Written by Staff Writer
24 Mar, 2019 | 10:57 pm
Colombo (News 1st): Construction of the Hambantota Mirrijiwela Oil Refinery and cement factory, dubbed as the largest investment in Sri Lanka began today (March 24). The event was held under the auspices of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The foundation stone for the construction of the oil refinery was laid at the auspicious time this morning at the Mirijjawila Export Processing Zone. The new oil refinery that spans across 200 acres is scheduled to be constructed within 44 months.
The Prime Minister also unveiled a plaque, ceremonially marking the commencement of work on the cement factory. This project is estimated to be completed in 18 months.
Dr Mohammed Hamad Al Rumhy, Minister of Oil and Gas of the Sultanate of Oman, Jagath Sandeep Ananda, Director of the Singapore registered company Silver Park International which is one of the main investors for the oil refinery project, and ministers and parliamentarians attended the event.
Speaking at the event Minister of Oil and Gas of the Sultanate of Oman, Dr Mohammed Hamad Al Rumhy had this to say;
“We are humbled, we are honored to have received this invitation to be part of the development of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka and Oman go a long way. We have historical links that go back more than 1000 years ago. Sri Lanka has helped Oman in developing modern Oman in the last 50 years. So we feel obliged and honored to be invited to take part in the development of Sri Lanka. And hopefully, we are going to be a part of you for a long time. This is not a project that will last for 3 years but this is a lifetime project. And I’m looking forward to seeing this partnership between Oman and Sri Lanka in this extremely important project for both countries, for both people plus our partners from India.”
Minister Sajith Premadasa also speaking at the event noted that 500 direct and another 1500 indirect jobs will be created through the construction of the cement factory. He went onto note that the objective through the oil refinery is to create 1500 direct and 3000 indirect jobs and this program aims at developing the Hambantota district.
He promised everyone that this massive project will become a reality and several representatives of the flower bud party, who were appointed through the public’s votes, have engaged in several middle eastern tours in the recent past, to prevent the oil refinery project from becoming a reality.
He clarified that in order to proceed with the oil refinery project there is an environmental impact assessment, that must be approved and there are several obstacles that must be passed, however, he assured that this project will see the light of day.
Minister Sajith Premadasa also made a private donation worth Rs. 350,000 to the ‘Yowun Puraya’. These funds were presented to the youth, by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Speaking at the event Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that during the 2015 election, the wild elephants in Sri Lanka resided in Yala, and the white elephants were located in Hambantota. He questioned; “What is there in Hambanthota at present?”
He said a port that is operated by Sri Lankan Ports Authority and China Merchant. He pointed that today, applications have been approved for a Chinese company to construct the first L.N.G power plant and they have already laid the foundation for the construction of the oil refinery, as well as the cement factory.
The premier noted that in another three months, operations at the Mattala airport will also resume with the support of the Sri Lankan and Indian civil aviation authority. He went onto note that Hambantota is the centre of the Ruhunu economic revolution and that they have already allocated 12,000 acres to develop the tourism industry between Mattala and Katunayaka.
He noted that they have shared this task with Ports and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayake and the Ports ministry will also introduce a new law named Ruhuna economic development corporate law in line with these operations.
Several points raised over the past few days regarding this project have given rise to reasonable cause for suspicion among the public.
While much ado was made at the launch ceremony today regarding Oman’s involvement in this project, the Omani Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas made no mention of any investment.
Whilst Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara claimed that Oman’s Ministry of Oil and Gas would have a 30 percent stake in the project, as News 1st revealed recently following inquiries, Oman has not invested in such a project.
The official announcement released by the Government also indicates that the Omani Minister attended today’s event as a guest and not as a stakeholder in the investment.
However, it would be interesting to ask the question of why the Omani Government is interested in this project?
The answer is clear. Oman would supply crude oil to Sri Lanka which in return will be hugely beneficial to the country.
Furthermore, the government is yet to make a proper clarification on questions posed regarding the main investor Silver Park International, a company registered in Singapore.
According to a recent Reuters report, although the company is registered in Singapore, the main shareholder is the Accord Group of India. The founder Chairman of the Accord Group is the Tamil Nadu politician and member of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Dr S. Jagathrakshakan.
The Hindu newspaper reported recently that 3 of the 4 members of the Board of Directors of Silver Park International are related to Dr Jagathrakshakan.
Given the purported involvement of so-called ‘shell’ companies and the apparent shroud of secrecy surrounding this project, it would even be justifiable for the public to question whether this is an effort to launder money belonging to Arjuna Mahendran, currently absconding from justice in Singapore.
The allegations of money laundering are further validated when considering the investor for the cement factory, for which the foundation stone was laid today.
Do you recall the Dubai Marriott deal?
A key individual in this deal which was fraught with allegations of irregularities was Nandana Lokuvithana. Fingers have been pointed at Nandana Lokuvithana with regard to a host of deals which took place under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, including the purchase of the Dubai Marriott Hotel.
Whilst the Ceylon Steel Company owned by Lokuvithana had received special tax exemptions in the recent past, the Board of Investment had proposed that these exemptions be lifted.
Whilst numerous allegations of fraud and corruption had been raised with several agencies, instead of conducting a proper investigation and enforcing the law, support was given for the establishment of a tyre factory in the Horana Industrial Park.
Journalists raised questions from Cabinet spokesperson Minister Rajitha Senaratne regarding Lokuvithana, on July 25, 2018.
Journalist: It was alleged that Lokuvithana was operating the President’s bank account. It was reported in the media that the Prime Minister is going with Lokuvithana for the opening of the factory in Horana. What is the connection?
Minister: It is not Lokuvithana’s account. There is a bank account from which funds were taken to purchase the Dubai Marriott Hotel. The Marriott Hotel was purchased by a member of a royal family. What has happened is that a Minister is giving Nandana Vitharana a tyre factory.
Journalist:There is an internal problem here isn’t there Minister?
Minister: How can you do away with those?
Questions arise as to whether Minister Senaratne was referring to the Prime Minister in this instance, because of the following telephone conversation with Nandana Lokuvithana.
Can the government confirm that Nandana Lokuvithana had not previously laid the foundation stone for the cement factory where another foundation stone was laid today?
These photographs testify to the contrary.
Rulers who continue to think of the people as puppets should realize at least now that the people are wise to these schemes.
At this point, it is important to remember that Sajith Premadasa is the Deputy Leader of the party, the most popular politician in the UNP and perhaps one of the perceived future leaders in the country right now.
What is most bizarre is the fact that whilst Sajith Premadasa is the Deputy Leader and the leading representative from Hambantota, the Prime Minister announces that economic development in the South including Hambantota will be overseen by his erstwhile colleague and friend Sagala Ratnayaka!
This is typical of Ranil Wickramasinghe and Malik Samarawickrama. These are the games they play. They dangle carrots and then withdraw powers. Political analysts believe that the very same strategy is being used to lure in the Hon Speaker, who will perhaps realize this too late.
Minister Premadasa should be wary at this point. Everyone knows the leadership will come to him. He is the deputy leader and extremely popular amongst party supporters. All we can say is be careful. Minister Premadasa, you have traversed a hard road and were never assisted by the parties hierarchy.
But as it did for your father the Late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, the love of the people will place you on the leadership platform.
“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” -Abraham Lincoln, former US President
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