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Finally some tangible action to ship back toxic waste dumped here

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By Ifham Nizam

The Sri Lanka government, with the backing of all relevant stakeholders, would use European Rules and Regulations to get compensation from the British company that dumped toxic waste shipments in Colombo three years back, Customs Media Spokesman, Sunil Jayarathne said yesterday.

He told The Island that the government had adopted measures on Saturday to send back 21 containers of toxic waste material to the United Kingdom; they are out of 263 TEUs dumped under the noses of authorities here in 2017/18. Jayaratne said the importation of such freight containers was a violation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their disposal were against the rules and regulations of the European Union as well.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and Their Disposal usually known as the Basel Convention is an international treaty designed to reduce the movement of hazardous waste among nations.

Jayaratne said that measures had been taken after continuous discussion with the Attorney General’s Department, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Central Environmental Authority and the British High Commission.

“On the instructions of AG’s Department, the process of sending back illegally imported 21 containers out of 263 containers commenced on Saturday, in the presence of the Director-General of Customs. Those 263 containers were imported by a private party misusing operation facilities, which fall under the purview of the Board of Investments..”

Under the provisions of a Gazette issued in 2013, a total of 263 freight containers of waste material had been imported to Sri Lanka from the UK, in 2017; with the intention of enhancing the commercial value of the material and re-exporting, an official said. Majority of the freight containers imported under the guise of used mattresses, but they contained plastic and polythene waste, Customs Department investigations has revealed.

Jayaratne said: “Sri Lanka Customs detected this in 2018 and preliminary investigations revealed that most of those containers had been imported to the country in 2017. Subsequently, the matter especially with regard to 242 containers were referred to courts and they were all ordered to be shipped back. Legal proceedings are currently underway in this regard.”

The Director-General of Customs has ordered stringent action against those responsible, under the provisions of the Customs Ordinance.

The environment portfolio was under former President Maithripala Sirisena at the time the hazardous waste was imported

Colombo Metal Industries and ITL Colombo Limited used their licences to import the hazardous waste. The Court of Appeal, on September 20, 2019 further extended its Interim Order directing the authorities to prevent any transport or movement of the consignment of waste within the country.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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