The Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) has countered accusations that it played a hand in creating an artificial shortage of cement. The SLSI is only concerned with the quality of cement entering the market, said SLSI Chairman, Kanchana Ratwatte.
Ratwatte made these comments in the light of the recent cement controversy, during which Minister of Co-operatives and Internal Trade, Johnston Fernando, accused the SLSI of being involved in ‘foul play’.
The SLSI in July refused to provide certification for 14,000 bags of cement imported from Pakistan by the National Co-operative Council.
Minister Fernando said that the particular brand of Pakistani cement, Lucky Cement, met required quality standards. He claimed that the SLSI therefore had no need to suspend the distribution of that cement, and that the suspension had been imposed without informing the Ministry.
He also alleged that there were attempts to stop imports of cement from Pakistan, thereby creating a shortage and giving local manufacturers an excuse to ask for an upward revision of the prevailing controlled price of Rs750 per 50kg bag.
However, speaking to The Sunday Leader the SLSI Chairman said, “We suspended the permit for just one company, it is not a case of isolating Pakistan or any single country. We are only interested in quality.”
He explained that “since January we have been monitoring shipments from that factory (Lucky Cement). We noticed a trend of inconsistency in quality.”
It was due to this, he said, that the SLSI had on July 20 suspended the use of the SLS mark by Lucky Cement.
The National Co-operative Council had however imported 14,000 bags of cement from this company on July 27, and this consignment was therefore not given SLSI approval.
At the time of suspension the company was informed that they should provide two certificates of conformity of samples taken under the supervision of the International Chamber of Commerce, tested by an internationally accredited lab, said Ratwatte.
He added that Lucky Cement had eventually submitted the necessary reports on August 26. “On the basis of that report we have decided to lift the suspension on the factory, and have issued a permit for six months,” he said.
In the meantime, two samples of the cement consignment imported by the National Co-operative Council had been obtained by the SLSI, and a report on this cement was due this week. Based on the results of that report, the SLSI would decide whether or not to allow certification for the 14,000 bags of cement, said Ratwatte.