Fuel crisis | Daily News

Fuel crisis

After much indecision and confusion on the availability of petrol and diesel stocks, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera has bitten the bullet and admitted that the present fuel shortage is going to last for at least another one year. While the Minister's candid admission is to be appreciated, how this is going to impact on the public is not difficult to contemplate, especially in light of yet another increase in fuel prices announced by the Government.

Already private bus operators have threatened to pull out from service from today (Tuesday) if the Government fails to provide them with diesel at the old price, i.e. if they are not to seek a fare hike in keeping with the latest price increase. What a one year fuel shortage is going to have on livelihoods across the board is a horrendous prospect indeed. Coupled with the latest fuel price hike all services linked to transport are bound to get crippled, not to mention the already soaring Cost of Living leading to an anarchic state that could bring the country to a virtual standstill. If the trauma and mayhem witnessed as a result of the fuel crisis is anything to go by, how this state of affairs could magnify several fold through the prolonged fuel shortage is not too difficult to imagine. Already the school van services are in the doldrums with vehicle owners failing to receive fuel quotas promised by the authorities and are languishing in long queues.

What will a one year fuel shortage mean to farmers who are already being denied diesel for their tractors? The Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration yesterday issued a circular for only a minimum number of public servants to report for duties due to the fuel crisis. With a year-long fuel shortage now being made official, what will this do to the Public Service as a whole and how are the public going to get their needs attended to from a bare minimum of public officials? What will a prolonged shortage of fuel mean to those now standing in queues? Is this going to be a familiar scene for the next one year and perhaps beyond that? Are the power cuts going to be a regular feature for the next one year? With the talk of additional blackout hours how will this affect businesses especially those selling frozen food?

Schoolchildren too are undergoing hardship with their online classes due to regular power interruptions. With additional power cuts now in the offing what will be the result if such a scenario is going to last for one whole year? Will this not affect the education of our future generation? Will this also not make wealthy parents send their children abroad for their education thus adding to the brain drain? Fishermen are not going to sea due to the fuel shortage and also the high fuel costs which could get aggravated with the latest diesel and petrol price hike. Vegetable lorries are not arriving at the Economic Centres for the same reason. There is no knowing how a one year's fuel shortage is going to impact on an already harried public who have now come to the end of their tether. There is also the phenomenon of company executives and teachers, health workers and even doctors languishing in queues to pump fuel to their vehicles. The media reported that over a dozen hospitals in the provinces have closed down due to the unavailability of doctors and medical staff who are in fuel queues after pleas for priority consideration for fuel having fallen on deaf ears. Is this going to be a familiar scene for the next one year? How will this impact the lives of the public? Will not this lead to anarchy?

Already law and order has suffered as a result of the fuel crisis with the Police no longer evoking fear and respect. In fact several law enforcement officers have been at the receiving end of the public wrath. An incident where a Police officer and soldier engaged in fisticuffs at a filling station shows the turn to which the present fuel crisis has taken. Hence, the Government should take all measures necessary to end or at least to minimize the effect of the crisis lest things get out of hand, leading to a state of lawlessness. MPs Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Wimal Weereawansa have been vigorously advocating that the Government should turn to Russia for our fuel needs, pointing that even India is trading with the former despite the international trade sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. True, unlike India, Sri Lanka is helpless and cannot stand on its own, economically speaking and therefore is susceptible to pressure. However, desperate situations call for desperate remedies. The US, no doubt, is aware of Sri Lanka's plight and is generously assisting us to overcome the present crisis. According to media reports, two Ministers have left for Russia and Qatar, perhaps to seek avenues to ease the country’s fuel crisis. Hopefully, a positive result will be forthcoming offering the country some breathing space.

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