By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Convenor of ‘Samagi Joint Trade Union Alliance’ Ananda Palitha yesterday (06) alleged that the bankrupt country was being exploited to the hilt by the powers that be and external powers.
The one-time director of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government increased diesel and petrol prices on 30th July, in spite of unprecedented profits accrued, since September last year, while claiming there were sufficient stocks available for a period of three months.
The SJB trade union leader pointed out that retired Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne, who served as the CPC Managing Director till the end of July, this year, was quoted as having told The Island recently that the CPC profits amounted to Rs 73 bn.
The latest price revision was announced close on the heels of the former Navy Commander’s declaration, Ananda Palitha said, adding that thanks to some intrepid persons in the CPC management he was able to obtain related information, the former UNPer said.
In a brief interview with The Island, Ananda Palitha emphasized that from Sept. 2022 to Dec .2022, the CPC earned quite staggering profits, amounting to Rs 40 bn. The situation has further improved, the former CPC employee said, adding that this year’s profits so far were estimated at Rs 84 bn.
Responding to another query, Ananda Palitha said that the CPC was no longer burdened with loans nor procured petroleum products on credit. According to him, the CPC’s unsettled loans amounting to USD 3 bn had been transferred to the Central Bank by the incumbent government.
Pointing out that the People’s Bank was the major creditor, Ananda Palitha stressed the importance of parliamentary oversight in the absence of transparency and accountability in the management process. It would be a grave mistake on the part of the government to go by the profits alone, Ananda Palitha said, urging thorough examination of the process to ensure that the consumers weren’t further burdened.
The latest price revision was announced on 30 July ahead of the arrival of the first consignment of fuel from the latest entrant to the market, Ananda Palitah said. China Petrochemical Corporation aka Sinopec would benefit by the price revision, the SJB official said. “On 30 July, CPC raised the price of 92 Octane petrol by Rs 20 to Rs 348. Octane 95 was also increased by Rs 10 to Rs 375 a litre. Super Diesel was increased by Rs 12 to Rs 358 per litre. Lanka IOC matched the CPC pricing formula,” Ananda Palitha said.
The second consignment followed and Sinopec now got around 42,000 metric tons of petroleum products here. These products included Petrol 92 Octane, Petrol 95 Octane, Auto Diesel and Super Diesel. The new supplier hasn’t been able to start distribution as stipulated in the agreement, Ananda Palitha said.
Ananda Palitha alleged that the incumbent administration took advantage of the political-economic-social crisis to pursue an agenda of its own. Having repeatedly assured that their primary intention was to ensure the continuous supply of quality fuel at competitive prices, the government called for international tenders to procure the services of recognized suppliers.
The three selected enterprises were M/s Sinopec Fuel Oil Lanka (Private) Limited, F5, Hambantota Maritime Center, Mirijjawila, Hambantota, Sri Lanka, M/s United Petroleum Pty Ltd, 600 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia and M/s RM Parks, 1061 N. Main St, Porterville, CA 93257, USA, in collaboration with Shell PLC. However, only Sinopec proceeded as agreed with the government as the other enterprises declined to pay USD 2 mn license fee unless they received an international guarantee in respect of the funds.
Alleging that the Chinese obviously had received favored treatment Ananda Palitha pointed out Sinopec paid USD 2 mn licence fee. Citing a range of concessions received by Sinopec, Ananda Palitha stressed that contrary to the tender procedures, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera subsequently through a cabinet paper granted two far reaching concessions. As a result of ministerial intervention, 1 percent royalty payments in USD had been done away with while the money raised through sales here could be taken out immediately in USD.
Ananda Palitha also questioned the decision to grant BoI status to Sinopec contrary to the tender conditions.
The outspoken trade union activist said that the Chinese entry into the retail market here should be examined against the status of the Lanka IOC operations and the continuing expansion facilitated by Indian interventions at the highest level. In spite of change of governments, Lanka IOC, since its inception here in 2003 sustained growth and received a mega boost with the agreement on Trincomalee oil tank farm finalized during Udaya Gammanpila’s tenure as the Power and Energy Minister.