Missing Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa Back in Action; Orders Gas Distribution

Embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose location is still unknown since the protesters overran both his office and the official residence, has ordered officials to ensure the smooth distribution of cooking gas after the fuel-starved country received 3,700 metric tonnes of LP gas, his office said on Sunday.

In recent months people have been blocking roads across the country in a desperate bid to force the government to address the issue of acute gas shortages.

President Rajapaksa has instructed the officers to carry out the unloading and distribution of gas as the first ship arrives at Kerawalapitiya this afternoon. A second ship carrying 3,740 metric tonnes of gas is due on July 11 and a third carrying 3,200 metric tonnes of gas will arrive on July 15, according to Sri Lankan media. A large gathering of protesters continues to occupy the president and prime minister’s iconic administrative buildings which also function as official residences. No major breaches of security were reported on Sunday, the police said.

President Rajapaksa was not present in the presidential House when a mob stormed the building on Saturday. Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, crippled by an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, and other essentials.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

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