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Decommissioned warships are not sold as they are ‘national assets’

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by SURESH PERERA

As decommissioned naval vessels are considered a country’s “national assets”, it is an age-old tradition to sink unserviceable warships in the ocean irrespective of their commercial value, a senior Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) official said.

Nowhere in the world are old naval ships sold even for their scrap metal value as these vessels have dutifully served the nation with honor and pride, says Captain Indika de Silva, SLN’s official spokesman.

Warships are commissioned on a special presidential warrant, he outlined. “Hence, they are a part of our national wealth”.

He was responding to questions on the Navy’s move to sink two old warships, ‘Weeraya’ and ‘Jagatha’, which were decommissioned at Tuesday’s ceremonial farewell under the auspices of Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne at the Naval Dockyard in Trincomalee.

The two ships were part of the Third Fast Gun Boat Squadron, which rendered an invaluable service to the Navy for more than four decades to ensure the security of Sri Lankan waters.

Of course, decommissioned warships can be given to a friendly country for their use after refurbishment, Capt. de Silva elaborated. “However, in the case of the two Sri Lankan vessels, they are now too old to sail as they were built in 1961”.

“The vessels were given to Sri Lanka by China in 1972 and 1980, respectively, and it was an engineering marvel that they were kept operational for 40 plus years despite the inbuilt old technology in them”, he explained.

Sinking decommissioned warships in the ocean is not considered a “waste” as they create new habitats for marine species. In fact, they serve as an artificial reef for marine life, he noted.

“Even old, unusable armoured carriers are sunk in the sea”, he continued.

Referring to the Indian Navy’s Centaur-class aircraft carrier INS Viraat, which was the world’s longest-serving warship, Capt. de Silva said moves to convert the 1940s-built ship into a museum at a cost of 400-500 crore were abandoned and now the 27,800 ton vessel has been lined up for dismantling.

India’s Union Shipping Minister regretted that efforts to convert the warship into a museum could not succeed. He said several consultations were done but the plan could not materialize as an expert committee reported that the vessel would not last for more than a decade, according to reports.

Interestingly, Alang, which is the last resting place for ships, INS Viraat is the first warship to be dismantled, where annually around 280 ships from across the world are brought to be dismantled.

Earlier, French aircraft carrier Clemenceau was supposed to sail to Alang for dismantling but a massive controversy thwarted the efforts to bring the aircraft carrier, reports further said.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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