Colombo, February 18: The Indian High Commission said here on Thursday, that the Sri Lankan Minister for Energy, Udaya Gammanpila, had not said that the 2017 MoU on the oil tanks in Trincomalee would be scrapped, and that in the Indo-Lankan Joint Venture (JV) to be formed to develop and run the tanks, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would hold a majority stake.
A press note from the High Commission said: “ There is no truth in reports in some sections of the media that the understanding between India and Sri Lanka on jointly developing and operating the Upper Tank Farm at Trincomalee has been scrapped.”
“These reports did not correctly portray the remarks made by the Minister of Energy of Sri Lanka at an event on 17 February 2021. The Minister has himself clarified the matter in detail today through a press briefing.”
“As indicated in the Minister’s briefing also, the two Governments have consulted each other to explore mutually acceptable modalities for jointly developing and operating the facility in accordance with existing bilateral understandings, including the MoU of 2017.”
“India looks forward to formal discussions on the matter, and expeditious implementation of their outcome to mutual benefit.”
Minister Gammanpila had caused a flutter in the media and dismay in Indian diplomatic circles when he reportedly declared that the 99 giant oil World War II-era oil tanks in Trincomalee which had been given to India by Sri Lankan government in 2003, had been “retrieved” and that the Indian High Commissioner had agreed to scrap the 2017 MOU on a Indo-Lankan joint venture to develop and run the tanks. The MoU had said nothing about stake-holding in the proposed JV.
Out of the 99 tanks, 15 were refurbished by the Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) and are being used by it and the Lankan Air Force.
Successive Sri Lankan governments have been trying to retrieve the 84 non-rehabilitated tanks either partially or fully but have not succeeded because India insists that since the 2003 transfer to India is based on a government to government agreement, nothing can be done arbitrarily and unilaterally. Finally in 2017, both governments agreed to develop and run the tanks as a Joint Venture. The Indian position is that discussions are yet to take place and therefore, it could not be claimed that any particular decision had been taken or would be taken.