FSP claims Lanka losing its energy sovereignty
By Rathindra Kuruwita – The Island – Online
Sri Lanka would lose its energy sovereignty in the coming months as it continued to sell energy assets to private entities owned by foreign countries, Education Secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), Pubudu Jayagoda alleged yesterday.
Jayagoda said that on 26 December, Minister of Energy, Udaya Gammanpila had told The Hindu that an agreement would be signed with India within a month on the 99 oil tanks in Trincomalee. Gammanpila added that they had been having discussions with India on the agreement for 16 months.
“When Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Sri Lanka recently, he posed for a photo near the oil tanks. When we saw the photo, we said that this was not a snap taken by a tourist and it was tantamount to a projection of power. Minister Gammanpila rejected our claim and said that Shringla was only on a sightseeing tour.
Gammanpila insisted, a few months ago, that they would take back some oil tanks from the IOC,” he said, Jayagoda said that when Gammanpila, a few months back, said that they were trying to take back oil tanks from India, the Indian HC rejected the statement. The Indian HC insisted that there had been no discussion on returning the tanks to Sri Lanka.
“Ultimately, we know who was telling the truth. The Minister himself admits that they were talking to India for 16 months. There were 99 tanks built by the British and 15 tanks were given to IOC in 2003 for 35 years. There are 84 more tanks remaining, 16 can be used with minimal repairs. 20 are almost impossible to use. In 2017, the Yahapalana government tried to sign an agreement with India. It wanted to give 15 tanks to IOC forever and 10 tanks to the CPC. The remaining 74 were to be managed by a company jointly with IOC, but IOC has full decision-making powers,” he said.
The FSP Education Secretary said that the progressive forces had managed to thwart this plan in 2017. Now the Rajapaksa government has announced the establishment of Trinco Petroleum Terminals Ltd., to renovate the Trincomalee oil tank farm. Jayagoda said that while the government insisted that IOC would hold only 49% of the shares, it would have full operational control.
“Earlier this year, the Cabinet approved an amendment to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Act No. 28 of 1961. Before this act various multinationals had a monopoly in Sri Lanka and it was with this Act that the state took over and it needs to be amended to enable the privatisation of the sector. The Minister himself said that the changes to the laws would end the state’s refining monopoly. From what we hear the US and China are to build two refineries at a time when Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery is dying a natural death,” he said.
Jayagoda added that soon Sri Lanka would have to depend on private entities to purchase refined oil. The government was also planning to extend the agreement which transferred 33% of Sri Lanka’s petroleum infrastructure to the IOC, he said. “Once Trincomalee oil tanks are handed over to India, the import, refining and distribution and storage of petroleum will be privatised.”
“They will be able to control prices and there is nothing the government will be able to do. Moreover, these private companies will be owned by foreign countries. They are not investing only for profit but also for geopolitical reasons. Let’s take the Trincomalee oil tanks for example. They were built by the Brits to supply their troops and the capacity of these tanks exceeds our demand even now. India is investing and taking control of these tanks because this also gives them access to valuable strategic lands in Trincomalee. All of us are aware of the importance of Trincomalee to any maritime power,” he said.