A top Sri Lankan bureaucrat in the Ministry of Power and Energy was on Monday held in his car by protesting trade unionists who wanted him to block the presentation of a Cabinet paper which allegedly allows liberalisation of petroleum distribution in the island nation which is facing a severe energy crisis. Mapa Pathirana was only able to walk into his office after police intervention as the workers of the state-owned refinery surrounded his car, demanding withdrawal of the Cabinet paper.
The protest was held following Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara’s comments that he had plans to allow up to four new players to distribute petroleum. They were to be allowed to run the state-fuel entity Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) filling stations. At the moment the entire filling network stations are being run by the CPC and the Indian Oil Company’s local operation, LIOC. This is an attempt to sell a national asset. The entire energy sector could fall into foreign hands if this is to be allowed,” J Ranwala of the state oil refinery trade union said.
The LIOC has some 216 retail outlets throughout the island with a 16 per cent market share for petrol and diesel. The CPC operates over 1,100 stations. Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis caused by the forex shortages have led to a severe crisis in the energy sector. Fuel shortages have seen long queues at retailers and with the end to the credit line worth USD 700 million granted by India, the pumps have run dry.
The Sri Lankan government is now exploring options to purchase oil from Russia, as the island nation desperately looks to replenish its dwindling fuel stocks amid an unprecedented economic crisis due to a crippling shortage of foreign exchange reserves. On Sunday, petrol price was hiked by LKR 50 and diesel by LKR 60 respectively, the third price revision in just over two months.
The move was necessitated after state-owned refinery Ceylon Petroleum Corporation informed the Sri Lankan government on Saturday that there would be a delay in the arrival of fuel shipments due to banking and logistical reasons.
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