By Ravi Ladduwahetty
The private sector trade unions, spearheaded by the JVP – led Inter Company Employees Union, will shortly seek Supreme Court intervention to force the government to audit the investments of the Employees Provident Fund in the Colombo Stock Exchange.
"This must be done at the earliest possible time as EPF investments in the Colombo Stock Market, amounting to Rs. 60 billion, has resulted in a Rs. 12 billion capital loss and it is now worth only Rs. 48 billion," President of the Inter- Company Employees Union Wasantha Samarasinghe told The Island yesterday.
"We are already talking to trade union leaders in the private sector and we will move the Supreme Court as there is no transparency in these transactions involving public property," Samarasinghe said.
Samarasinghe claimed that the unions also expressed solidarity and agreement to sink their differences with other political parties towards the common goal of safeguarding the interests of the nation’s largest pension fund.
One of the objectives that the trade unions seek to achieve with the Supreme Court intervention is to have two trade union leaders on the EPF Board of Directors as on the Employees Trust Fund. "If the ETF can have two members of the trade unions on its Board of Directors, the EPF should also have trade union representation, Samarasinghe stressed.
One of the concerns expressed by the trade union leader was the arbitrary investments of the EPF in the Colombo Stock Exchange, when permission was given only for the fund to be invested in blue chips in accordance with EPF Act No 5(E). He said the advice given by former Attorney General K. C. Kamalasabayson that even investments in Colombo Stock Exchange listed blue chips should be done wisely.
One of the concerns Samarasinghe expressed was the EPF investments in selected shares such as in the Ceylon Grain Elevators where the share which had been trading at Rs. 250 was now trading at Rs. 48.
The EPF, however, as a mitigatory measure, had bought some shares while it was on a downward trend at Rs. 185, but the total capital loss had amounted to Rs. 700 million on an investment of Rs. 3 billion, he said.
Samarasinghe also questioned the EPFinvestment in the shares of Laugf Holdings, where 57 million shares bought at an investment of Rs. 3.3 billion have nosedived to Rs. 1.4 billion.
"Those matters should be probed in the public interest as these are public funds that had been used," the JVPer remarked.
Meanwhile, all efforts to reach both Central Bank’s Assistant Governor in charge of the EPF Rupa Dheerasinghe and EPF Superintendent Kalyani Gunatilleke for comment were in fain as we were told that they were at meetings with the Governor the entirety of yesterday and that they could not be contacted.