Sri Lanka’s new prime minister said on Monday the crisis-hit nation was down to its last day of petrol, as the country’s power minister told citizens not to join the lengthy fuel queues that have galvanised weeks of anti-government protests.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, 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.
“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,” he said.
“We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period.” Two shipments of petrol and two of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide relief in the next few days, he added, but the country is also facing a shortage of 14 essential medicines.
The crisis led to widespread protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, culminating in the resignation of his elder brother Mahinda as prime minister last week after fighting between government supporters and protesters killed 9 people and wounded 300.
The president replaced him with Wickremesinghe, an opposition parliamentarian who has held the post five times previously, in a desperate bid to placate protesters.
But the protesters have said they will keep up their campaign as long as Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains president.