Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila yesterday said the increase of fuel prices was a collective decision by the President, Prime Minister and the entire Government while calling for the resignation of the ruling party’s General Secretary, who, on Saturday, wanted the former to quit.
“Fuel price revision is determined by the global prices and the exchange, and not by the Energy Minister,” Gammanpila told a hurriedly convened media briefing to respond to the charges levelled by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, who called for the resignation of the Energy Minister following the decision to hike fuel prices.
Gammanpila said from November 2020, in tandem with a spike in global prices, as the Energy Minister, he was involved in negotiations to reduce taxes and levies on local fuel thrice.
“It was only after the Treasury was unable to further reduce that I, as Energy Minister, in February updated the Cabinet on the impending crisis and the problems faced by the CPC. Thereafter the matter was tasked with the Cabinet Sub-Committee comprising Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa,” Gammanpila said. Other members were Ministers Douglas Devananda, Wimal Weerawansa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardena in addition to the Energy Minister.
“After three rounds of meetings, it was decided to revise fuel prices, and I was entrusted to recommend the same to the President. Thereafter several more discussions were held and in May, it was decided to refer it to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Cost of Living, chaired by the Prime Minister,” the Energy Minister recalled.
He said at its meeting on 9 June, the Committee decided on the price revision. “The President was also present at this meeting,” Gammanpila said, listing Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Power Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, Sports and Youth Minister Namal Rajapaksa, State Minister of Money and Capital Market and Public Enterprise Reform Nivard Cabraal, and State Minister of Consumer Affairs Lasantha Alagiyawanna as other attendees.
“This meeting also discussed alternative ways to cushion the fuel hike›s impact on the cost of living. On 10 June, the Prime Minister, as Finance Minister, gave his consent in writing to revise fuel prices. It was after this that I, as Energy Minister, announced the decision by the President, Prime Minister and overall Government to increase fuel prices,» Gammanpila said.
He said that SLPP General Secretary Kariyawasam was not criticising him but his own party›s only successful presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. “This is a major and embarrassing attack on both the President and Prime Minister. In that context, Kariyawasam has made a big blunder and should resign, not me,» Gammanpila said.