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Clearing X-Press Pearl debris will begin in early November



by Ifham Nizam

Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura, Attorney-at-Law said that removal of debris of Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl that sank in Lankan waters is set to start early November.

She said: “The Coastal area from Mannar to Dondra is cleaned daily. We have spent around 30,000 man-hours in the cleaning operation. Around 400 workers have been deployed for this work that has been going on daily for some time now. This process has to be continued for at least one more year.”

She said that special attention has been paid to clean the coastal areas in Negombo, Sarakkauwa, Mount Lavinia and Angulana.

The vessel was carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, along with other chemicals and cosmetics that were loaded at the port of Hazira, India, on May 15. It caught fire off Colombo Port on May 27. After burning for 12 days, the vessel sank on June 2 as it was being towed to deeper waters.

Lahandapura said this was one of the worst-ever marine disasters the country had to ever face. Calling it a ‘man-made disaster’, she said: “This is an unfortunate incident for Sri Lanka. It has negatively impacted the country in many ways. What we are doing right now is minimizing that negative impact.”

The environmental damage inflicted by the disaster has been divided to two categories: visible and invisible, she said.

The Prime Minister’s office has instructed MEPA to expedite its process of estimating the damage caused and the cost of recovery.

“The ship is now a huge pile of debris. It took five months for that to happen. What’s left now has dwindling power of damaging the environment. Tests are still being conducted to identify any further damage.”

What remains to be done has five components: observing the status quo of the wreckage, cleaning the beach and sea bottom at the disaster site, investigating the possibility of any accidental occurrence, collecting data on damage caused to the marine and coastal environment and surveying the changes occurring on the seabed, she said.

Plastic remnants are being cleared not only from the beach surface, but going down one meter as some plastic pellets have been found buried quite deep in the sand.

A team of 40 field experts and scientists, co-chaired by Prof Ajith de Alwis, Dean of Faculty of Graduate Studies of the Moratuwa University and Prof Prshanthi Gunawardena of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura has been assigned the task of estimating the environmental damage.

Assistance has been rendered by 14 government agencies including the Department of the Government Analyst, Central Environment Authority and Wildlife Conservation Department. In addition laboratory assistance has been obtained from foreign countries including the UK, Australia and France.

Lahandapura said scanning the ocean bed has nearly been completed to assess the damage. Our plan was to commence debris removal at the end of this month and we’re still trying to keep to that deadline. Otherwise the project will begin in the first week of November,” she said,

The final report on damage assessment is expected to be submitted by Nov 30.

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Two-year reconciliation project spurns Lord Naseby’s disclosure



EU, Germany funded scheme costs Rs. 8 mn

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Peace Council (NPC) says war-related matters hadn’t been discussed at the nearly two-year-long reconciliation project that brought together students from Eastern, Jaffna, Ruhuna and Sabaragamuwa Universities.

More than 160 students have participated in the project that culminated with a conference on the theme of ‘Plural Sri Lanka: Paths to reconciliation.’ Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris delivered the closing address and responded to questions from the audience.

Pointing out that post-war reconciliation efforts had been badly hampered by allegations that the Sri Lankan military killed over 40,000 civilians on the Vanni east front, The Island sought clarification as regards measures taken by the NPC to improve relations among the communities, and the following questions were raised:

The Island:

During your two-year long project did participants discuss specific war crimes allegations and disclosure made in the House of Lords in Oct 2017 that contradicted unsubstantiated accusations pertaining to 40,000 civilian deaths.

Executive Director NPC Dr. Jehan Perera:

“No, we did not discuss these war-related matters. The project was titled “Creative Youth Engagement for Pluralism” and it focused on the nature of Sri Lanka as a plural society and the value framework that should guide it.  The research papers highlighted the diversity within Sri Lankan society that goes beyond ethnicity and religion.  They included topics such as “Attitudes of Society on Education and Transsexuality: A Comparative Study on the Ideologies of a Community with Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Education,” and “Pluralism and University Subculture: An Ethnological Study on Young Behavior towards Social Cohesion,” and “An Investigative Study of the Challenges Posed by the Changes in the Aboriginal Society.”

The Island:

What is the total cost of the project?


: Rs 8 million was spent to train and mentor the writers of the 30 research publications in four universities, translate, review and publish their findings in book form and for the conference which brought the students to Colombo.

Question 3:

What is the GoSL’s contribution?

The NPC:

There was no direct financial support by the government. Four state universities supported through their faculty members and students.

The Island: What is the NPC’s stand on accountability resolution and announcement made in Geneva that the Sri Lankan military would be subjected to a fresh inquiry?

The NPC:

In order to get out of these allegations, there is a need for a credible and independent investigation. Our preference is for a national mechanism that is acceptable to all sides.  Accountability will need to be a part of the reconciliation process.  NPC favours the restorative justice approach which focuses on ensuring justice to victims. This includes an acknowledgement of wrongs done and reparations and institutional reform to ensure that there is non-recurrence. 

 The Island: Are you also engaged in post-war reconciliation projects funded by Norway?

The NPC:

NPC hasn’t obtained funds from Norway for the past five years.

The recently concluded project has been funded by a project called Strengthening Reconciliation Process here jointly funded by the European Union and the German Federal Foreign Office and implemented by Deutsche Gesellsschaft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the British Council in partnership with the Sri Lankan Government.

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Speaker promises to appoint bi-partisan committee to look into incidents in Parliament



Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced in Parliament yesterday (06) that a committee consisting of senior members from the Government and Opposition would be appointed within the week to look into the incidents that took place in Parliament last Friday and Saturday and submit a report.

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High Court Trial-at-Bar orders release of several accused from 11 charges in CB bond auction case



By AJA Abeynayake

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar yesterday ordered the release of several accused, including former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayke and former Central Bank former Governor Arjuna Mahendra, from 11 charges out of 22 in connection with the Central Bank bond auction held on 31 March, 2016.

Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar held that public property charges against the accused could not be maintained. Indictments had been filed against Perpetual Treasuries Private Ltd (PTL), former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayke, CBSL former Governor Arjuna Mahendran, Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) beneficiary owner Arjun Aloysius, PTL Chief dealer Kasun Palisena, Chairman of PTL Jeffrey Joseph Aloysius, Chitta Ranjan Hulugalle, Muthuraja Surendran, Ajahn Gardiye Punchihewa and Badugoda Hewa Indika Saman Kumara in connection with bond auction held on March 31, 2016.

The case against seventh accused Ranjan Hulugalle was dismissed on preliminary objections raised.

President’s Counsel Anil Silva, Counsel Asela Serasinghe, Hafeel Farisz, Sahan Kulatunga and Vishwaka Peiris appeared for the seventh accused.

The Attorney General’s stance regarding the future cause of action to be informed on 26 Jan. 2022.

The Attorney General had alleged that the PTL had been using the Central Bank’s important undisclosed information to alter the final outcome of the Treasury bond auction and it had a huge impact on the overall national economy as a result of the subtle; the systematic conduct of the offences related to the fraud and had caused injustice to other primary sellers in the bond market, and the PTL had acted cunningly and made a huge profit and conspired to cause a huge loss to the government.

The case was postponed until 26 Jan. 2022.

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