The Opposition today (21) asked whether the Cabinet was misled and tricked when presenting the Cabinet paper on the proposed oil refinery project in Hambantota which was to be a joint venture with Oman.
UPFA Parliamentarian Kanchana Wijesekera queried about the U.S. $ 3.8 billion project as the Government of Oman had denied that it is a party to it.
He told Parliament that three days ago, Minister Nalin Bandara had revealed during a press briefing about the biggest foreign investment to be made by Oman in the country, in the Hambantota industrial park to commence on 24 March.
He said Minister Bandara also said Cabinet approval was obtained urgently for this project and to allocate 400 acres for this investment. “However, the Under Secretary for the Oman Ministry of Oil and Gas has claimed that they were unaware of this investment in Sri Lanka. He claims to be unaware of who had agreed to make the $ 3.8 billion investment in Sri Lanka,” Wijesekara said.
Therefore, he asked Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva whether this was another scam like the bogus Volkswagen investment to hoodwink the people of this country. “The Cabinet paper was submitted claiming that this was an investment by the Oman State. This was a deliberate attempt to mislead Cabinet and the people of this country. This grave wrong must be rectified. We have no objection to investments coming into the country. But, it is a grave wrong to trick Cabinet and the people by claiming that this was an investment by the Oman Government and trying to give a private investor 400 acres of State land in Hambantota. This is the same thing they did in the Volkswagen scam, where they eventually gave large chunks of land to private investors.”
He noted that Minister Bandara had said that the Omani Ministry of Oil and Gas was to take a 30 per cent stake in what would be Sri Lanka’s biggest single foreign direct investment.
In response, Minister Dr. de Silva said the Board of Investments Director General was scheduled to issue a statement last evening explaining everything about this matter. “I don’t know about this and don’t want to comment on something I don’t know anything about.”
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe responding to Wijesekara said the proposed project in Hambantota would be a joint venture between a private company in Oman and the Sri Lankan Government. He said that the company will be given a 30% stake in the refinery while the Sri Lankan Government will get the rest.
“The company in Oman will get a 30% stake in the refinery. However, I have proposed that the company be given a total of 40% stake if it is interested,” the Prime Minister said. He said the Government of Oman was initially interested in it.
However, Wijesekera pointed out that Cabinet approval was obtained stating that this was an investment with the Oman Government, which was not true and was a deliberate lie.
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