"Oil deposits explored now to face oil crisis"
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody presided when Parliament met at 1
pm yesterday. After the presentation of papers and oral questions, the
House took up the Orders under the Strategic Development Projects Act
and the State Industrial Corporation Act for debate.
International Monetary Co-operation Senior Minister Dr Sarath
Amunugama: I present two orders related to the Economic Development and
Fisheries Ministries. The first order that we discuss today was very
important. The supply of oil needed for the country was a main factor
that affected the country's economy. The world oil crisis was one of the
main challenges that the world population was now undergoing.
Food and environment were the other main challenges.
To face this crisis, Sri Lanka had already finished the explorations
of oil deposits within its sea area. We have now stepped up drilling
these identified spots. As we have identified, there were 12 blocks to
be drilled. These blocks include three basins in the Kaveri basin, 8 in
the Mannar basin and one in the South basin, near Hambantota.
Under the initial step, the government expects to drill three oil
wells in Mannar.
There are positive signs that these attempts would reward successful
results. This would be a massive economic leap for the country.
Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair.
Dr Sarath Amunugama continues: In the past, the exploration of oil
was just a dream. Today we were about to realize that dream.
An Indian company (Kans India) had embarked on the drilling of
frontier deep water in Mannar.
However, with the existing laws and regulations related to the BOI,
this massive initiative could not be moved forward smoothly. This was a
great task. The estimated cost of the first phase was estimated at USD
110 million. That was why we present this order today.
We introduced Strategic Investment laws, to get permission for
critical development activities.
However, we present all these massive economic ventures and
development initiatives to the House to facilitate broad discussions
over them. Parliament could make constructive criticisms over them this
way. Nowhere in the world, were such ventures presented to Parliament.
This shows the democratic values of this government.
Hence, we present a massive economic venture on oil drilling before
the House for approval.
Harsha de Silva (UNP): The Senior Minister pointed out that the
gazette had been published pertaining to the order which was presented
today under the Strategic Development Projects Act. We are happy that
the government followed the proper means to facilitate this move.
However, this gazette paper does not mention what benefits the
general public would receive if oil was found in the country. What was
the royalty of the people of this country?
I accept that this initiative was a positive and progressive move. We
appreciate the good moves without hesitation. However, many land deals
pursued under the same Strategic Development Projects Act have so many
Petroleum Industries Minister Susil Premajayantha: MP Harsha de Silva
raised several questions related to the hotel industry when speaking at
today's debate. However, the procedure of this whole oil drilling
project was carried out.
However, I would like to remind him how in a proper legal manner. MP
Karu Jayasuriya during the 2002-2004 period, sold one third of the
Petroleum Corporation to an Indian company without gazetting. It was
done only through a Cabinet paper.
On the contrary, the present government had followed the most
transparent and legal path.
Only the test drilling were being conducted now. When explorations
were going on, the basic expenditure was very high. The drilling needs
new equipment. The tax concession was given for this capital
expenditure. This investment did not stop from USD 112.5 million. It
needs to be carried forward. However, the whole procedure was very open
This Indian company undertakes even offshore drilling. Their
reputation had increased with their finding of oil in Rajasthan.
We spend about USD 3 billion to import oil annually. This would be
increased in the coming years. Therefore, oil drilling in our country
would be a huge relief on the country's economy.
The direct and indirect jobs created by this venture could not be
disregarded too. We also receive technology pertaining to this project.
Those were special benefits to the country.
Eran Wickremaratne (UNP): We today discuss about fossil fuel deposits
in the country and also about their drilling.
Saudi Arabia and Nigeria were some countries having oil deposits. But
corruption and pollution in these countries were rampant.
Therefore we request the government to carry out this task in a very
transparent manner. Everybody should have access to information on these
oil drilling projects. Sri Lanka has invited China and India for the oil
Economic Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena: The
Strategic Development Projects Act was introduced in 2008. When there
was a difficult period in the world due to oil, the President had to
personally intervene to obtain oil at concessionary prices from Iran for
a six month grace period. There was a time when oil ruled the world.
This shows the importance of oil drilling in Sri Lanka.
Today we present the order to provide tax concessions to the Indian
company involved in oil drilling. This concession was given to this
company concerning the capital expenditure it had to take.
MP Harsha de Silva also spoke on land deals, including the army
headquarters. I must point out to him that the Inter-Continental Hotel
was built on a land belonging to the Sinha Regiment. He has no ethical
right to criticize land deals today, since these land deals had been
presented to Parliament and had been approved. What MP Harsha was doing
was chasing away the investors by arousing doubts and fears among them.
The benefits of Catic and Shangri-La investments were for the
country. Every cent earned through these investments had been remitted
in the Treasury. We want to bring about a great transformation in this
country within the next few years by these massive investments.
The tax concession would not be given to any sub contractors of the
oil drilling project. This project generates about 300,000 jobs.
M A Sumanthiran (TNA): The Strategic Development Projects Act only
provides provision to present orders with regard to the applicability of
certain taxation provisions. It does not say anything with regard to the
choice of contractors for these projects.
A H M Azwer takes the chair
M A Sumanthiran continues: Nothing had been gained by giving blocks
to India and China for oil exploration. Until December 2007, nothing has
been done for the exploration of oil. I am not opposed to foreign
companies conducting these types of explorations. But, I question as to
how these 3 companies were selected for this purpose.
Mohan P de Silva (UPFA): Today the country has been transferred to be
one very conducive for living happily. Roads and other infrastructure
were being developed. But 15 percent of the national income has been
spent on petroleum. So far various attempts have been made for the
exploration of oil and the attempts had not been given up. But a
positive attempt had been made for oil exploration by this government in
2007, under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
By now the craft have reached the Mannar Basin to commence
Sujeewa Senasinghe (UNP): The world has been developing rapidly today
and experiments were being conducted to find substitutes for petroleum.
Today we have reached the proper time to conduct oil exploration. We
too agree that oil exploration should be conducted by foreign companies.
But these deals should be conducted in a transparent manner.
We admire the development drive conducted by Economic Development
Minister Basil Rajapaksa. But the lands should be handed over to
investors under a tender procedure.
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa: We have tendered for
oil exploration in Sri Lanka, but only three companies have applied so
far. We have selected the highest bid.
J R P Sooriyapperuma (UPFA): Today was a noble day in Sri Lankan's
history. If Sri Lanka could find oil, it would turn a new page in the
economy of the country. It would also usher a new era of technology to
Sri Lanka. The first speech made in this House today by Dr Amunugama had
a historical value.
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr Rajitha
Senaratne: I speak about the order under the State Industrial
Corporations Act presented to the House today.
This provision would enable us to meet Ministry's targets on 2013.
Through this order, we could approach these goals in an integrated
manner. When I was the Minister of Construction, I presented a similar
amendment to the State Engineering Corporation.
In the near future, I hope to bring a similar amendment to the
Fisheries Corporation as well.
This would help us to increase our income from fish exportation. I
also hope to expand the canned fish industry. We locally produce about
50,000 tons of canned fish daily, but this was not enough. We need about
100,000 tons of canned fish for our country.
Fishing boats and other equipment related to the fisheries industry
should be upgraded to meet our targets.
We are looking forward to attain the international quality
certificate for our fish. If we could obtain this, many countries would
give priority to our fish. Since what they seek was the quality and not
the price. I also intend to create a trade mark for our fish. When our
tea was mentioned as 'Ceylon Tea', the whole world had identified it. In
the same way, a trade name should be promoted for Sri Lankan fish.
Fisheries harbours would also be upgraded with foreign aid. The North
would be given six mobile refrigerating units to transport fish to
Colombo. More attention was also given for the banning of illegal
Anura Dissanayake (DNA): When we consider the future of our economy,
oil would be an invaluable resource. However, when we consider the
global context, we also see that many states had undergone foreign
invasions due to oil resources.
Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair.
Anura Dissanayake (continues): Just processing the oil resource was
not sufficient. What matters more was how efficiently we were going to
drill and use it. This tender had a greater value and relates to a
national asset of the country.
The government even facilitates tax concessions to this Indian
company which secured the tender. These tax concessions were not
informed before calling for tenders. Parliament should not approve this
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa: Most of the criticisms
directed at the gazette and the Act had been directed without going
through the gazette's last page.
This government has embarked on many large-scale development
projects. Village community had been benefitted by development projects
such as 'Gama Neguma' and 'Maga Neguma'. 'Pura Neguma' was also
initiated to develop cities. For the overall development of the country,
investment was critically important. From the beginning, we have
initiated many investment opportunities.
Now this country had many investment opportunities. To cater to the
employment for our youth, exceptional investments were needed. The
government alone cannot cater to all these needs.
Oil drilling was much awaited and a long overdue task. It was
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who stepped on to this giant task.
To maintain our economic development growth, we need much more
foreign investments. However, we only selectively allow foreign
investors to invest in selected fields.
I must also note that this was the first time that a government in
Sri Lanka's history and world history had presented tax concessions
presented to the contractors for the approval of Parliament.
The gazette had been published for the notice of the public. It was
what Parliament approves later. This was good proof of the democracy of
this country under this government's regime.
In the same way, we would present every other major venture to the
House in the future too. The gazette clearly notifies that the tax
concession was only given for the particular company for the equipment
of oil drilling during the licenced period.
I believe this start was a happy event for each and every citizen of
Even though amidst a world food crisis, Sri Lanka was self-sufficient
from rice to the extant that no quantity of rice was imported to the
country during this year.
Order under the Strategic Development Projects Act was approved with
a majority of 54 votes.
58 voted in favour where as 4 voted against DNA MP Anura Dissanayake
asked for a division. DNA voted against whereas the UNP abstained from
voting. TNA members were not present at the time of voting.
Order under the State Industrial Corporation Act was approved.
The House was adjourned till 1 pm today.
MPs to be elected on total number of registered votes - PM
Prime Minister D M Jayaratne, yesterday stated that the Election
Commissioner had changed the number of Members of Parliament entitled to
be elected for electoral districts in accordance with the total number
of voters registered within the respective districts in 2010, under the
provisions vested in him by the constitution.
The Prime Minister further stated that the Elections Commissioner
did not have power to reduce or increase the number of members of
parliament in any electoral district at his own discretion, but proper
guide lines had been given to him to do so in the constitution in
accordance with the number of registered voters in the corresponding
The Prime Minister also stated that the number of Members of
Parliament had been reduced, increased or remain unchanged according to
the total number of voters registered this year. He added that the
changes were not made only to the Jaffna District.
The Prime Minister was responding to a special statement made by
TNA MP R Sampanthan in which he said that the number of parliamentarians
entitled to be elected to Jaffna electoral district had been reduced to
Prime Minister D M Jayaratne: The total number of seats in
Parliament was 225, according to the Constitution. Twenty-nine were
elected by the list. The manner as to how the rest of the 196 seats were
divided among other districts was according to the provisions in clauses
96, 97 and 98 of the Constitution. According to these provisions, each
province gets 4 seats.
According to the De limitation Committee appointed on November 29,
1978, the Jaffna Electoral District which includes Jaffna and the
Kilinochchi Administrative Districts gets one seat, while the Vanni
Electoral District get 3 seat.
The rest of the 160 seats had been divided among the electoral
districts in accordance with the total number of voters registered each
year. The allotted number of seats had been gazetted by the Elections
Commissioner under Provisions of 98 (8) of the Constitution, so that the
number of seats allocated to each electoral district could be changed.
The Jaffna Electoral District had a total number of voters of
8,16,005 in 2009 and the district received 10 seats. But some Electoral
Districts had a voters list of 4,84,709 in 2010. The total number of
seats the Jaffna electoral district secured according to that list was
The total number of voters were not registered, visiting houses in
the North since 1980 to 2010, but the youth who reached the age of 18
years had been entered to that list of voters. But that list had been
prepared almost accurately in 2010 and most of the persons who got
permanent residence overseas and the dead had been removed from the
Today ordinary law prevails in the country. The opposition makes
various false allegations against the country.
Anybody can live peacefully in the North and East. So I request
everybody to unite to make the efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's
attempt to build up a great nation.
Sri Lanka airspace not violated - Civil
Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara
Jayaratne, yesterday stated that media reports that said several foreign
aircraft had violated Sri Lanka's territorial airspace, had been
He made this observation in Parliament in a
special statement made in respect of the media reports which had
appeared in print and electronic media that said fighter jets owned by
an Airforce of a foreign nation had violated Sri Lanka's territorial
He stated that the jets had only operated in
international waters, beyond the Sri Lankan territorial space. Hence by
no means had the Sri Lankan territorial space been violated.
He also stated that the territorial airspace
includes the space above Sri Lanka and space within 12 nautical miles in
the sea from Sri Lanka, adding that Sri Lanka was attached with a part
of international space called Hight Information Region to provide
services to international civil aviation service operations. He also
said that the region was not owned by Sri Lanka.
Some operations have been made in that
region where any country had a right to operate.
Minister Priyankara Jayaratne stated that
this statement was made after having discussions with the Secretary to
the Civil Aviation Ministry, Legal Adviser to the External Affairs
Ministry and Director General of the Civil Aviation Services Authority.
The Minister further stated that if this
matter had not been clarified, it would affect the diplomatic relations
maintained by us with other friendly nations.
'A total of 433,108 vehicles have failed
vehicle emission test'
A total number of 433,108 vehicles had
failed the Vehicle Emission Test upto now, Transport, Deputy Minister
Rohana Dissanayake said in Parliament yesterday.
He said that this was 16.22 percent from the
total number of vehicles tested, since the introduction of this test in
He observed that the objective of the
vehicle emission test was not to withdraw vehicles from running, but to
encourage people to pay more attention towards the maintenance of their
vehicles without polluting the environment.
He observed that the vehicles which failed
from the test the first time, had passed at second time. Only about four
percent had failed the second time.
The Emission test is being conducted at 231
countrywide centres. Of them, 62 were permanent centres and 42 mobile
The Government has earned a revenue of Rs
13.6 million in 2010, from these tests. A total number of 2,668,645
vehicles had been tested since 2008.
The Deputy Minister was responding to a
question raised by UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera.