Monday, January 3, 2022
A series of explosions led to the defeat of the yahapalana government in 2019; people were afraid to visit churches, hotels, etc., as this administration had taken no action to prevent the explosions on Easter Sunday. Ironically, today, under the gaze of those who came to power enjoying the political fallout from the Easter Sunday tragedy, people are afraid to enter their own kitchens because of the explosions.
Instead of taking quick action to recall all dangerous gas cylinders and swiftly replace them with safe ones, stray gas companies are dragging their feet in the restocking process as if to fight back against protests from angry consumers. The government does not seem to care, and the public statements by its leaders on the “hot” issue smack of a desire to protect the culprits.
People, especially city dwellers, are facing enormous hardship due to the current shortage of cooking gas. Many restaurants have shutters in place. It was a blow to the city dwellers who cannot cook at home or buy meals. There is also a shortage of kerosene, and those who have switched to kerosene stoves due to kitchen explosions and the current shortage of cooking gas are struggling. Most houses, especially apartments, do not have wood-burning stoves, so the use of firewood is out of the question. Only the super-rich can afford to use electricity for cooking.
There has been a growing black market in cooking gas. State-owned Litro Gas told media it would take about three more weeks to restore gas supply due to production difficulties. But the gas shortage is likely to continue until the cows come home. The government does not seem eager to intervene to help the public.
The opposition claims that the disruption in the distribution of cooking gas is part of a secret plan to facilitate the entry of a new gas company, owned by someone close to power, into the local gas market. Whether this statement is true or false it may not be known, but it has, along with the government’s total disregard for public woes, has infuriated the hapless gas consumers beyond measure, and at times their resentment s ‘expressed in public protests such as boos at prominent figures walking past people standing in long lines to buy gasoline etc. It will be interesting to see what the government has to say about the opposition’s demand.
People are angry that no Litro Gas official has been held responsible, let alone punished, for endangering the lives of gas consumers by changing the butane-to-propane ratio. When it was reported that a change in the composition of the gas had resulted in explosions, the gut reaction of the big cats at the gas company was to try to deny responsibility; they insisted that the composition of the gas remained unchanged and the explosions were due to substandard pipes, regulators and stoves. But they were exposed for lying. A special presidential committee that investigated gas-related incidents has determined that the change in gas composition is the main cause of the leaks and explosions. Oddly enough, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in a recent meeting with newspaper editors, sought to cast doubt on the conclusion of his own committee; he asked how come there was no explosion for months after the reported change introduced in the composition of the gas.
The question of the gas explosion will have important political consequences. Perhaps there is no greater insult to the current rulers, who consider themselves omniscient, than to be told by the UNP, who embodies failure, how to run the country!
Had immediate action been taken against the misguided officials of the gas company, the public anger would not have been directed against the government to the point of mocking the greats of the ruling party. It is only natural that the people have turned against the government, which seems to protect the culprits and do very little to ensure a constant supply of cooking gas. Let the government be warned that it is playing with fire. He cannot ignore the power of the so-called kitchen vote, which can make or break governments.