residents and security forces personnel.

Resident of Rathupaswala had engaged in a protest on August 01 claiming that the effluents released by the factory is causing environmental and water pollution and demanded that it be shut down.

The company, Dipped Products PLC, part of the Hayleys Group, however has rejected the accusations saying the factory’s effluent water quality is regularly tested by the National Building and Research Organization and that the facility operates with valid Environmental Protection Licence.

President Rajapaksa held discussions with Rathupaswala area residents and relevant officials on the Weliweirya water issue this afternoon at the Presidential Secretariat.

After listening to detailed accounts from residents, factory representatives and other officials, the President offered the following solutions to help resolve the situation:

The main priority of the authorities in this region will be to ensure that the people receive safe water while the Government Analyst’s Department will carry out testing of the water and issue a report.

If the report reveals that the factory has operated in a wrongful manner, the factory will be shut down immediately.
If the report reveals that the factory has operated within the regulations, the company will be given a stipulated amount of reasonable time to relocate to a BOI zone.

In addition to these specific aspects, President Rajapaksa also stated that any new factory that will be located in Sri Lanka must be constructed within a BOI zone to prevent these types of problems in the future.

The residents and the factory representatives, under the guidance of the President, agreed to allow the factory to make use of the items that have already been produced prior to ceasing of operations and to allow the factory administration to function until the report is published.

The resident expressed satisfaction at the agreements reached and agreed to work with officials to help resolve the problem, the President’s Media Unit said.

President Rajapaksa urged the citizens to refrain from taking the law into their own hands if a problem arises in the future and requested all parties to try their utmost to resolve crises through discussion.

Minister of Economic Development Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Water Supply and Drainage Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Social Services Mr. Felix Perera, Secretary to the President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Gampaha District parliamentarians, Western provincial council members, senior military officials and several other high-ranking government officials were present at the discussion.

Violence had erupted during the protest by residents of Rathupaswala on August 01 as security forces personnel and protesters clashed in Weliweriya, resulting in the deaths of three persons and leaving over 30 injured.

Opposition parties and rights groups have condemned the crackdown against the protest by villagers who were demanding clean drinking water for thousands of residents of Weliweriya and have criticized the manner in which authorities had handled the situation.

The military said it had named a five-member board of inquiry to probe the allegations against the troops.

(Courtesy: Ada Derana)