Sri Lanka’s interim President Ranil Wickremesinghe told the West on Sunday that sanctions on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine would not bring Moscow to its knees, but would severely affect the rest of the third world in terms of food shortages and rising prices.
The remarks from the crisis-hit island nation’s interim president came days after the World Food Program said food and fuel prices were skyrocketing, leading to a lack of essentials and a loss of income enough to feed more than six million Sri Lankans. making it out of reach.
Speaking at an international panel discussion on prevention of hunger and famine, Wickremesinghe urged all sides to agree to a ceasefire on the war in Ukraine and end further suffering of people around the world.
“Our issue in Sri Lanka is partly self-made and partly due to the global crisis,” he said.
In his address, Wickremesinghe expressed his views on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its effects on third world countries, questioning whether the sanctions are meant to aid in addressing the global shortage or are it disrupting the world.
“Do you think sanctions will help? It will only pull prices up. So let’s get started. Let us look at the sanctions that are being imposed and ask ourselves if it is necessary. Sanctions will bring Russia to its knees. But it will bring the rest of the third world to its knees,” he was told by Sri Lankan media.
Following Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine in February, the US-led West has imposed severe sanctions on Moscow.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said Ukraine has more than 20 million tons of grain that cannot go out to feed people around the world because Russia is blocking Ukraine’s ports in Odessa, the Black Sea .
“So we are seeing the impact of this Russian aggression everywhere. It has again contributed to the situation in Sri Lanka. We are concerned about its effects around the world,” Blinken said in Bangkok. 10 July.
Wickremesinghe, who is considered to be the front runner in the Sri Lankan presidential race to be held on July 20, told that the way other countries have given $ 14 billion to Sri Lanka, $100 billion is being spent on it. Ukraine war by all concerned.
“This cannot continue. It is not only the fault of the European Union. Russia also has a responsibility. They should call for a ceasefire and not put the world in further suffering,” he said.
Wickremesinghe said the issues facing Sri Lanka regarding hunger are man-made. He acknowledged that after the decision to ban chemical fertilisers, which hit the country heavily, resulted in Sri Lanka importing 1/3 of its rice requirement from abroad.
In April, the government of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned the import of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to encourage organic farming.
Wickremesinghe said at present Sri Lanka has enough stock of rice for five months and imports for three months. However, in the absence of a solution for the next four months, Sri Lanka will have to rely on other options.
Sri Lanka is also facing the problem of importing fertilizers, as the country would need $600 million to import, but the government currently has only $300 million.
He said that Sri Lanka’s economy is shrinking and this year it will be around -6 per cent. Furthermore, he emphasized that apart from the widespread hunger and fuel crisis, the loss of jobs during the year would be high.
Stating that all this has happened because of the political turmoil, Wickremesinghe questioned what other countries would do in such a situation.
“Just asking people to tighten their backs won’t work. We have to think out-of-the-box, we can’t think conventionally. We need a solution,” he said.