June 10, Colombo: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Monday said the government will give maximum support to the modernization and successful development of the carpentry industry.
At a meeting held today (June 10) with carpenters and saw mill owners from Moratuwa and peoples' representatives at the Temple Trees, the Prime Minister stressed that the steps will be taken to formulate and implement a plan to enhance the carpentry industry while conserving the environment.
Wickremesinghe told the group that while safeguarding the carpentry industry, Sri Lanka's forest cover which stands at 28 percent must also be increased.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's assurance comes in the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena's announcement that the carpentry shops and timber mills will be closed in five years in order to protect the environment.
President Sirisena's dictum rattled the carpentry industry and even the Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa urged the President not to ban carpentry workshops and chainsaws as thousands of people would lose their livelihoods and would have no place to buy even a coffin.
Further speaking to the group of representatives of the carpentry industry, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the government wants to develop the carpentry industry in the country.
"The government provides assistance to modernize the carpentry industry. Also, we consider protecting the timber resource in the country is a priority. The total forest cover in the country is now 28 percent and we want to increase that. Accordingly, we will be able to grow the country's timber resources as well. "
Clarifying the President's statement, the Premier said the President only mentioned to ban the mobile saw mills and chainsaws to protect the forests of the country.
If the use of mobile sawmills and the chainsaws is increasing, the country's forest cover will become even lower than 28 percent, the Premier pointed out.
"We do not intend to intervene in any way to interfere with the carpentry industry in the country. As a country, the carpentry industry must be continued. In 2003, we started the modernization of the carpentry industry. But we did not have the opportunity to continue that work. Therefore, we will re-implement the carpentry modernization program."
However, the Premier noted that there are several financial, technical, and trade issues will have to be encountered in modernizing the sawmill trade.
The Premier also pointed out that City of Moratuwa is a good place as far as the technical knowledge is concerned. "The Moratuwa University and the newly opened ATI institute can provide the technology needed to modernize the traditional carpentry industry. Since the State Minister of Finance is also from Moratuwa there won't be problems in carrying out this work."
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said they hope to amend the circular issued by the Ministry regarding the carpentry industry and he has already discussed with the Secretary of the Ministry.
"This industry should be developed as a large industry. The knowledge of the traditional carpentry industry in Sri Lanka should be given not only to Sri Lanka but also to foreign countries as well. Hence, the carpentry industry has a good future."
The Prime Minister requested to form a committee headed by State Minister Eran Wickramaratne and submit a report on the modernization of the carpentry industry.
He said therefore, measures have been taken to provide the concessionary loans given under the Enterprises Sri Lanka also to the carpentry industry.
"We as people responsible for the country should work to develop such industries. This industry should be developed in a manner that individuals in this industry can successfully earn an income. We need a modernization in this industry to make our mission a success. We need your views and government involvement for that," he said.
State Minister Eran Wickramaratne, Western Provincial Councilor Senaka Damayantha and several local politicians were present at the occasion.