Colombo, July 5: A leading newspaper on Tuesday pressed the Sri Lankan government to crack down hard, saying many people were hoarding petrol and diesel, adding to the misery of the common man already burdened by unending fuel shortages.
The Island newspaper said in a hard-hitting editorial that the government might not be able to solve the fuel crisis even if a dozen ships carrying oil were to arrive in quick succession.
“Cynics say Sri Lanka has become an oil rich country of sorts although pumps at its filling stations have run dry,” it said. “This situation has come about thanks to hoarders who are making a killing while the ordinary people have been left without any fuel.
“Raids continue to yield huge amounts of hoarded diesel and petrol, but we believe that the police are only scratching the surface of the problem.
“If handsome rewards are offered for information that leads to the seizure of hoarded fuel, and raids are stepped up with more decoys being deployed, the police will be able to seize at least a shipload of fuel from hoarders,” it added.
The newspaper said most vehicles, especially auto-rickshaws, do not leave queues even after being refuelled.
“They keep returning and obtaining diesel and petrol continuously at the expense of others, who are left without any fuel as a result.
“Most trishaws are not available for hire these days, for it is much more lucrative to wait in queues, obtain fuel and sell it on the black market, where a litre of petrol or diesel fetches as much as Rs. 2,000.
“The success of any strategy to dispense fuel equitably will hinge on the Government’s ability to hold unscrupulous elements at bay until fuel supplies are restored to the pre-crisis level.”
The Island admitted that the root cause of the fuel crisis was the shortage of foreign exchange to import fuel.
“But the Government’s cavalier attitude and inability to introduce a proper rationing system have aggravated it and are likely to plunge the country into anarchy.”
Sri Lanka is battling its worst economic crisis, leading to serious shortages of essential commodities including fuel, food and medicines.