IMF Aid in Danger

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Today will mark the third day where Sri Lanka has no Prime Minister since the then Premier and previously two times President Percy Mahendra (Mahinda) Rajapaksa resigned from his post due to public agitation on Monday.

The masses have been agitating for weeks not only for Mahinda’s resignation, but also for his younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, as well.

Today will also be the third longest number of days that Sri Lanka has been without a Premier since obtaining independence 74 years ago, according to the Parliament website.

The longest was 63 days, from 2 January 1989 to 6 March 1989, but unlike now, the Governments, prior to 2 January 1989 and post -2 January to 6 March 1989 that governed the country were stable Governments, unlike now.

That ‘freak’ 63 days took place after the then Premier Ranasinghe Premadasa was elected President at the 19 December 1988 Presidential Poll and the subsequent dissolution of Parliament on 2 January 1989, leading up to a new Parliamentary Poll being held on 15 February 1989 and consequently a new Premier appointed. In the interim, it was the Cabinet which was in place on 2 January 1989 with Premadasa as the new President which functioned till 15 February 1989 too.

The second time was four days, from 22 March 1952 to 26 March 1952, after Premier D.S. Senanayake suddenly died and subsequently being succeeded by his son Dudley.

However, since Monday, Sri Lanka has no Cabinet too, as the then Cabinet, together with the PM resigned on that day.

Meanwhile, IMF’s Mission Chief to Sri Lanka Masahiro Nozaki in a statement warned on Tuesday (10 May) that aid to Sri Lanka will be possible only after a new Government is formed.

It’s only after a new Government is formed that it will be possible to discuss matters pertaining to policy, sine qua non to obtain IMF aid.

Complementing Nozaki, Central Bank Executive Officers’ Union (CBEOU) issuing a statement on Tuesday warned that repressive laws will inure talks with donor agencies like the IMF.

Meanwhile, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said yesterday that he will resign from his position if no Government is formed within a fortnight.

Sri Lanka currently has no Prime Minister, no Finance Minister, no Cabinet, while the President is incommunicado, with the few messages he makes, restricted to “twitter.”

Those in the front as Government spokesmen these days are Defence Ministry Secretary General G.D.H. Kamal Gunaratne (retired) and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva.

Collectively the ‘West,’ including the European Union (EU) region Sri Lanka’s second largest export market and the UK, its third, together with another country that matters to Sri Lanka Japan, the island’s single largest bilateral donor of concessional aid, on external issues generally act in unison.

The Gotabaya Government’s relations with Japan ‘too’ are not cordial after for an inexplicable reason it cancelled a concessional Japanese funded monorail project in Colombo in 2020, which would have eased traffic congestion in the city if it had been implemented.

Currently, Sri Lanka has no US dollars to import such essentials like fuel among others, depending on the largesse of India to make such imports. Fuel is Sri Lanka’s single largest import bill.

Resultantly, large numbers of drivers with their vehicles currently queue up for weeks, if not months, on a daily basis, more often than not for hours, to obtain such supplies, while in a number of instances, despite such efforts, returning empty -handed either because fuel stations had received inadequate stocks or had not received any stocks at all.

Sri Lanka is also subjected to hours-long daily power cuts due to insufficient dollars to import coal, gas and diesel to provide uninterrupted electricity supply to the masses, discounting other shortages of essentials like cooking gas and milk foods.

Gotabaya in his acceptance speech made at Anuradhapura in 2019 said that he loves his country. It’s more than about time he translates his words to deeds.