Speaking at the opening of Kalu Ganga Water Project in Horana, the Prime minister was referring to a news report carried by a TV channel on this regard.
"If this channel inquired from me I would have revealed the truth. One must not distort his or her mind just because he or she has a grudge against me," he said.
He said the government had decided not to allow Volkswagen to invest in Sri Lanka as the company had an issue. However, he said Volkswagen would be one of the brands of vehicles which would be assembled at the Kuliyapitiya plant.
Meanwhile, Kurunegala District Parliamentarian and Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had told the ‘Colombo Gazette’ that the government never said the vehicle assembly plant in Kuliyapitiya is by Volkswagen.
The Senok factor
It was first announced in early 2015 that Volkswagen, whose local sales agent is SENOK, was exploring the possibility of setting up a factory in Sri Lanka to produce vehicles for export.
Under the BOI agreement, SENOK was to partner with Volkswagen which was to be the investor and technical collaborator.
But, after the infamous emissions issue abroad, Volkswagen pulled out. However, by then the agreement had been signed by then and was continued by SENOK.
But the name Volkswagen has recently been struck off and replaced simply with “Western European“. A specific investor is no longer mentioned and there are no details of the brands of Western European vehicles that would be assembled at the plant.
According to sources, the agreement does not include a pledge by Western Automobiles to provide employment to 2,500 people.
The Proprietor and President of Senok Group is Noel Selvanayagam. He is well known as a business affiliate of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's son - Namal Rajapaksa.
News First of MTV / MBC quoted Kartin Hohmann of Volkswagen Passenger Cars Corporate Communications as to saying that there are no plans for Volkswagen brand investment in Sri Lanka at this point of time.
No involvement - embassy
Meanwhile, the ’Sunday Times’ reported that a spokesman for the German Embassy had verified that there is no involvement of German carmaker Volkswagen AG in the project to set up an assembly plant at Kuliyapitiya in the Kurunegala district.
The newspaper reported :
“SENOK Trade Combine (Pvt) Ltd. and BOI are the parties of the contract signed on 13th August 2015,” said Dr. Michael Dohmen, Deputy Head of Mission, in response to a question from the Sunday Times. “According to our state of knowledge currently there isn’t any involvement of Volkswagen in the project. If you have further questions, I’d recommend you to contact SENOK.”
Denials and referrals
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe placed the foundation stone earlier this week for the construction of the vehicle assembly plant in Kuliyapitiya and on Dec. 30th, Kurunegala district UNP MP - Nalin Bandara announced that the Volkswagen vehicle assembly plant would be established on Jan. 0
Despite the fresh denials, the plant was repeatedly referred to as the Volkswagen plant by several government ministers as well as the Prime minister.
The laying of the foundation stone was also reported by the President's Media Unit in a similar manner.