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Discrepancy in compensation for terror victims highlighted

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Easter Sunday probe:

By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was no uniform policy on compensating those killed or injured in terror attacks or riots and political influence had help those affected by riots in Digana and Beruwala receive higher compensation than the victims of Easter Sunday attacks, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday attacks was informed yesterday.

Acting Director of the Office of Reparations S. M. Bathiudeen told the PCoI that one million rupees each had been paid for the persons killed during the Easter Sunday attacks.  However, two million rupees each had been paid for those killed during the anti-Muslim riots in Digana and Beruwala, he said.

“We have received 220 applications from families of those killed during the Easter Sunday attacks. Rs. 220 million was paid to these individuals. The Cabinet also decided to pay a maximum of Rs. 500,000 to those who were injured. Rs. 86 million was paid to 506 applicants. There was also a cap of Rs. 5 million for properties that were damaged.”

The families of those who died during the Digana and Beruwala riots were paid Rs. 2 million each and there was no cap as regards damages caused to properties.

Bathiudeen said: “There was a meeting at the Kandy Kachcheri after the Digana riots. The then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, Ministers Rauff Hakeem and Lakshman Kiriella and Kandy MPs were present. They decided on the amounts to be paid. Those who were injured at Digana were also compensated without medical reports.”

Bathiudeen said that people frequently asked him why they had been paid less than others who had been in a similar situation. The amount to be paid was not decided by the Office of Reparations, but by politicians. It was unfair that only Rs. 100,000 each was paid for those killed in the North.

“We don’t decide on the figures. We are not even asked. We are sent Cabinet papers and we implement them,” Bathiudeen said.

Bathiudeen was then cross-examined by Shamil Perera, PC, who represents the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Shamil Perera: “How much was an injured person to be paid?”

Bathiudeen: “The Cabinet decided to put a cap of Rs. 500,000 as regards the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks. But people were paid less based on medical reports. We judged the effect of these injuries would have on his or her earning capacity.”

Perera PC: “You said that 280 injured persons of the blast at Katuwapitiya Church were compensated. However only 32 victims have received Rs. 500,000. Meanwhile 147 people, the overwhelming majority, received only Rs. 50,000 each. At Kochchikade 102 were injured. Only 13 victims received Rs. 500,000 each. Meanwhile 40 people received only Rs. 50,000 each. Did you know that these people had serious injuries”

Bathiudeen: “Yes.”

Perera PC: “Many people had to undergo surgeries. Is Rs. 500,000 enough for a surgery?’

Bathiudeen: “It’s true. The Cabinet took this decision”.

Perera PC: “Do you know that the Catholic Church paid for the surgeries?”

Bathiudeen: “No.”

Perera PC: “You said that those who died at Digana and Beruwala received higher amounts due to political influence.”

Bathiudeen: “As I said the numbers were agreed upon during the meeting at the Kandy Kachcheri. The then Minister of Rehabilitation D. M. Swaminathan prepared the first draft. The Finance Ministry headed by then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe then amended the Cabinet paper.”

A Commissioner: “Politicians didn’t try to increase compensation for Easter Sunday attack victims?”

Bathiudeen: “Politicians on different occasions decide on various numbers.”

Perera, PC: “Do you agree that the compensation paid to Easter Sunday attack victims is not enough?”

Bathiudeen: “The amount is less than what was paid to the victims in Digana and Beruwala.”



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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