Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
Given the dire struggle for fuel and gas worsening by the day across the country and the serious multi-facetted ominous impact on food supplies cum transport caused by the woefully irregular and paltry supply of fuel, the question arises as to why Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had not directly broached Sri Lanka’s humanitarian crisis with the Saudi government or any of the other oil exporting Gulf states for assistance to obtain essential fuel on humanitarian terms or credit basis, during his more than one month in the current term in that office.
Instead of employing foreign agents, the Prime Minister ought to have supplemented India’s continued and timely assistance, by promptly speaking to his counterparts in the Middle East, the world’s major producers and exporters of ‘quality fuel’, who would certainly assist Sri Lanka by providing long-term credit as well as investment packages that the country badly needs, if duly handled.
The experienced PM who took up the country’s complicated challenges by accepting office on 13 May for the sixth time, does not need 40 days to call on the Middle East leaders and seek their help to wipe the tears off the ever increasing number of hungry angry people.
Needless to say that Wickremesinghe must watch, in addition to the print media, the daily news bulletins in the electronic media specially Siyatha and its ‘Tele-Vakiya’, Sirasa and its ‘Davasa’ plus ‘Newsline’ and Ada Derana to comprehend the enormity of the suffering from the peoples’ perspective as well as the imminent collapse of existential life within almost every family in the country!
The apparent reason for the unprecedented sufferings of the innocent families is the Government’s failure to ensure an un-broken supply of fuel and gas. All other problems revolve around the fuel crisis! Constitutional and political problems follow closely thereafter. This Government including the President may not survive, if the fuel and consequential food problems are not effectively tackled!
Until 2021, 95% of the country’s highest source of foreign exchange earnings came from the Sri Lankans employed in the Middle East, averaging $ 7 billion each year. Quality fuel and gas also come mainly from the Middle East. But successive governments inexcusably failed to keep close and friendly ties with any of these countries!
The Cabinet has a knowledgeable man in the field, Minister of Environment Naseer Ahmed, an engineer by profession who is an honours graduate of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals of Saudi Arabia. The alumni of this university dedicated to petroleum and mineral resources reportedly hold key positions in the petroleum industry in most Gulf countries. Why didn’t Wickremesinghe within days of his assuming office send the only Arabic conversant Cabinet Minister Naseer Ahmed to the Gulf countries?
Instead of giving him the ‘petroleum supplies’ portfolio at the minimum, Naseer Ahmed had been given ‘Environment’! And worse, in order to raise dollars for Sri Lanka from the Gulf countries, Wickremesinghe inappropriately appointed a foreigner, Maldivian politician Nasheed Ahmed, holding office as Maldives Speaker and distanced himself from the oil producing countries at a time when Sri Lanka needed to get closer and directly!
Parliament Speaker Nasheed, who has many friends in Sri Lanka, resigned as President of Maldives in February 2012, on account of unceasing public protests following the arrest of a senior criminal court judge of Maldives allegedly at the instance of the then Maldives President Nasheed. Later on Nasheed claimed that he was forced to resign by the Maldivian police and the armed forces! The claim was investigated by a Commonwealth-backed Commission which held that Nasheed resigned voluntarily following unceasing public protests over the top Maldivian judge’s arrest and incarceration. The Commission rejected Nasheed’s claim that he was forced to resign at gun point!
The question as to why pro-Western Maldivian Speaker Nasheed Ahmed, who is yet to give his performance report to PM Wickremesinghe, though he leaked out a later contradicted report to a Sri Lankan Opposition MP, was picked up from the blues in preference to pro-Middle Eastern Sri Lankan Minister Naseer Ahmed to alleviate Sri Lanka’s dollar crisis, is fraught with more questions than answers!