Sri Lanka’s new prime minister said the country was down to its final day of petrol, while the country’s power minister warned residents not to join the long gasoline lines that have sparked weeks of anti-government rallies.
In a speech to the nation on Thursday, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was chosen Prime Minister on Thursday, said the government urgently required $75 million in foreign money to pay for crucial imports.
“We barely have enough gas for one day at the present. The next several months will be the most challenging of our life “he remarked.
“We must be willing to make some sacrifices and confront the challenges that this time will bring.”
He noted that two supplies of gasoline and two shipments of diesel utilizing an Indian credit line might give assistance in the coming days, but the country is also short on 14 key medications.
The problem sparked significant protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, culminating in his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation as Prime Minister last week after clashes between government supporters and demonstrators killed nine people and injured 300 more.
In a desperate attempt to appease demonstrators, the president replaced him with Wickremesinghe, an opposition lawmaker who has already held the office five times.
However, the protestors have stated that they will continue their campaign as long as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is in power. They’ve also called Wickremesinghe a puppet and chastised his nomination of four cabinet ministers, all of whom are members of the Rajapaksa brothers’ political party.
On Monday, Wickremesinghe stated that he accepted the position for the sake of the country.
Long lines of auto rickshaws, the city’s most popular mode of transportation, formed at petrol stations in Colombo, the commercial capital, in a fruitless wait for gasoline.
“I’ve been waiting for more than six hours,” one motorist, Mohammad Ali, said. “We waited in line for about six to seven hours simply to acquire petrol.”
Mohammad Naushad, another motorist, reported the gas station where he was waiting had ran out of petrol.
“We’ve been here since 7-8 a.m., and it’s still unclear if they’ll have gasoline or not,” he explained. “Nobody knows when it will arrive. We’re not sure if there’s any purpose in waiting here.”
The important Indian Ocean island country, where China and India are competing for power, is in the middle of a crisis unprecedented since its independence in 1948, because to the COVID-19 outbreak, rising oil costs, and populist tax cuts by the Rajapaksas.
A persistent lack of foreign cash has resulted in high inflation and shortages of medicine, petrol, and other necessities, prompting thousands of people to go to the streets in protest.
On Sunday, a fuel supply paid for using an Indian credit line arrived in the nation, but it has yet to be dispersed over the island.
On Monday, Power Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said, “Request the people not to queue or top up in the next three days until the 1,190 gasoline station supplies have been finished.”
Wickremesinghe has yet to choose key cabinet members, notably the finance minister, who will negotiate with the International Monetary Fund for desperately needed financial assistance.
Ali Sabry, the former Finance Minister, has undertaken preliminary negotiations with the international lender before resigning alongside Mahinda Rajapaksa last week.