Columns - 5th column

Cheap fuel giving us combustible tempers

By Rypvanwinkle

My dear Petrol Susil,

I thought I must write to you after hearing all the stories about petrol which are circulating these days and everyone trying to blame poor you for their stalling car engines and hedging deals that have cost the country billions of dollars and then demanding your resignation as well! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way trying to add fuel to the fire!

Of course, Petrol Susil, some people have all the luck but others like you seem to have all the bad luck. Why I say so is because while some have what they call the ‘Midas touch’ and all that they touch turns to gold, others like you seem to turn everything that you touch into something rotten!

Why, remember when you were Minister of Education, Petrol Susil? That was when children didn’t get textbooks on time, the courts had to intervene about devising a method for admitting children to Grade One and there were frequent blunders in examination papers!

Then, you are also the general secretary of the coalition of parties that now hold the reins of power and look what happened at the last local government elections-your nomination lists got rejected by the dozen. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, whether it’s just bad luck or something else, Petrol Susil?

Anyway Petrol Susil, these days the focus is on petrol and why someone imported cheap quality petrol without doing the proper tests they were supposed to do. And how is it that someone was able to bypass the system so easily in a matter that involved billions of rupees?

I am sure you are as baffled as I am, Petrol Susil, but I think I can help you find the answer. Just ask Nimal, will you? He should be able to give you some advice because when he was Health Minister cheap quality drugs were being imported without following proper procedures almost on a daily basis!

But you should have been careful Petrol Susil, at least about this ‘hedging’ business because that was a controversy that erupted well before your time, when Uncle Fowzie was in charge and the Petroleum Corporation was being run by a cricketer!

If I remember correctly, our own Supreme Court had a thing or two to say about this deal and I think you-or those who give you your orders-chose to ignore those instructions. Is that why we are in this mess and have to pay billions of rupees to foreign banks, Petrol Susil?

Now, I am not for a moment suggesting that you start blaming Uncle Fowzie for all this because if you do, there is every chance of you too suffering his fate-that of being appointed a ‘Senior Minister’ and being all dressed up with nowhere to go!

But you should know where to draw the line Petrol Susil, and I think that is when people begin to demand your resignation over trivial matters such as the importing of cheap petrol and the hedging deal. Now, this being Sri Lanka, I totally agree with you that you shouldn’t resign over this matter.Why, that chap Ranawaka once boasted that he will ensure there will never be power cuts ever again.

Now we are having power cuts-officially and unofficially-and when people ask him to resign, he is asking why he should resign just because it is not raining enough!And then we have scandal after scandal at Sri Lanka Cricket, billions of rupees have gone missing and we seem to have become world champions in cricket related corruption, and what does Aluthgamage do? Instead of resigning, he is throwing his weight about and asking for explanations from Kumar!

Then, our universities are in a mess, half the campuses are closed, most of our undergraduates must have been baton charged or tear gassed recently and even lecturers are on strike but does Seeni Bola even think of resigning? No, he is happily talking about ‘kaalakanni’ in the university system!

Of course there is the one instance when our former Police Chief did resign when some silly policemen fired at demonstrators protesting against the private sector pension scheme. But then, that was so craftily done and very few people knew he was to retire in a fortnight anyway!

So, don’t even think of resigning, Petrol Susil. The Police Chief who retired did get his reward for being a convenient scapegoat a few weeks later by being appointed as our ambassador to Brazil but then you wouldn’t want to take early retirement as our ambassador to South Sudan, would you?

So, my advice to you is not to worry too much about all these issues. All will be forgotten in a few weeks’ time and it will be business as usual. And I’m sure, Petrol Susil, some other minister will be in a hot spot by then and the next scandal will grab all the headlines!

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS-Even if you are really stuck for a way out of the present crisis, Petrol Susil, there is no need to despair. You can always appoint either an Interim Committee (like they did with Sri Lanka Cricket) or a Parliamentary Select Committee (like they did for ethnic issues)-and you can then quietly sweep it under the carpet!

 Minister has no say in the Petroleum Corporation or even in the ministry. President appointed Titus and Gen. Zoysa running the show. Only these two are responsible. Gen Zoysa admitted that he knowingly issued the stuff, while Titus created a scarcity in the country

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