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Damages caused by burning vessel estimated to be running to billions of dollars



By Ifham Nizam

The environmental damage to marine fauna and flora, caused by the fire-stricken X-Press Pearl, would amount to billions of US dollars, scientists attached to the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA) and Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) said yesterday.

They said that they were discussing how much to seek as compensation.

Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, Nalaka Godahewa and Lasantha Alagiyawanna yesterday visited the site to look into the environmental damage caused by chemicals and other contaminants released from the burning ship.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said steps were being taken to recover the damage.

Secretary to the Ministry Dr. Anil Jasinghe also accompanied the Minister.

Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal, and Community Cleanliness, State Minister, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said the ill-fated ship had been on route to Singapore passing Colombo when the accident happened and gale winds contributed to the spread of the disastrous fire.

He said the cyclonic conditions in the Bay of Bengal coupled with the monsoon weather made t harder to contain the fire in time.

The State Minister also refuted reports that the MV X-Press Pearl had been denied entry into the ports in India and Qatar.

He said Sri Lanka had not been informed by anyone about any fire aboard the vessel and the matter needed to be investigated.

More than 300 Army personnel of the Quick Reaction Team, Drone Unit of the Artillery Regiment and the Bomb Disposal Squad were positioned yesterday along Negombo to Porutota coastal belt, in an attempt to prevent people from collecting hazardous debris still continuing to be washed ashore from the burning ship.

MEPA has also lodged a complaint with the Colombo harbour police to take legal action against the Captain of the MV X-Press Pearl and its parent company over the environmental damage.

Meanwhile, a team from the Netherlands has been detailed to inspect the ‘X-Press Pearl’ vessel. Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena said a six-member Dutch team had been to the site of the burning vessel on a tug boat.

A fire erupted in the cargo vessel ‘X-Press Pearl’ carrying Nitric Acid and other chemicals on May 20.

It was in anchorage about 9.5 nautical miles northwest of Colombo harbour at the time of the incident. The vessel had reached the location on May 19 before its entry into the harbour.

The vessel, registered under the Singapore flag, had with it 1,486 containers including 25 tonnes of Nitric Acid, several other chemicals, and cosmetics from the port of Hazira, India.

India, responding to an emergency request by Sri Lanka Navy, has deployed multiple assets – Vessels Vaibhav, Vajra, and Samudra Prehari by Indian Coast Guard and Tug Water Lilly by Director General, Shipping to douse the fire on MV ‘X-Press Pearl.’ In addition, Dornier aircraft was deployed for aerial reconnaissance.

The distressed container ship was manned by a crew of 25, who are Philippine, Chinese, Indian, and Russian nationals.

Sri Lanka Navy on Tuesday managed to rescue all crew members from the burning vessel. Two injured Indian nationals among them were admitted to National Hospital in Colombo for treatment. Reports revealed that one of the two injured crew members tested positive for COVID-19.

The MEPA said eight cargo containers had fallen into the sea and added that debris such as plastics and some food items had been washed to the beaches of Negombo, Ja-Ela, Kepumgoda, Seththappaduwa, Pamunugama, Kochchikade, and Dungalpitiya areas.

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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman




Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand




At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night



President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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