Ours is a very considerate government whatever its critics may say. It may have jacked up bus and train fares compelling the ordinary people to use shank’s pony, and sent the prices of motorcycles and three wheelers through the roof with hefty increases in import duties, but out of its concern and love for the poor, it has ensured that they will have aviation fuel in bottle lamps lighting their humble abodes.
What a consolation! Another first for Sri Lanka! We are the only country that provides subsidised jet fuel to the poor for lighting purposes. We have put even oil producing countries to shame. Hurray!
Minister of Petroleum Industries Susil Premjayantha has told this newspaper (May 07) that a consignment of substandard aviation fuel imported by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) will be disposed of as regular kerosene in the local market. Who will bear the loss? The government has hinted that the foreign supplier will have to. We hope and pray that it will not be passed on to the ordinary public. Never mind what the government proposes to do with the low quality jet fuel! How will it deal with those responsible for importing it?
Earlier, the CPC imported petrol mixed with water and caused many a vehicle to develop serious engine trouble. The government’s kneejerk reaction to adverse media reports was to trot out lame excuses but finally it had to admit that there was water in petrol (or the other way around).
One may wonder whether the first ‘C’ in CPC stands for corruption, given the sheer number of crooks at its helm who carry out their sordid operations with impunity. The ‘water-petrol’ deal cost the CPC dear as millions of rupees had to be paid to those whose vehicles suffered severe engine damage. Only two officials were held responsible for that racket. Others got away with it and the CPC carries on regardless.
Crooks who lined their pockets through a disastrous oil hedging deal have also gone scot free while the country is spending millions of US dollars on lawsuits overseas. Besides, the benefits of a sharp drop in world oil prices were denied to the public because the CPC kept fuel prices high in a bid to recover part of the loss. The hedging racketeers are going places today thanks to their political connections.
Calling for bringing those involved in poor quality aviation fuel imports to justice, the UNP has warned that the day may not be far off when the CPC causes jet engines to stall in midair. Minister Premjayantha has said no such disaster is possible because fuel is tested at a number of points before being used for refuelling purposes. Does the minister think the CPC could go on importing fuel without giving two hoots about its quality simply because it gets tested before being pumped into aircraft? That such tests are conducted is only too well known. The UNP has only employed a hyperbole to drive a point home.
Minister Premjayantha owes the public an explanation as to how the CPC ascertains the quality of fuel it imports; why it every so often takes delivery of poor quality fuel; who is responsible for quality assurance and why no one gets punished for mega corrupt fuel deals.
It is high time the government had rackets at the CPC thoroughly probed and all racketeers brought to justice without further delay. Its failure to do so will be its undoing!