Sri Lanka IOC suspends fuel distribution for 2 days over mass protest fears

Colombo: Lanka IOC, the subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation in Sri Lanka, on Friday announced that it was suspending fuel distribution for two days in view of the mass public protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday.

The LIOC has been the only retailer since the state oil entity Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) pumps went dry on June 27 due to the forex crisis that has led to an unprecedented economic crisis in the island nation of over 22 million people.

CPC has not been able to order any fuel shipments since their aborted order on June 24.

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We have been advised to discontinue our supply operations to sheds with immediate effect in view of the planned protests in Sri Lanka, a tweet from the LIOC Managing Director Manoj Gupta said.

LIOC will suspend fuel distribution on Friday and Saturday, he said.

However, he said LIOC will continue distributing supplies from Trincomalee to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and its valued industries, the Colombo Gazette reported.

The LIOC did a restricted supply to consumers with motorists having to spend several days in miles long queues to reach retail stations.

The Sri Lankan government is exploring options to purchase discounted oil from Russia, as the island nation desperately looks to replenish its dwindling fuel stocks amid an unprecedented economic crisis due to a crippling shortage of foreign exchange reserves.

Saturday’s protest by the public marks the three months since the original protest which began on April 9 opposite Rajapaksa’s presidential office.

The protesters demand President Rajapaksa’s resignation along with the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as both have not been able to address the economic crisis.

All opposition parties and civil groups have extended support to Saturday’s mass protest who claim that they would remain in the vicinity of the Rajapaksa official residence until he agreed to resign.

Several protests took part in the city on Friday with the students of the Inter University Students Federation linked to the radically leftist FSP leading the march.

The police failed to obtain court orders preventing the protesters from entering key areas in the central Colombo’s Fort district.

Concerns have been raised on the prospect of violence taking over on Saturday as it happened on May 9 when over 10 people, including a parliamentarian was killed in the violence.

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung in a message said protests must be held peacefully with no blocking from the police and the military.

The New Zealand High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Michael Appleton warned that protests could cause congestion in the city.

The opposition parties have demanded that an all political party interim government be formed to tackle the economic crisis.

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