Shortage or sabotage?: UNP

Wednesday, 8 November 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Himal Kotelawala

UNP Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara yesterday called into question the circumstances under which the ongoing fuel crisis came to be. 

The country has a capacity to store some 90,000 MT of fuel, said Bandara, arguing that the absence of a single shipment of just 30,000 MT could not have led to a shortage. “We have capacity to store 90,000 MT. That’s about 45 to 50 days’ worth of fuel. The people want to know what the officials did until it had all run out till the last drop,” said Bandara.

Even if a second shipment had been delayed, he said, there would still have been 30,000 MT of fuel to spare.

This raises suspicions as to whether petroleum officials couldn’t manage the situation or if it was sabotage, said the MP, adding that the Prime Minister was expecting a report on the matter, after which the Government would take necessary action. Bandara called for an investigation into the crisis to determine whether it was part of a conspiracy to discredit the Government. A Commission must be appointed in this regard in consultation with President Maithripala Sirisena, he said.

One good thing about the situation, however, said the MP, was that the ship containing allegedly substandard fuel was sent away without officials falling prey to bribery.  “I’m happy that this didn’t happen,” said Bandra, recalling how substandard oil imports had resulted in stalled engines under the previous regime. The MP was also critical of the previous Government’s lack of initiative in refurbishing the four-decade-old oil refinery that supplied only up to 550 MT oil a day when the daily requirement was in the range of 2,300-2,500 MT.

Members of the previous regime, charged Bandara, constructed highways, airports and harbours where they weren’t strictly needed, and developed their constituent villages without giving priority to Colombo. 

$ 2.5 billion is needed to renovate the refinery in order to refine the fuel needed for the country, he said, adding that the Rajapakasa administration did not prioritise this.

“Our Government has made some initial steps in this direction. The process has to be sped up,” he said.