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Loss of vital byproducts of refinery having devastating impact on other sectors: FSP

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Byproducts of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery such as furnace oil, jet fuel, kerosene and naphtha are vital for many Sri Lankan industries and its shutdown will have a devastating impact on various sectors, Frontline Socialist Party’s (FSP) Education Secretary, Pubudu Jayagoda says.

Jayagoda said Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila had stated that importing refined petrol and diesel was much more economical than purchasing crude oil.

“We do not have crude oil because the country doesn’t have dollars. The CPC floated over five tenders and there were no international sellers who wanted to supply us crude. In fact, sellers had not responded to the coal tenders floated by Sri Lanka and this might lead to a power shortage at the beginning of next year,” he said.

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has been able to generate a significant portion of electricity with hydropower because of heavy rains, he said adding that by January 2022, the people might have to experience several hours of power cuts, Jayagoda said.

“Sri Lanka spent a significant amount of money on oil imports. In 2019, when a barrel of crude oil was selling at around USD 69, we spent about USD 3.67 billion to import oil. In 2020, we spent about USD 2.32 billion because the price of a barrel of crude oil dropped to about USD 45. Right now the price of a barrel of crude oil is about USD 80, and we will spend about USD 4 billion this year. There are some who believe that the price of a barrel will go up to USD 120 by the end of 2022,” he said.

Jayagoda added that while Sri Lanka had no control over world crude oil prices, there were several ways that the CPC could improve the situation through long-term planning. In 2020, there was a significant drop in oil prices and Sri Lanka could have kept a buffer stock, he said. There are oil storage tanks in Muthurajawela and Trincomalee. However, instead of renovating the tanks in Trincomalee, the government is planning to sell them, he said.

“Fifteen oil tanks in Trincomalee have been given to Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on lease. However, the agreement expires at the end of the year, and we can take them back. However, the government not only plans to give them back to the IOC, but they are planning to place over 70 tanks under a company that India has a majority stake in. An understanding was reached on this during the recent visit by the Indian Foreign Secretary. The ‘talks’ were so successful that the Indian delegation took some photos opposite the tanks,” Jayagoda said.

The FSP Education Secretary said that the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery had not been expanded since its inception. Even without any funds to develop its infrastructure, the refinery played a significant role in supporting many industries, he said.

“So, around 60% are byproducts of refining are furnace oil, black oil, jet fuel, kerosene and naphtha. The CPC makes a lot of money by selling them. By mid-1990s, the CPC had been able to pay for its crude oil imports by selling the byproducts. However, successive governments have ruined this sources income. The fact that the CPC still makes money from them shows that there are cash cows,” he said.

Jayagoda said that ultimately the government would end up spending more dollars importing furnace oil, jet fuel, kerosene, and naphtha. This is akin to the disaster created by banning the import of urea, he said. Although the government saved some money by bringing a halt to import of urea, it spent a large amount of dollars importing compost, potassium, and nitrogen.

“A number of state and private companies depend on the byproducts of refining. Earlier the CEB bought black and furnace oil from the CPC. Now, it’s planning to import them. We will probably do the same with kerosene, naphtha and jet fuel. The question is whether we have dollars? If the CEB can’t purchase these products that will affect the production of 200 MWs of electricity,” Jagoda said.



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Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB

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Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premadasa said that Article 123(4) of the Constitution says, “Where any Bill, or the provision of any Bill, has been determined, or is deemed to have been determined, to be inconsistent with the Constitution, such Bill or such provision shall not be passed except in the manner stated in the determination of the Supreme Court.”

Premadasa said: “It is illegal to pass a Bill without adhering to this constitutional provision. There were nine instances where the government overlooked the Supreme Court determination on the Bill. The Speaker allowed that to happen despite our protests. The Justice Minister, too, has admitted that there are flaws in the Act. How could that happen? Rectify them immediately, or we will bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.”

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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Teheran expects enhancement of bilateral ties in all fields

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Following Iranian FM’s visit

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, during high level meetings in Colombo this week, expressed hope that with this trip, the bilateral ties in all fields, including political, economic, commercial, and tourism, would be expanded.

Amirabdollahian was here at the official invitation of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC. During his meeting with Sabry, Amirabdollahian referred to the good and friendly relations between the two countries and the continuous consultations between them on bilateral, regional, and international issues.

The Iranian also considered scientific and technological issues as areas to which the two countries pay attention for cooperation.

Amirabdollahian appreciated the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, to visit this country and stated: “We hope that this trip will be on the agenda at the right time.”

He also appreciated Sri Lanka’s positions in supporting the people of Palestine and Gaza in international forums, including the United Nations.

In this meeting, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also warmly welcomed his Iranian counterpart and described his trip to Tehran last summer as memorable, stating: “During my trip to Iran, I witnessed the high morale of the Iranian people in the social arena. I observed production and life.”

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister emphasized: “The two countries have good relations with common areas and shared values.”

Referring to Sri Lanka’s transition from previous economic conditions and economic growth and prosperity in this country, Ali Sabry expressed hope that the relations between the two countries would expand even more in the new era.

Referring to the industrial and economic capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka emphasized the readiness of his country to host Iranians to implement economic projects in Sri Lanka.

The issue of developing cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism was one of the other topics discussed by the foreign ministers of the two countries, and the parties expressed hope that Iranian and Sri Lankan tourists would mutually choose the two countries more and more as tourist destinations.

In this regard, the parties emphasized the necessity of establishing direct flights between Iran and Sri Lanka, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

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Only 50,000 out of 7 mn buildings have rooftop solar systems

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Great potential to increase solar power generation

by Rathindr5a Kuruwita

Rooftop solar power generation in Sri Lanka has exceeded 750 megawatts by the middle of February 2024, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) media spokesman Noel Priyantha said on Wednesday.

Priyantha added that Sri Lanka has great potential in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

Sri Lanka has around seven million buildings, but only 50,000 of them have installed rooftop solar systems, and there is a great potential to increase rooftop solar power generation exponentially, he said.

The CEB now buys a unit of electricity from rooftop solar power producers for 37 rupees, and these producers can recover their initial costs in five years, Priyantha said.

The CEB is also talking to state-owned banks to introduce a concessional bank loan for those interested in installing rooftop solar power units, he said.

The Sri Lankan government has set a goal of achieving 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

The total installed capacity of the national power grid is over 5,000 megawatts, and the daily energy consumption in February 2024 is about 46 gigawatts per day, Priyantha said .

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