Joint Opposition (JO) spokesman Bandula Gunawardena, MP, yesterday alleged that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was about to introduce a fuel pricing formula at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Addressing the media at Vajirasharma temple, Punchi Borella, Gunawardena accused the government of having given in to IMF dictates. The JO strongly opposed the pricing formula, as the people were struggling to make ends meet, Gunawardena said.
Predicting that the pricing formula would be introduced on May Day, Gunawardena said that JO May Day rally would focus on the ill-effects of the IMF-government agreement.
Responding to a query by The Island, Gunawardena, however, admitted that a fuel pricing formula was necessary. Sri Lanka couldn’t do without a pricing formula for major imports such as fuel, he said.
Asked why the Rajapaksa government in which he was trade minister had disregarded a Supreme Court directive in the late Nov 2008 that a pricing formula be introduced to regulate fuel prices, Gunawardena said the judiciary couldn’t interfere with powers and functions of Parliament.
The then Speaker had explained the parliament’s position vis a vis Supreme Court instructions issued to the then Secretary to the Treasury, Gunawardena said. The Island asked Gunawardena whether he believed Sri Lanka needed a pricing formula. Gunwardena said that such a formula was a must. Asked to explain why the previous government had failed to do so, Gunawardena claimed that the UNP had ridiculed his attempt to introduce a gas pricing formula and, therefore, therfore, it had decided against introducing a fuel pricing formula.
A three-bench panel chaired by the Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva also asked the then president Mahinda Rajapaksa to replace minister in charge of petroleum resources, AHM Fowzie.
Gunawardena said that Supreme Court gave orders after considering two petitions seeking annulment of hedging agreements signed by de Mel with two private banks for purchasing fuel.
Gunawardena said that Kiniyawala Palitha Thero, Ravi Karunanayake MP and Ravi Jayawardene had filed one petition and the other was filed by the chairman of Laugfs gas company WKH Wegapitiya.
Commenting on former Finance Minister Karunanayake’s criticism of the controversial IMF-government agreement, Gunawardena pointed out that Karunanayake endorsed that deal on behalf of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration.
The JO spokesman said that an IMF delegation was in Colombo to examine the status of the implementation of its agreement with Sri Lanka.
The government was under tremendous IMF pressure to increase its revenue regardless of the extreme difficulties experienced by the vast majority of people, the MP said. Basically, the government had agreed to increase revenue, reduce public sector expenditure, reduce budget deficit, adopt a free-floating exchange rate and restructure loss making state enterprises.
The JO called the media briefing in the wake of the IMF declaring it had reached an understanding with Sri Lanka regarding long-delayed fuel pricing formula,.
Responding to another query, Gunawardena admitted that the previous government, too, had agreed to IMF conditions though subsequently side-stepped them.
Gunawardena alleged that the current dispensation had ruined the economy and caused irreparable damage to it over the past three years.