Sri Lanka’s new pm said on Monday that the island nation will run out of fuel as early as Tuesday, according to a report from Reuters. Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was appointed prime minister on Thursday, said in an address to the nation the country urgently needed $75 million in foreign exchange to pay for essential imports. Wickremesinghe later told his citizens that the nation was in for “the most difficult months of our lives.”
Sri Lanka has been dealing with an existential economic crisis that has been ongoing since late 2019. A decline in tourism thanks to pandemic lockdowns, Chinese debt defaults, the banning of non-organic fertilizers and global supply-chain issues have brought the country to the brink of collapse.
As a result of the crisis, Sri Lanka has been racked by protests for weeks. The protests — which included large encampment demonstration in the nation’s capital — remained peaceful for weeks. Violence has since escalated, however, after supporters of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa attacked the encampment.
Ensuing backlash saw mobs burn the homes of numerous Sri Lankan politicians last week. Among the torched homes was that of recently resigned Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the brother of the nation’s current president.
The military was later authorized to use deadly force in an effort to quell the riots.
Threats of violence remain as the nation’s fuel reserves are set to run out later this week. “At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day. The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” Sri Lanka’s new prime minister said in a statement Monday.
As a result of the shortage, long fuel queues have become commonplace in the nation’s capital of Colombo. Wickremesinghe urged his citizens not to wait in the lines as doing so will soon be futile.
— Sri Lanka Tweet (@SriLankaTweet) April 14, 2022
Two shipments of gas and an additional two of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide relief in the next few days, Wickremesinghe said Monday. Sri Lanka’s new leader has urged foreign creditors to help steer the nation from collapse.
In addition, the import-dependent island nation is facing a critical shortage of at least 14 essential medicines.
Protesters have vowed to continue their campaign as long as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains in power. Rajapaksa replaced his brother with Wickremesinghe, an opposition politician who has held the post five times, in a desperate bid to stop the violence.
The protesters do not appear satisfied with the new appointment, however. They have labelled Wickremesinghe a “stooge” and criticized his appointment of four cabinet ministers, all members of the political party run by the Rajapaksa brothers, according to Reuters.