On Tuesday, Sri Lanka asked oil corporations in petroleum-producing countries to import and sell their goods in the Indian Ocean island, therefore expanding its market to alleviate severe gasoline shortages amid its worst economic crisis in decades.

Due to depleted foreign currency reserves, the country of 22 million people is unable to pay for imports of basic necessities such as gasoline, food, and medications.

“An advertisement was published today calling for expression of interest (EOI) for oil companies to import, distribute and sell petroleum products in Sri Lanka,” power and energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Twitter.

The announcement follows Sri Lanka’s decision last month to allow such imports and sales in order to assure adequate supply of petrol and diesel.

The new process’s permits for oil corporations would essentially terminate a market duopoly involving a subsidiary of India’s state-run Indian Oil Corp. (IOC.NS).

The government said in its notice that the state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corp (CPC), which controls over 80% of the market with a countrywide network of 1,190 gasoline stations, would share some of its resources and pumps with the new entrants.

The main causes of Sri Lanka’s biggest economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948 include economic mismanagement and the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on a tourism-dependent economy.

Protesters outraged over the shortages deposed the Rajapaksa ruling family, ushering in a new administration after compelling the former president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to quit last month and flee to Singapore.

Several human-rights organizations have requested Singapore’s attorney general to examine Rajapaksa’s participation in Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil conflict. 

“Now that Rajapaksa is no longer shielded by immunity, Singapore must seize this remarkable opportunity,” said Archana Ravichandradeva of the People for Equality in Relief in Lanka organization.

It is one of the organizations that issued a combined letter to the Singapore official on, in response to another rights group’s request for a similar probe last week.

Rajapaksa has repeatedly denied being responsible for human rights violations during the conflict.

The 25-year civil war in Sri Lanka between separatist militants from the ethnic Tamil minority and government troops came to an end in 2009. During the battle, rights organizations accused both sides of human rights violations.

Rajapaksa, the first Sri Lankan president to resign, might return to the nation, government spokesperson Bandula Gunewardena told reporters on Tuesday.

“It is my belief he may eventually consider returning to Sri Lanka,” Gunewardena said. “If he returns he will be treated in accordance with his status as a former president.”

Source: Reuters

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