oil stockpile despite growing public complaints that its retail stations are frequently out of supplies.

Ironically, the number of complaints has risen since oil prices began their sharp descent from July when crude reached a record of more than $147 a barrel in early July.

CPC, the island’s main oil company, has been reluctant to slash retail prices as it is trying to recoup losses suffered during oil’s sharp run-up from last year till recently. When oil held above $100 a barrel for up to September, the company was forced to subsidise domestic consumers who refused to pay market prices.

On December 17, the Supreme Court, which has been intervening in the country’s oil markets, ordered oil companies to reduce gasoline prices at the pump from 122 rupees per litre to 100 rupees. Immediately, fuel supplies became scarce throughout the island as the industry held onto their stocks and curbed imports.

Speaking on behalf of the Cabinet, information minister Anura Yapa said the CPC had taken action to ensure that its retail outlets would carry stock in an attempt to reduce shortages.

However, he warned that CPC would be hit with fresh losses if it was forced to sell gasoline at the new price.