Sajith claims plans to sell Sapugaskanda to foreign firm

BY Buddhika Samaraweera


Claiming that the Government is planning to sell off the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery to a foreign company under the pretext of the prevailing crisis in the country, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that all officials and Ministry Secretaries who are preparing the Cabinet papers on such a matter would be brought before the law under a future SJB Government.

Speaking to the media after a discussion with trade union representatives in the energy sector, he said: “In this crisis situation caused by its reckless governance, the Government is planning to sell off the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery. We, as the main Parliamentary Opposition, will work together with all other progressive forces to defeat such an attempt.”

Warning the Government not to sell off national resources in the face of the tragic situation in the country, he said that all the officials who prepare the relevant Cabinet papers, including Ministry Secretaries, would have to be held responsible for such under a future Government led by the SJB. He added that all those who are responsible for selling national resources would be brought before the law.

“The Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery supplies 100% of the country’s kerosene requirement, 50% of the aviation fuel requirement, 100% of the naphtha requirement, 30% of the diesel requirement, 14% of the petrol requirement, 7-8% of the gas requirement, and 75-100% of the furnace oil requirement. We will never allow the refinery, which is of such great importance, to be sold off in the interest of the Rajapaksas (a reference to the family of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa),” added Premadasa.

The Sapugaskanda Refinery is the lone oil refinery of Sri Lanka. It was built by Iran under the guidance of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) in August, 1969. Initially designed to process 38,000 barrels of crude oil, the refinery currently has a capacity of refining about 50,000 barrels per day. More than 60 storage tanks are located at the premises for the storage of crude oil, refined oil, and other products while four other crude oil tanks are located in the Orugodawatta Tank Farm.

Meanwhile, despite the earlier statement by Ministry of Power and Energy Secretary M.P.D.U.K. Mapa Pathirana that the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery would not be allowed to be closed, and that the Ministry has ways to ensure its continued operations, the refinery has once again been shut down due to the non-arrival of a crude oil shipment.

Speaking to The Morning on Sunday (26), Petroleum Trade Union Confederation Convener Ananda Palitha said: “It is not yet clear as to when a crude oil tanker will arrive in Sri Lanka. As a result, the Sapugaskanda Refinery has been shut down due to the inability to continue its operations. An oil refinery cannot be shut down at once, so at present, it is gradually becoming inactive. Its operations will come to a complete halt within the next two to three days.”

He added that the closure of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery would cost the country an additional sum of $ 1.1 million a day to meet its fuel requirement. He further claimed that certain groups are planning to increase fuel imports and earn commissions from foreign companies.

“The refinery has been shut down on several occasions and it has cost a lot of money to resume its operations. Having allowed for it to be shut down is a national crime. We have warned on several occasions that the refinery will have to be shut down, but the authorities have repeatedly said that it would not be closed for any reason, however, what we said has come true,” added Palitha.