Sri Lanka’s Graphite: Fair Procurement for National Interests Must Be Ensured

The Government of Sri Lanka Must Uphold Proper Procurement Practices to Avoid Exploitation and Ensure National Interests

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Ceylon Graphite [Image: resourceworld.com]

Editorial

The recent history of government deals has shown a worrying trend towards the neglect of proper procurement guidelines and competitive practices. This negligence not only invites corruption but also compromises national security and development. It is imperative that our government abandons its habitual ‘deal and wheel’ tactics in favour of transparent and rigorous procurement processes.

Recent examples illustrate the gravity of the situation. The decision to outsource visa facilities to a foreign company notorious for data breaches and unethical practices is alarming. Such a move jeopardises national security and undermines public trust. Similarly, awarding renewable energy projects to Adani without a competitive tender process raises questions about fairness and accountability. These actions set a dangerous precedent, suggesting that lucrative contracts can be secured through backdoor negotiations rather than merit and transparency.

The irony is palpable when institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other global watchdogs, which advocate for good governance, remain silent on these issues. Their lack of scrutiny enables these questionable practices, undermining their own principles of transparency and accountability.

The exploitation of mineral resources by foreign entities is not a new phenomenon. History is replete with examples where resource-rich countries have been left impoverished due to exploitative practices by foreign corporations. Papua New Guinea and West Papua serve as stark reminders of this legacy. Despite their abundant mineral wealth, these regions have suffered environmental devastation, social upheaval, and economic disparity due to foreign exploitation.

In Papua New Guinea, the Ok Tedi and Bougainville mining projects epitomise the environmental and social calamities that ensue from such exploitation. The Ok Tedi mine, in particular, caused such severe environmental damage that even its own executives admitted to its incompatibility with environmental values. The subsequent sale of the mine and the establishment of a fund for sustainable development were too little, too late for the affected communities.

West Papua’s plight further underscores the consequences of foreign exploitation. The region’s rich mineral resources, including the vast copper and gold reserves at Grasberg, have been a magnet for corporate imperialism. The Grasberg mine, one of the world’s largest, has caused immense environmental degradation and social dislocation. Despite being one of Indonesia’s biggest taxpayers, the region remains the poorest in the country, plagued by human rights abuses and economic disparity.

Similarly, in Niger, the actions of French company Orano (formerly Areva) highlight the manipulative and exploitative tactics employed by foreign corporations. Despite knowing the impracticality of the Imouraren uranium site, Orano manipulated valuations to deceive investors and extract resources. This not only exemplifies corporate greed but also underscores the vulnerability of resource-rich nations to such exploitation.

Sri Lanka’s graphite sector is currently in the crosshairs of international competition, with China, India, the United States, and France vying for a stake. While foreign investment can drive development, it is crucial that Sri Lanka ensures maximum value addition and prevents the exploitation of its resources. Proper oversight and strategic partnerships that prioritise national interests are essential to avoid falling into the same trap of resource exploitation.

In light of these examples, our government must urgently reform its procurement practices. Transparent and competitive bidding processes are not just bureaucratic formalities but essential safeguards against corruption and exploitation. Ensuring that national interests are prioritised over corporate profits is crucial for sustainable development and social justice.

The lessons from Papua New Guinea, West Papua, Niger, and Sri Lanka are clear. Without proper procurement guidelines and a commitment to transparency, our nation risks being exploited and left to deal with the aftermath of environmental and social crises. It is time for the government to act responsibly and ensure that its procurement practices uphold the highest standards of integrity and fairness. Only then can we protect our resources, our people, and our future.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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