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Telecom sector fully privatised in major countries – Prof. Samarajiva

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Prof. Rohan Samarajiva
Prof. Rohan Samarajiva


There are many countries in the world that have 100% private ownership of providing telecom services and it’s a mockery for a committee to say that by privatizing Sri Lanka Telecom there can be a breach of security in Sri Lanka.

This was opined by founding Chair of LIRNEasia, an ICT policy and regulation think tank active across emerging Asia Prof. Rohan Samarajiva in an interview with Daily News Business. He said that countries like the UK, USA, Australia and in many other countries the telecom sector is 100% privately owned and the government does not have any business interest in them. “If there were security concerns, would these countries give their telecom sector to the private sector”? he asked.

Samarajiva, former Chair of the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, disclosed that even in India over 85% of Voice and Data are operated by Jio, a company owned by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. Reliance Jio has toppled state-run BSNL in August 2022 to become India’s largest landline telephone service provider.

“This is the same situation in Pakistan and in Bangladesh as well.”

MP Sarath Weerasekara head of Government appointed committee on the divestment of the 49.5% stake in SLT held by the government told parliament that this move could “expose the country’s strategic communication infrastructure and sensitive information to private companies and could pose a threat to national security. “This argument is baseless”

He said that this fear of ‘security’ is being created with political intentions in mind and recalled that this was not the first time such a weak argument was presented against privatization.

“in 1989, former Minister, the late Lalith Athulathmudali was given the task to decide on divesting ownership of Sri Lanka Telecom and this ‘fear of security’ point came and sadly the Minister surprisingly bowed down to that pressure.” Due to this Telecom had the monopoly and people had to wait years to get land lines and spend hours to get a call to another province (Trunk Call) in Sri Lanka.

When the then Minister of Telecom Mangala Samaraweera wanted to divest shares to NTT Japan too this argument of ‘compromising national security’ was brought up by pressure groups. “But late Mangala Samaraweera did not bow down to that pressure and he went ahead giving Telecom shares to NTT Japan which revolutionized the telecom industry in Sri Lanka by leaps and bounds.”


Wednesday, June 14, 2023 – 01:00

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