Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa today described a proposed deal with India to jointly operate a strategic oil facility as a “betrayal” of Sri Lanka’s national asset, as his supporters called for raising of black flags during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit next week. Addressing a May Day rally in Colombo, Rajapaksa, who leads Joint Opposition camp, said that Trincomalee’s oil tanks preserved as national asset by successive governments since independence are to be sold. “This is a government which auctions all national assets,” Rajapaksa said. The reference was on the proposed deal to start a joint venture with India to utilize the World War II time tanks. At least 73 of the 99 storage tanks in Trincomalee is to be managed under a new equity arrangement between India and Sri Lanka.
Workers of state-run petroleum company went on a strike last week over the issue. They, however, ended their strike after an assurance from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. One of Rajapaksa’ main backers Wimal Weerawansa, a former minister, called for raising of black flags during Modi’s visit to Lanka. “They are trying to sell our country to India,” he told the rally. Modi is due to visit Lanka on May 12 to attend the UN Vesak Day, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.
The opposition claims Modi is to sign the oil tank deal during his visit despite President Maithripala Sirisena rubbishing it as misinformation. Modi would only attend the UN ‘Vesak Day’ celebrations and no bilateral agreements will be signed during his visit to Lanka, President Sirisena has said.