On Monday, Sri Lanka’s new prime minister said the country was down to its last day of petrol, while the country’s power minister warned citizens not to join the long fuel lines that have sparked weeks of anti-government rallies.
In a speech to the nation on Thursday, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was appointed Prime Minister on Thursday, said the government urgently required $75 million in foreign money to pay for crucial imports.
He noted that two supplies of gasoline and two shipments of diesel utilizing an Indian credit line could give assistance in the coming days, but the country is also short on 14 key medicines.
The problem sparked significant protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, culminating in his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation as Prime Minister last week after clashes between government supporters and demonstrators killed nine people and injured 300 more.
In a desperate attempt to appease protesters, the president replaced him with Wickremesinghe, an opposition parliamentarian who has already held office five times.
However, the protesters have stated that they will continue their campaign as long as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is in power. They’ve also called Wickremesinghe a puppet and chastised his appointment of four cabinet ministers, all of whom are members of the Rajapaksa brothers’ political party.
On Monday, Wickremesinghe stated that he accepted the position for the sake of the country. Long lines of auto rickshaws, the city’s most popular mode of transportation, formed at petrol stations in Colombo, the commercial capital, in a fruitless wait for fuel.
Mohammad Naushad, another driver, reported the gas station where he was waiting had run out of petrol.
The important Indian Ocean island nation, where China and India are competing for power, is in the middle of a crisis unprecedented since its independence in 1948, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, rising oil prices, and populist tax cuts by the Rajapaksas.
A chronic lack of foreign cash has resulted in high inflation and shortages of medicine, petrol, and other necessities, prompting thousands of people to go to the streets in protest.
On Sunday, a fuel supply paid for using an Indian credit line arrived in the country, but it has yet to be distributed over the island.
Wickremesinghe has yet to name key cabinet members, notably the finance minister, who will negotiate with the International Monetary Fund for desperately needed financial assistance.
Ali Sabry, the former Finance Minister, had undertaken preliminary talks with the international lender before resigning with Mahinda Rajapaksa last week.