Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera indicated to the Media in Colombo yesterday that because of a dearth of US dollars, they are unable to import fuel.
According to him, presently, State-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Indian Government-owned Lanka Indian Oil Corporation PLC (LIOC) have 19,000 metric tons (mts) of diesel and between 5,500-6,000 mts of petrol, only. The CPC refinery is shutdown because the Government of Sri Lanka/CPC has no dollars to import crude oil.
The SLPP Government, together with UNP Leader and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe have made several firsts in Sri Lanka’s political and socioeconomic landscape, not having dollars to import fuel is one of them.
According to latest Central Bank of Sri Lanka data, in the first quarter of the year, 642,000 and 386,000 mts of diesel and petrol were sold in Sri Lanka. Those work out to the daily consumption of 7,133 and 4,289 mts of diesel and petrol.
Therefore, the aforesaid quantities of 19,000 mts of diesel and 6,000 mts of petrol are sufficient for not even three and two days of petrol and diesel. Wijesekera and the rest of the Government, including Rajapaksa, Wickremesinghe, other members of the SLPP Cabinet along with the remaining SLPP MPs were elected to power, in the case of Wickremesinghe, nominated to power, to make Rajapaksa’s promise of ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ enunciated in his 2019 Presidential Manifesto, launched at the eve of the 16 November 2019 Presidential Poll, which he won, true.
Now, third year into Rajapaksa’s election, the masses are suffering, having to queue up for essentials, including fuel and gas and more often than not, not only having to return empty-handed, but several deaths and injuries, both by chance or by design, being inflicted on these hapless people.
Matters are compounded by the soaring cost of living at a record of over 40 per cent last month, and, in a tragicomedy, GoSL yesterday raised the price of fuel, despite no or hardly any fuel available at the pump.
The present socioeconomic scenario is worse than that which prevailed under the seven-year rule of the Marxist-Socialist Government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike in power from 1970-1977, underlined by shortages, queues, rationing, a black market, bribery, corruption, nepotism and cronyism, because the economy was dollar short, as Sri Lanka is an import-dependent economy. Bandaranaike was living in a pipe dream, looking for dollars from her friends, the then Soviet Union and China, having distanced herself from the West.
But a new, physical lease of life was given to the country with the election of the West and Japan leaning J.R. Jayewardene on 21 July 1977. It may not be wrong to say that from birth Jayewardene was a Westernphile, earning the sobriquet Yankee Dickie by the then Chief Opposition in Parliament the Marxist LSSP, in Sri Lanka’s first Parliament in 1947, where Jayewardene was the Finance Minister.
With the flow of goods and services, from dollars received from the West and Japan after Jayewardene’s election in 1977, shortages, queues, a black market, cronyism, nepotism and bribery and corruption to obtain the bare necessities became history, only to re-emerge 44 years later in 2021, due to bribery and corruption practised at the highest level, beginning with the election of Rajapaksa’s elder brother Mahinda to the Presidency on 17 November 2005, resulting in the plight of the masses turning for the worse by the day since 2021, to the present.
Gotabaya, in his inaugural address made at Ruwanwelisaya, Anuradhapura on 18 November 2019, ended by saying, “I love my country.” Meanwhile, the EU in a tweet on Friday said, “EU ambassadors met President Rajapaksa. The way out of the crisis is through structural reforms at all levels.”
If Rajapaksa is not willing, in his words, to make the “system change,” what Oliver Cromwell told the British Parliament on 20 April 1653 is also applicable to Gotabaya, “It is not fit that you should sit here any longer. You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing lately … In the name of God, go.”