Lankan PM Wickremesinghe holds talks with World Bank, ADB as India delivers diesel shipment

A crippling shortage of foreign reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas and other essentials while power cuts and soaring food prices heaped misery on the people.

Published: 15th May 2022 10:27 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th May 2022 10:27 PM   |  A+A-

Protesters demanding Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign perform a religious observance to mark Buddha Poornima or Vesak. (Photo | AP)


COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's newly-appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Sunday held discussions with representatives of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on the current economic crisis in the country, as India delivered the 12th shipment of diesel containing over 400,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) of fuel to the island nation which is facing its worst economic crisis.

"12 shipments and more than 400,000 MT of fuel!! Latest consignment of #Diesel from #India under the credit line for fuel was delivered in #Colombo by Torm Helvig today," the Indian High Commission here tweeted.

Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

A crippling shortage of foreign reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas and other essentials while power cuts and soaring food prices heaped misery on the people.

The economic crisis also triggered a political crisis in Sri Lanka and a demand for the resignation of the powerful Rajapaksas.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked his Cabinet and appointed a younger Cabinet as a response to the demand for his resignation.

A continuous protest opposite his secretariat has now gone on for well over a month.

Wickremesinghe, the 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader, was appointed as Sri Lanka's 26th prime minister on Thursday as the country was without a government since Monday when prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted following an attack on the anti-government protesters by his supporters.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said he held discussions with representatives of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on the current economic crisis in the country, and the discussions focused on support for drug, food and fertiliser supply issues.

In a statement, the Prime Minister said that discussions have also been held with foreign representatives regarding the establishment of a foreign consortium for financial assistance to coincide with the meeting of the two international financial institutions.

Emphasising that the talks have been positive, the Prime Minister said that the immediate challenge for the Government is to obtain the funds required to pay for the fuel requirements for the coming week.

Due to the dollar shortage in the banks, the Government is now looking at other alternatives to raise the required funds, he said.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also said that the 21st Amendment to the Constitution would be discussed on Monday as he got backing from former President Maithripala Sirisena-led SLFP in the formation of the government to tackle the nation's worst economic crisis.

The 21st Amendment to the Constitution will be discussed on Monday, and will be produced to net for approval, he said.

The SLFP chairman and former President Sirisena has written a letter to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, saying that his party will support the formation of his government.

Wickremesinghe has also invited the Leaders of the 10 parties that quit the previous government to discuss the current political situation and said he will make an appointment after meeting them.

Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party (SLPP) has extended their support to Wickremesinghe and almost all parties represented in the 225-member Parliament have said although they wouldn't be a party to Wickremesinghe's government they would support him in his effort to pull Sri Lanka out of the current economic crisis.

On Saturday, four ministers were appointed to the Cabinet but the Opposition parties have refused to be part of an all-party government.

Earlier on Sunday, embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa called on all lawmakers to unite and work immediately for a solution to the people's pressing problems when the country is in "dire straits" amid the worst economic crisis.

In his remarks on the occasion of Vesak Poya Day, the President said: "We must be mindful of the current situation and unite around a programme that can deliver a fair determination to all."

Vesak Poya Day commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha.

The three events in his life are said to have happened on the same date.

"Resilience is essential in difficult situations. At this juncture, when the country is in dire straits, all the people's representatives must work together immediately for a solution on behalf of all citizens. The true goal should be to reach the desired target without deviating from the primary goal," he said.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also issued a message on the occasion, stressing that the commitment to restore the lives of the people is a commitment made to Lord Buddha.

Stating that restraint and stability should be restored within Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister emphasised that the Buddha's Dhamma, which has the most valuable philosophical meaning, also functions as practical state political guidance.

The Leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa, in his message said that Lord Buddha revealed to the world the message of making the world better through altruism instead of ambition, opportunism and selfishness.

He pointed out that the teachings of Lord Buddha can also be applied in practice in modern life.

The Indian High Commission also wished all Sri Lankans on the occasion.

Meanwhile in an unusual move, Wickremesinghe extended public support to the protesters, who have been camping at a popular beachfront here for over a month calling for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's resignation for mishandling the country's worst economic crisis.


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