All’s well that ends well | Daily News

All’s well that ends well

At the time of writing this piece, the much anticipated shipment, that will defuse the large scale crisis, caused by the countrywide petrol shortage, was set to arrive in the country. Hopefully, the shipment would have arrived on scheduled, last evening and the distribution process commenced without any undue delay, putting an end to the grave hardships endured by motorists, particularly the three wheel operators, whose livelihoods, no doubt, suffered due to the petrol crisis.

Both, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga apologized to the public, for, what was after all, a grave lapse on the part of the government for not anticipating situations of this nature that may be upon us without warning. It is easy to blame the government for not maintaining additional buffer stocks. But, as Minister Ranatunga said, the storage capacity of the CPC did not permit this. Stocks can be maintained only within the confines of the available storage capacity. Hopefully, the government will be wiser for the experience and take measures to ensure there is no repetition. It should devise measures to get the quality of the fuel checked, at the port of origin, instead of waiting until the shipment had already arrived. Government ministers and officials go abroad for flimsy reasons, but no expert is sent to check the quality of fuel until the government is saddled with an unusable shipment.

However, what has to be taken serious note of is how the crisis originated, in the first place. The minister kept on telling the public that there were adequate stocks to meet the demand, until the shipment arrived, and there was no need to panic. But, by then, panic buying had kept on snowballing, triggered by a SMS message, that caused all hell to break loose and a mad scramble for petrol by the motorists, who went onto stockpile, for which they could not be blamed. From where did this SMS originate? The minister has already urged the authorities to trace the source of the SMS, to ascertain who was responsible for setting off the alarm. This could also be a trial run, a precursor for other such alarms, mischief makers may be anticipating to set off in the future. Coincidentally, the refinery at the CPC too began to malfunction at the same time while the computer system too was ‘out’. Was there a sinister force at work behind the whole affair, to cause panic and chaos in the country and place the government in difficulty?

The authorities should lose no time in getting to the bottom of the whole affair. It won’t be difficult to trace the source from which the SMS originated, considering that content of text messages that figured in the alleged bond scam, too, were unraveled and placed before the Special Presidential Commission investigating the matter. If not, the government will have to confront similar crises in the future, as well, when a single text message will set off alarm bells, creating chaos and mayhem in the country. With mini elections round the corner, there is a very likely possibility that political forces who are desperate to get back to the saddle are planning similar scenarios. With unlimited financial resources at their disposal, former VIPs, may, well plan attacks on multiple fronts, at one and the same time, to create the maxim damage, so that the collective public wrath will be directed at the government.

At the time of writing, a train strike too had been planned, from midnight yesterday, to coincide with the tailing off of the petrol crisis, and, running concurrent to the death fast commenced by the parents of the Anti-SAITM medical students. The government should be alive to these unfolding events and deal firmly with politically motivated acts of sabotage.

Be that as it may, the Joint Opposition has seized on the patrol crisis to jump on its hobbyhorse of India bashing. JO firebrand Wimal Weerawansa told parliament that, had the government not ceded 20% of the petroleum distribution market to India, the shortage would not have cropped up. In fact LIOC has control of only 16% of the local market, while the CPC’s stake is 84%. It is therefore difficult to comprehend how an island-wide petroleum shortage can be blamed on the LIOC, unless it deliberately contaminated its own oil shipment. As Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in the House, since the LIOC came into being in 2003, why did not Mahinda Rajapaksa cancel the deal, when he was President?

For a people friendly budget

It is hoped that Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera will unveil a people friendly budget today, that will have something in it, for all. His, no doubt, will be an unenviable task, given the economic ruin and the gigantic debt the country had been placed in, by the former regime. But, known for his unconventional style of politics, Samaraweera, who will be presenting the country’s 71st post independence budget, it is certain, would depart from the beaten track, and, spring some surprises. 


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