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Sea Consortium Lanka probed X-Press Pearl incident

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing Sri Lanka’s worst ever maritime ecological disaster has recorded the statements from three top management level employees of Sea Consortium Lanka, the local agent of the ill-fated X-Press Pearl, owned by X-Press Feeders.

They have been questioned on their failure to alert the relevant local authorities as regards the chemical leak on the vessel, in spite of being informed by Tyutkalo Vitaly, the Russian Captain of the vessel, well over a week before X-Press Pearl entered Sri Lankan waters. Investigations have revealed that the e-mails sent by the Russian, informing the local agent of the developments onboard the vessel, had been deleted.

Sea Consortium Lanka, a Board of Investment (BoI), registered venture is the Sri Lankan extension of X-Press Feeders. The Sea Consortium is part of the Setmil Group of Companies.

Police spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana, who is also the senior officer in charge of its Legal Division, told The Island that they were among 32 persons, including members of the crew, questioned by the CID.

DIG Rohana said that the questioning of Sea Consortium Lanka personnel was continuing. Police headquarters didn’t release names of those so far questioned by the CID.

Both Chairman of the SLPA, retired General Daya Ratnayake, and Director General of Merchant Shipping, Ajith Seneviratne, yesterday told The Island that they were aware of the ongoing police investigation into the alleged failure on the part of the local agent. Asked whether, in his capacity as DG, Merchant Shipping, Seneviratne had taken action in respect of the local agent, the top official said that they had not reached that stage. Seneviratne said that investigations were continuing.

DG, Merchant Shipping is the authority for issuing licences to local agents on the recommendation of ship owners.

DIG Rohana said that the Government Analyst’s Department had informed the CID that it needed the assistance of the manufacturer of the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) of the vessel to read its data.

According to information provided to the court by Deputy Solicitor General Madhava Tennakoon, emails from the captain to X-Press Feeders’ local agent Sea Consortium had been deleted by the latter.

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) has moved the Supreme Court against the Sea Consortium Lanka as well as operators of the vessel, X-Press Feeders. CEJ and three others, including its Executive Director Withanage Don Hemantha Ranjith Sisira Kumara have, in a fundamental rights application filed in terms of Articles 17 and 126 of the Constitution, in respect of the X-Press Pearl affair, named X-Press Feeders and its local agent Sea Consortium Lanka as 11th and 12th respondents. They were among 13 respondents, including the Attorney General.

The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl sank on June 2, 9.5 nautical miles North West of Colombo port, the day after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa directed that it be towed to deeper seas. Shipping sources told The Island that the vessel had gone down where it had been since May 19 after entering Sri Lankan waters.

International news agencies reported that ports in Qatar and India had declined to offload the leaking acid container loaded in Jebel Ali, Dubai.

Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena didn’t answer his mobile phone.



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At least 17 killed after explosion in Peshawar mosque

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(picture from twitter)

BBC reported that at least 17 people have been killed in an explosion at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The blast happened when the mosque was packed with worshippers and more than 90 people were injured.

A section of the building was destroyed, and officials say people are buried under the rubble. Several others are being taken to local hospitals.

The cause of the explosion is unclear.

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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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