Sri Lanka crisis: India sends 40k tonnes of diesel, supply of rice soon
The diesel shipment is part of an additional $500 million in fuel aid for a Sri Lankan government struggling to deal with its worst crisis in decades
India on Saturday delivered 40,000 tonnes of diesel to crisis-hit Sri Lanka, the island nation's NewsWire said, quoting Ceylon Petroleum Corporation chairman Sumith Wijesinghe. NewsWire said distribution will start this evening - welcome news for hundreds of fuel stations across Sri Lanka that had no supply over the past few days.
An equal-sized consignment of rice is also being prepped, Reuters reported, and will be the first major food aid since the two countries signed a $1 billion loan deal last month. This will allow the Lankan government to bring down prices that had doubled over the past year.
"We are first loading containers for prompt shipment and vessel-loading wiil start in a few days," BV Krishna Rao, the managing director of Pattabhi Agro Foods, told Reuters.
The firm is supplying rice to Sri Lanka State Trading (General) Corp under a credit facility agreement reached between the Indian and Sri Lankan governments.
The diesel shipment is part of an additional $500 million in fuel aid for a Sri Lankan government struggling to deal with its worst crisis in decades; prices of food and essential commodities have shot up and the country ran out of petrol and diesel this week, prompting deployment of armed troops at filing stations and 13-hour electricity cuts.
Violent protests erupted Thursday night after hundreds of people tried to storm president Gotabaya Rajapaksa's house. 15 people were injured and police buses and vehicles torched as security forces fired tear gas and water cannons to control protesters. A curfew was briefly imposed in Colombo and Rajapaksa blamed unnamed 'extremist' groups for the clashes.
Videos shared on social media - and verified by AFP - showed people shouting 'lunatic, lunatic go home' and demanding the powerful Rajapaksa family - they hold the presidency, prime ministership, and key cabinet posts – step down.
On Friday Rajapaksa declared a national emergency and gave the military sweeping powers that allow them to arrest and detain suspects.
Sri Lanka's economic crisis - a long time in the making, experts say - was triggered by massive debts that fall due this year. Overall the country has $51 billion in foreign debts, of which $4 billion is due in 2022; this includes a $1 billion international sovereign bond due in July. The country, however, has only $2.31 billion in reserves and current debt is 119 per cent of GDP.
Rajapaksa has defended his government, saying the crisis is not of its making and the downturn was driven by the pandemic that affected tourism.
Sri Lanka is seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and, apart from a total of $2.5 billion in credit for fuel, food and essential commodities from India, has also appraoached China for aid.