President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a momentous event marking 25 years of business excellence, praised CEAT-Kelani Tyres for its remarkable journey from a state-owned enterprise to a symbol of successful privatization. Addressing the audience at the celebration, President Wickremesinghe reminisced about the challenging birth of Kelani Tyres and the pivotal role it played in Sri Lanka’s history.
“Kelani Tyres was situated in Kelaniya, adjacent to Biyagama, which falls within my electorate. When I assumed the role of Minister of Industries, I recognized the need to close this facility. Kelani Tyres had earned its reputation,” President Wickremesinghe stated.
He highlighted the tough decisions and battles faced in the process of privatization. “A decision was reached to sell off Kelani Tyres. We initiated the standard process and requested bids. Chanaka was the initial bidder, but for reasons unknown, President Premadasa did not favour it. This scenario repeated twice, with you, Chanaka, being the primary bidder each time, yet he remained unsatisfied.
I finally said, ‘Sir, I cannot continue to provide reasons.’ The situation remained the same on the third attempt. At this juncture, we had to make a decision, one that would determine whether we were selecting the best bid or favouring industry giants.”
President Wickremesinghe also spoke about the establishment of CEAT in Sri Lanka, a collaboration that became a reality in 1993.
“The next stage involved CEAT and Kelani uniting, a partnership forged in Balapitiya. The Silvas and the Soysas decided to join forces, a decision with its own interesting history.
Chanaka’s father, Aarti, in the early 60s, was a member of the SLFP, representing Mr. C.P. De Silva. Ajit’s father and Tilak’s father, were members of the UNP and part of our working committee. In 1965, when Mrs. Bandaranaike decided to acquire Lake House Press, my father was the managing director. Ajit’s father, and Chanaka’s father collaborated, brought Mrs. Bandaranaike down and made Mr. Dudley Senanayake the prime minister in the 1965 election. So that is how our connections go back. In the process, Mahinda’s father lost the election.
Regardless, the two companies joined forces and today, we celebrate their 25th anniversary.”
The President recognized CEAT-Kelani as a model of Indo-Lanka cooperation, serving as an example for those seeking to enter the Sri Lankan market. “This partnership exemplifies successful Indo-Lanka cooperation, serving as a model for those considering entering the Sri Lankan market,” he commented.
CEAT Kelani Holdings manufactures nearly half of Sri Lanka’s pneumatic tyre requirements and exports about 20 per cent of its production to 16 countries in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East.
President Wickremesinghe commended the hard work that transformed CEAT-Kelani into a success story. “I thank you for your efforts, and I hope that the next 25 years will see you as competitive exporters of Sri Lankan goods,” he said in conclusion.
CEAT-Kelani Tyres has become a key player in Sri Lanka’s economic landscape, with a cumulative investment of over Rs 8 billion, significant exports, and a commitment to technological advancements and new product development. As they celebrate 25 years, the company’s journey is a testament to the potential of collaboration between Sri Lanka and India and a model of successful privatization.
Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, State Minister Dilum Amunugama, MPs Mahinda Rajapaksa, Wajira Abeywardena, Dr. Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickramaratne, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Johnston Fernando, Ravi Karunanayake, Presidential Senior Advisor on National Security and Chief of Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayaka, Mr. Chanaka de Silva – Chairman CEAT Kelani Holdings, Mr. Tilak de Zoysa -Vice Chairman, Mr. Rohan Tilak Fernando – Executive Director, Board Members of CEAT Kelani Holdings and a group of businessmen attended the event.
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