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Customs, CEA delaying legal action against importers of foreign waste



Twenty-one hazadous waste containers sent back to United Kingdom recently

Another 242 UK waste containers still lying here

By Ifham Nizam

The Sri Lanka Customs and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) have failed to take legal action against the companies responsible for importing 263 containers full of hazardous waste from the United Kingdom.

With more foreign garbage entering the country, this time from Ukraine, environmentalists and authorities are up in arms.

A senior lawyer told The Island that the Attorney General’s Department would soon submit a report to Parliament, spelling out the fact that the  CEA and Customs Department had failed to file legal action against the importers of waste.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, contacted for comment, told The Island that he would take immediate action.

He also said that such activities should be completely stopped and he would do his utmost to rid the country of foreign waste..

Customs Director Sunil Jayarathna told The Island that a new probe team would be appointed and the CID called in.

He said that the delay was due to a Court order and a Customs inquiry. He said the Customs had not been able to do much for months due to the pandemic and most of the officials were quarantined.

On September 21, some containers of hazardous waste were finally sent back to the United Kingdom after more than a year.

Jayaratne said that the Customs had decided on the penalties. Environmentalists said Rs. 1.6 billion had to be charged from the local agent and a separate penalty imposed on the British company concerned.

Jayaratne said that hazardous waste transfers were against the Basel Convention.

The Customs said that they wanted to send the containers last year back to the UK and awaited the verdict of the Court of Appeal.

Colombo Metal Industries and ITL Colombo Limited imported the hazardous waste.

The containers contained used mattresses, carpets and hospital waste, officials said.

Another 242 containers from Britain, which the government said were holding illegal waste in violation of international law, are lying at the Colombo Port and at a free trade zone outside. They arrived here between 2017 and 2018.




Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP



By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms



Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations



… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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