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MV X-Press Pearl disaster: Four options on the table for compensation



By Ifham Nizam

The Sri Lankan government can opt for at least four compensation claims from the fire-stricken, Singapore flagged MV X-Press Pearl’s owners/insurance agents, a senior government official said.

“Though some of the claims could take time due to technical issues, we have a strong case when it comes to damage caused to marine biodiversity, which can be considered the biggest environmental catastrophe”, she said.

Citing the example of a similar disaster, the scientist said a claim for damages filed by the United Kingdom against a US-based ship dragged on for more than two decades.

Moves are underway to incorporate losses to the country’s fish production due to the fire, where chemicals mixing with the biodiversity hotspots within the sea bed have a detrimental impact on the fish harvest, she told The Sunday Island.

She also didn’t rule out the possibility of Sri Lanka being used as a dumping ground for chemical waste. “Some competitors don’t want to see Sri Lanka doing well in the shipping sector”.

She said the damage caused to the fisheries industry will be enormous particularly with small fish species where the adverse impact could be seen within two to three years.

The Wildlife Conservation Department said that apart from fish species, the harm done to sea grasses and nesting habitats, sea mammals and reptiles will also be substantial. “Our initial observations reveal the spill-over effect will last for more than 100 years”.

The operator of Ex-Press Pearl said the ship’s stern was resting on the seabed about 21 meters below the surface and the bow was settling down slowly. Salvage experts are monitoring the vessel’s condition and oil pollution.

The company said its experts were coordinating with the Sri Lanka Navy to deal with an oil spill.

Navy spokesman, Captain Indika de Silva said the navy and coastguard were bracing for an oil spill. India has sent three ships to help, including one specifically equipped to deal with marine pollution.

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) is contemplating filing a public interest litigation petition against the company that owns X-Press Pearl, Chairman, Ravindranath Dabare said.

“According to the Marine Pollution Prevention Act No. 35 of 2008, a civil suit can be filed under Section 35 and criminal action could be filed as per Section 26. We had a bitter experience with MT New Diamond as we claimed compensation based on the Polluter Pays Principle, the lawyer said.

The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) said it is prepared to face a possible oil spill from the stricken container ship off the coast of Sri Lanka.

Oil Containment Booms will be positioned around the vessel with chemical dispersants dropped from the air to prevent an oil leak from spreading, MEPA chief, Darshani Lahandapura, said.

“If the weather is not on our side, we will have to be ready for a beach clean-up and we need to be ready for it”, she said.

General (Retd) R. M. Daya Ratnayake, Chairman, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, told journalists the first point of action is to determine if the fuel in the vessel remains onboard. Thereafter, necessary measures will be taken.

With the immediate focus on minimizing any further damage to the environment, Oil Spill Response Limited has been tasked with tackling any possible spill in liaison with the International Tanker Owners’ Pollution Federation Ltd (ITOPF), which will provide technical expertise.

Both OSRL and ITOPF have people on the ground in Colombo coordinating with the Sri Lankan Navy on an established plan to deal with any possible oil spill and other pollutants.

Renowned Environmentalist, Suranjan Kodituwakku warned that the transfer of ownership of X-Press Pearl after the fire was brought under control could result in Sri Lanka not being able to obtain a proper assessment of the environmental damage or compensation.

“We hope the government will intervene, as required, given its experience, to obtain equitable restitution and compensation for the huge environmental damage,” Kodituwakku, who is also Chairman/CEO of the Green Movement of Sri Lanka Inc., said.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that even if Sri Lanka receives Rs. 100 billion as compensation for the environmental damage caused, it won’t be sufficient to offset the enormous loss suffered as a result of the disaster,.

The government has focused attention on the extensive environmental destruction caused by the blaze and many decisions on handling the situation taken at a meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, he said.

“An investigation should be launched into the cause of the fire and those responsible for allowing the container-carrier to enter the territorial waters of Sri Lanka dealt with under the law”, he told a news conference at the Environment Ministry.

The damage caused is beyond calculation. Therefore, however much compensation we may receive, it won’t be enough, he noted.

The President emphasized that priority should be given to the opinion of experts in mitigating the situation, the Minister said.

Andrew Leahy, Director for South East Asia of MTI Pte Ltd representing the operators of the vessel, told the media that water was filling inside the hull of the X-PRESS PEARL and salvors from the Netherlands are assessing the situation.

State Minister of Fisheries Kanchana Wijesekera said the Department of Fisheries has suspended vessels entering from the Negombo Lagoon and fishing from Panadura to Negombo with immediate effect as the salvage company involved in the vessel has indicated that the vessel was sinking at the current position.


Report on child protection delivered to President




The Committee appointed to Study and Make Recommendations for the Protection of Children handed over their comprehensive report to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday (03) evening.

This committee was established on April 19, 2023, to study and provide recommendations for the protection, care and overall welfare of children who have been subjected to various forms of violence within Sri Lanka.

Over the course of nearly five months, the committee conducted 21 meetings to gain an in-depth understanding of the existing issues and to formulate practical recommendations. The committee comprised a diverse group of members, including representatives from institutions such as Children Homes, Remand Homes, Certified Homes, Child Development Centres, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Chambers of Commerce, Trade Unions & Associations, Principals of Schools, Civil Society Organizations, Telecommunication and Digital Service Providers, Telecommunication Regulators, Digital Crime Security Experts, Lions Club, Rotaract Club, representatives from the U.S. Embassy, Colleges of Medicine, Solicitors General from the Attorney General’s Department, National Child Protection Authority, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, Family Health Bureau, Foreign Employment Bureau, Sri Lanka Women’s’ Bureau and officials from the Ministries in charge of Women & Children and Education.

The report, which was completed and submitted to the President yesterday, addresses a wide range of issues concerning child protection, including issues related to institutionalized environments, lack of parental care, family separation, digital media exposure, child labour and more. The committee also evaluated the adequacy of existing institutional, administrative and legal safeguards for child protection, aiming to meet the demands of modern society.

Furthermore, the report explores strategies to enhance the physical and mental health of children who have experienced various forms of violence, abuse and neglect. It also delves into the concerning trend of children engaging in violent acts and seeks innovative approaches for community participation in child care initiatives

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Landslide Early Warnings Issued to Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts extended




Automated Landslide Early Warning Map issued by the Landslide Early Warning Center of the NBRO

The landslide early warnings issued by the landslide early warning center of the National Building Research Organisation to the districts of Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts have been extended untill 1630 hrs today.

Level II landslid early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of  Neluwa in the Galle district, Ingiriya in the Kalutara district, Pasbage Korale in the Kandy district, Kotapola and Pitabeddara in the Matara district, Ayagama, Kuruwita, Pelmadulla, Nivithigala, Kiriella, Ratnapura, Elapatha, Eheliyagoda and Kalawana in the Ratnapura district.

Level I landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of Seethawaka in the Colombo district, Elpitiya in the Galle district, Walasmulla in the Hambanthota district, Mathugama, Buathsinhala, Aggalawaththa and Walallawita in the Kalutara district, Yatiyanthota, Kegalle and Dehiowita in the Kegalle district, Athureliya and Mulatiyana in the Matara district and Imbulpe and Kolonna in the Ratnapura district

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Opposition: Judge’s resignation has tarnished Lanka’s image



He should have taken action against those who threatened him – govt.

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that there were serious questions and concerns about the independence of the judiciary following the resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge T. Saravanarajah, citing threats and harassment.

“This is a serious issue and the government should conduct an independent inquiry into this matter immediately,” Premadasa said.

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said the judge’s resignation, citing threats and harassment following his ruling on the Kurundimalai temple, had led to concerns about the independence of the judiciary. He said that the Mullaitivu Magistrate had been pressured to change his judgment.

Justice Minister,Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said Sri Lankan judges had power to issue summons and take appropriate action against individuals who attempted to exert influence over them. He asked why the judge concerned had not used his powers.

Minister Rajapakshe said that the Opposition could file a contempt of court case if anyone had pressured the Mullaitivu Magistrate to reverse his judgment as claimed, without levelling allegations against the government.

The Minister said the government had no powers to investigate the matter involving the Magistrate and that the JSC was the relevant body to handle the matter and requested if anyone had any issue, they could complain to the Judicial Service Commission.

TNA MP Sumanthiran said that the whole world knew that there was pressure on the Judge. “The Minister cannot claim that there was no pressure on the judge.”

Minister Rajapakshe said that if there was anyone in the House who had exerted pressure on the judiciary it was MP Sumanthiran. He said MP Sumanthiran had on 20 October, 2022 told Parliament that the judges of the Supreme Court should be sent home. “You said in this House that people had no faith in the Supreme Court.”

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