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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka yesterday announced plans to take back part of a strategic oil storage depot from a state-run Indian firm after Delhi supported international calls to probe war crimes on the island.
Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said there were provisions to take back tanks that were not being used by the Indian Oil Company’s local unit, Lanka IOC, in the northeastern port of Trincomalee. “If they are not using the tanks, we can use them,” Rambukwella told reporters. “This is for the country. If they are not using these tanks, the CPC (state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation) wants to take them back and put them into good use,” he said.
Lanka IOC chief Subodh Dakwale said he was unaware of government plans to take back some of the tanks at the Trincomalee tank farm. “We are right now spending $17 million to refurbish two tanks and we are quite unaware of the plan to take over some of the storage tanks,” Dakwale told AFP.
India also said it had been given assurances that no decision had been taken.
“We have been reassured at the highest levels that no such decision has been taken,” India’s External Affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told AFP.
Rambukwella denied that the move to take back the storage facilities, which were privatised in 2003, was in retaliation for India voting with the US to censure Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council.
The minister said: “If the IOC will not make full use of the tanks, the provisions of the MOU will be fully utilised to ensure that the CPC can use them (the tanks).”
“We are not going to have a confrontation,” he said adding that they would have negotiations based on the MOU. Whatever the IOC is not using, we want to make use of.” He said CPC wanted to expand and needed at least three tanks in Trincomalee to store their chemicals and other products.
The UNHRC adopted a resolution initiated by the US demanding accountability for alleged war crimes during the Sri Lankan military’s crushing of Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009. India, home to millions of Tamils who share links with their counterparts in Sri Lanka, risks worsening ties over the resolution.