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Monday, July 22, 2024

Oil exploration: President gets check for US$ one million – JVP

Basil has no right to give dowries from national resources – Anura Dissanayake
The country, by a gazette notification presented to Parliament recently, has lost 28% income that it could have earned from oil exploration and this type of  national crime should not be allowed emphasizes the JVP. 
The Member of the Political Bureau of the JVP Parliamentarian Anura Dissanayake speaking at a media briefing held today said the agreement with ‘Cairn India’ for the exploration of oil in Mannar Basin is highly corrupt.  He pointed out there was a large scale commission racket in the deal and added that it is within the government that ‘economic assassins’ exist.

Mr. Dissanayake said, “Norway tried to become the facilitator’ for Sri Lanka not to establish peace but to take hold of the management of oil resources. Various companies carried out explorations regarding oil resources in Sri Lanka. We had to get the data of these explorations after paying a large amount of money.

On 5th March, 2005 Mr. P.B. Jayasundara and the then US Ambassador Robert O. Blake signed an agreement. Sri Lanka was given a grant of US$400,000. The USA, through this agreement, agreed to prepare the structure for tapping oil reserves and compile technological regulations. You know that the USA unleashes its military power in other countries in the world targeting oil reserves. The intention of interventions in Afghanistan and in the Middle East is for oil. The USA that acts in such a manner was handed over the preparation of the structure for tapping oil and compiling of technological regulations.

Next, propaganda was carried out to invite investors for exploration of oil. ‘Road shows’ were held in London, Houston and Kuala Lumpur. Then the Petroleum Secretariat was under Minister A.H.M. Fowzy. He said more than 200 companies had sent in applications. Despite asking him how much was spent for propaganda, he didn’t tell us. However, when we made inquiries we found that money had been spent by Total S.A., a French multinational oil company. Mr. Robert O. Blake got personally involved in the propaganda campaign in Houston.

Tenders were called for three blocks identified as containing oil. Surveys had found there was 14 billion barrels. 1.4 million barrels for each family in Sri Lanka. Three companies forwarded tenders for one of the blocks. India’s Cairn was chosen.

An agreement had to be signed with the company. Oil drilling is new to our country. We do not have People with such skills. It is a reality we have to accept. Hence, it was proposed that a committee should be appointed representing all political parties in Parliament and the affairs regarding oil should be conducted under the supervision of this committee. However, Rajapakse government, without taking this into consideration, arbitrarily and imperiously signed the agreement with Cairn India Limited. I, as a Parliamentarian, informed the President in writing not to sign the agreement but to give time for the relevant institutions for supervision and study. However, the agreement was signed without apprising the Parliament, the cabinet, the government, institutions connected with petroleum sector or the Minister of Petroleum either. It is such a move the Rajapakse government followed regarding the most valuable resource of the country.  This was done due to commission tied to the oil resources. The relevant company gave the President a check for US$ one million.

The agreement was compiled by Fargo Company in India. The company was paid US$12 million to compile the agreement. It is an agreement signed without presenting to Parliament, cabinet, within the group of MPs of the government or relevant institutions. Fargo Company that compiled the agreement acts as the agent for Cairn in Sri Lanka now. A website had to be created with the signing of the agreement. The agreement was signed in 2008. But no web has been created.

 According to a main clause in the agreement a management committee has to be appointed with three representatives from the government of Sri Lanka and three from Cairn. Three years have gone by since the signing of the agreement but no committee has been appointed. Also, according to this agreement Sri Lanka gets a royalty of 10% only. If 1000 oil barrels are excavated the company gets 900 and Sri Lanka gets only 100.

When we questioned this, the gentlemen of the government told us that despite the royalty was only 10%’ when taxes are added we would get 38%. However, a new act was brought in 2008. This act is implemented through Mr. Basil Rajapakse’s ministry. The act gives the Minister authority to name any project as a tactical development project. Accordingly, on 29th February, Minister Basil Rajapakse named the oil exploration project given to Cairn India as a tactical development project. This act also gives the Minister the authority to decide what concessions could be given to a tactical development project. Accordingly, all taxes levied for Cairn India was abolished by a special gazette. Now our country gets only 10% royalty for oil exploration.

The tax relief was given only after the company was selected. If a tax relief should be given it could have been announced before the tenders were called. Then more companies would have sent in applications and we could have got more as royalty. However, nothing had been mentioned regarding any tax relief in the document calling for tenders. We are not concerned whether Basil Rajapakse has kith and kin in India and whether his daughters get married to Indian racketeers. However, he should give dowries from his own assets. He has no right to give dowries from national resources.

The government states there are economic assassins. Aren’t they the economic assassins? Only the four JVP Members opposed when this gazette was presented in Parliament. The UNP was silent. All Members of the UPFA voted for it. Who are the economic assassins? Aren’t’ those who compiled the gazette and those who approved it economic assassins?  The President had said there were economic assassins in the country.  The economic assassins are with him, in his family, in his cabinet and in his government.

The government may not be able to invest for this alone. The investment for drilling oil is US$3 billion. However, US$4.4 billion has been estimated to hold the Commonwealth Games here. Which one should be given priority? Is it for the exploration of oil or Namal Rajapakse getting a kiss from England’s Queen Elizabeth?

We do not say oil exploration should be carried out fully by a state enterprise. But there were several openings that could have been considered. A company in our country sent 14 university intellectuals for foreign training in oil exploration. This company was prepared to invest in this sector. Also, can the government carry out oil exploration work without any local help? Can this be done by a combined effort of the government and the private sector? Can we have a combination of local and foreign companies? The government could have surveyed all these.  Only if none of these fits in it could have gone for a foreign company. However, if it was done they wouldn’t have got a big commission. This is why the government has gone for this project. We believe all those who are against fraud and corruption should come forward against this act.”

Former Parliamentarian of the JVP Ramalingam Chandasekar too was present.



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