ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former Industries Minister and now independent MP Wimal Weerawansa said the island nation must not overlook “traditional ally” Russia in its efforts to overcome a worsening economic crisis, particularly with regard to ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Weerawansa told parliament on Wednesday June 22 that he and a group of independent MPs held talks with Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yury Materiy on Tuesday. The envoy had told the MPs that Sri Lanka had not made any “serious request in writing” for Russian assistance.
The meeting had also focused on the recent controversy surrounding a court case filed in Sri Lanka against Russia’s national carrier Aeorflot, which has now been resolved.
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The former minister faulted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for not explaining the circumstances of the case to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Weerawansa also sought an explanation from the government as to why Sri Lanka was not reaching out to Russia, which he said has always extended unconditional support to the country.
He claimed the ambassador has said Russia could offer Sri Lanka assistance on humanitarian grounds though it has no provisions to offer financial support to a country that has defaulted on its external debt.
Quoting Foreign Minister G L Peiris, Weerawasna claimed that the reason Sri Lank hasn’t signed any agreements with Russia with regard to fuel purchase or other assistance was fears of losing out on an IMF programme.
“Just waiting for IMF doesn’t resolve the pain on the ground. Why are we pinning everything on the IMF?” he said.
The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka had also told a former government minister at the start of the Galle Face anti-government protests that if protesters were taken into police custody, Sri Lanka would have to step out of the IMF programme, claimed Weerawansa.
“Are we trying to get out of this crisis by being caught in a western trap?” he demanded.
Responding to the MP, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the IMF has not once mentioned Russia in their discussions with Sri Lanka.
A delegation of IMF officials are currently in Sri Lanka for preliminary talks, and according to Wickremesinghe, discussions have focused solely on reforms and increasing export revenue and other such matters.
“The IMF has never mentioned Russia, Russian oil, or the Ukraine war,” he said.
“A team of representatives from the US Department of the Treasury will also arrive in Sri Lanka next Monday (June 27). They will not discuss Russia,” he added. (Colombo/Jun22/2022)