Feb 21, 2008 (LBO) – Petroleum minister A H M Fowzie said Sri Lanka would have lost the confidence of global oil firms if it had postponed the bids for offshore exploration and was keen to ensure transparency in the bidding. The government had also appointed a cabinet appointed negotiating committee to negotiate with the bidders as well as a technical evaluation committee to evaluate their bids. Sri Lanka had to compete with other countries, some already producing oil, which also offered exploration blocks around the same time, he told parliament Thursday.

He said the government was committed to conducting the oil exploration bidding round in a transparent manner with maximum benefit to the country.

He was responding to queries by opposition member Wimal Weerawansa of the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna about why the government did not postpone bidding.

Weerawansa has repeatedly expressed fears that Sri Lanka might not get the best deal in the tender for offshore oil exploration blocks in the Mannar Basin off the north-west coast.

Fowzie said he had initially planned to postpone the bidding round but decided against it on the advice of his experts as Sri Lanka had to compete with countries like the USA