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Banks cannot provide US dollars even at Rs.345

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

All licensed commercial banks in the country are still facing a huge crunch in foreign exchange inflow, although inward remittances can be converted to Sri Lanka rupees at a much higher rate since the Central Bank of Sri Lanka floated the Sri Lanka rupee.

This was revealed in a report released by the Lanka IOC.

It says that exporters are not coming forward for conversion of foreign currency, even at the rates higher than official ones.

Lanka IOC, a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation that operates retail petrol/diesel stations in Sri Lanka, says that the local currency has depreciated further and while the Central Bank’s TT selling rate is Rs.330 as of now, the licensed commercial banks are not able to provide US dollars even at the rate of Rs.345.

“Since the Central Bank floated the rupee on 7 March 2022, the local currency has been constantly devaluing against the dollar and currently hovering around Rs. 330 per US$, having shot up from the level of Rs. 203. This has made fuel import much costlier,” Lanka IOC notes.

The company says that rupee devaluation by more than 60% during the last one-month since 7th March 2022, compelled them to again increase its retail selling prices of gasoline by Rs 35/ltr and gasoil price by Rs 75/ltr.

“Even though international prices are stable since last one week amid the surge in COVID cases in China and preparation of the International Energy Agency for releases of oil reserves, the local currency depreciation is significantly increasing the cost of fuel imports”, Lanka IOC says.

LIOC Managing Director Manoj Gupta says, “Unstable currency rates and steep rupee depreciation has directly impacted the landed cost of gasoil and gasoline making them expensive by an equivalent amount per litre. Our current losses are exorbitantly high considering at current exchange rate and international prices leaving no other option but to increase the prices of gasoil and gasoline. In view of uncertainty in the global market coupled with Sri Lanka country risk, most of the suppliers are not participating in the tenders or quoting high premium for supply of gasoil and gasoline. Despite this price increase, there would still be heavy losses being suffered by the company. Lanka IOC has always remained committed towards the economic and social upliftment of Sri Lanka. We are very much disturbed and find it painful to pass on the impact of currency devaluation to our customers, but absolutely left with no option to ensure our sustenance and maintain an uninterrupted fuel supply.”

“We will review the selling prices on a periodic basis and would be more than happy to give some relief to our customers by reducing the prices as and when the situation improves and the currency appreciates and stabilises,” Gupta says.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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