By Saman Indrajith
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday that two ships carrying fuel would come from India and reach here tomorrow. “The President and I discussed this with Indian High Commissioner and he promised us that the two ships would be here on Nov. 09. The problem can be sorted out then.”
The Prime Minister said the problem could be sorted out once new shipments reached the country. In 2003, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had found that it could not repair the Trincomalee oil tank farm. Indian companies expressed their willingness to do that. If Indian companies had not agreed, the country would have found some other international companies for the task. There were charges against leasing the oil tank farm to India in 2003. If it had been a wrong move, the successive governments after 2003 could have rectified it, the PM said. “Why didn’t you do so? We won’t heed the calls for shutting down IOC operations here.”
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said he, too, had been affected by the fuel crisis.
He said so when MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena and JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake raised the fuel crisis in Parliament, making special statements.
“If the Speaker, too, finds that there is no petrol for his vehicles, this Parliament should understand the severity of the problem and the suffering of the general public,” MP Gunawardena said.
“The entire country is suffering due to this crisis. It is the duty of the government and the minister responsible to inform the nation when they will solve this problem. Who is responsible for the maintenance of stocks of petrol? Now we don’t own the oil tanks in Trincomalee. There is a crisis in the refinery. Who is taking the responsibility of this crisis?”
JVP Leader Dissnayake: There is a procedure to be followed where fuel imports are concerned. But, five shipments of petrol have been imported in contravention of the procedure. The country has suffered a massive loss as a result. The estimated loss is around USD 40 million. The Trincomalee oil tanks have been given to Indian Oil Company. We were against that move. Our concerns were not heeded. Now you see the result. The minister has said he is under pressure from politicians to give permission for unloading of substandard petrol but he won’t do so. Will the minister inform the House who exerted pressure on him?”
NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa: Does the minister have a backbone to tell the House the names of those politicians who put pressure on him?
Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga: Neither the President nor the Prime Minister pressured me in this regard. I would reveal the names when the time comes. I would not succumb to any pressure and act against the national interest even if I have to go home leaving this post tomorrow.