COLOMBO: It was a big day both for Malaysia and Sri Lanka amidst a strong presence of Sri Lankan dignitaries led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who inaugurated a Malaysian-owned US$30 million lubricant blending plant near here late Monday.
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 the founder and Group Managing Director of Hyrax Oil, Datuk Hazimah Zainuddin, whose grandfather happened to be a Sri Lankan from the Gall Province.
Hazimah is also the chairman of Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Berhad (PUNB), 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 (LTTE) 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.
Hazimah in her speech sportingly acknowledged her “third generation Sri Lankan descent”, saying Hyrax Oil’s investment in the country was for a long haul and the plant over time would be fully run by Sri Lankans with state of the art technology transfer by Malaysians.
From a zero share of the Sri Lankan rapidly growing lubricant market, Hyrax Oil which markets its products under the “Ceypetco” brand following its partnership with Sri Lankan National Oil Company, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, had now secured the third largest market share.
She said the newly-opened plant would make Sri Lanka a hub to market lubricant products to countries of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
SAARC comprises India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives beside Sri Lanka.
Hazimah paid tribute to several leaders for the success of her company’s venture into Sri Lanka, including Minister of Highways, Road Development and Petroleum Resources Development Kabir Hashim and former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Malaysia A.J.M.
After his stint in Kuala Lumpur, Muzammil was appointed Governor of Sri Lanka’s Western Province.
“Special thanks also go to Exim Bank Berhad, our friendly banker for this plant in Sri Lanka.
With the bank’s encouraging support and patience, we hope that we at Hyrax Oil will be able to export Malaysian home-grown technology and know-how to many more parts of the world,” she said. — Bernama