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Ship fire: Environmental destruction bill could be highest in recent history



by Ifham Nizam

The Owners and agents of the ill-fated MV X-PRESS PEARL container ship probably would have to pay the highest amount of compensation in recent history when it comes to destruction caused to marine life alone, a senior marine scientist said.

Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), National Aquatic Resources Agency and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) will prepare a rough estimate of the cost of environmental pollution.

Initial investigations have revealed that numerous fish  and other aquatic species are dying due to poisoning.

The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) on Friday put forth guidelines and proposals on the management of “mixed hazardous waste” generated by the MV X-Press Pearl fire to relevant agencies, including MEPA.

Since the waste washed ashore might have been mixed with the hazardous chemicals carried by X-Press Pearl, the total waste generated by the stricken vessel is considered hazardous, CEA Chemical and Hazardous Waste Management Unit, Director Ajith Weerasundera said.

The main guidelines are as follows: Beaches and places where the wreckage and debris of the stricken ship “X-Press Pearl” have been found should be identified and designated as “hazardous areas”; the people in those areas should be warned not to touch the waste.

The CEA has said that as this waste could be a hazardous, knowledgeable officers/workers should be deployed to collect the waste and they should engage in the relevant activities, using proper safety devices/equipment and methods. Immediate action should be taken to deposit the collected hazardous waste in suitable temporary storage/containers. The required containers and locations have been specified by the Central Environmental Authority.

Containers for storing the waste should be stored in suitable places and absorbent material (sand or wood powder) or suitable methods should be used to prevent the leakage of waste.

Security arrangements should be made to protect the waste storage areas from outsiders, (ideally by the Sri Lanka Police or Navy). This hazardous waste must be transported in closed vehicles and drivers and personnel dealing with it must use safety equipment, the CEA said.

Institutions permitted by the Central Environmental Authority to manage hazardous waste should carry out waste management activities. All costs incurred in this regard including the cost of waste disposal shall be borne by the relevant shipping company.

Arrangements should be made by environmental economists to calculate the cost of environmental damage caused by the ship fire and the cost incurred should be borne by the relevant parties.

The Sri Lanka Navy together with the MEPA launched a special operation to minimise the impact on Sri Lanka’s coast due to various debris including containers, possible chemical compounds and other hazardous material being washed ashore.

Although the beaches are already coated with oil, the biggest problem at the moment is debris, mostly made up of tiny plastic granules, which have now spread along the west coast of Sri Lanka.

MEPA, Chief Darshini Lahandapura said microplastics would continue to accumulate underwater, posing a threat to the environment.

The fire was doused completely on Friday. However, plumes of smoke were observed still billowing from ‘X-Press Pearl’ off the Colombo Harbour.

A joint effort launched by the Sri Lanka Navy, the Sri Lanka Air Force, the Indian Coast Guard and others has been in full swing for the past few days to control the fire aboard the Singapore-registered container ship.

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DG Information ignorant of basic election laws and regulations: ECSL




The Election Commission (EC) has expressed its disappointment at controversial statements made by some public officials about elections. It says some top government official, including the Director General of Government Information, are not familiar with the basic election laws and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The EC says it may be due to his ignorance that the Director General of Government Information has issued the Special News Release, on 29 January, claiming that ‘the gazette notification, with the signatures of the Chairman, and other members of the Election Commission, required for the commencement of the Local Government Election process, has not yet been sent to the Government Press for printing’. The EC has said such notices have to be signed and sent by the relevant Returning Officers in accordance with section 38 of the Local Authorities Election (Amendment Act) No 16 of 2017, and not by the members of the EC.

The EC has confirmed that the notices from the Returning Officers were sent to the Government Press on Monday (30).

The EC’s Media release also points out that the DGI may be unaware that Article 104GG of the Constitution states that if any public official refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to comply with the Commission he or she has committed an offence.

Article 104GG of the Constitution says: (1) Any public officer, any employee of any public corporation, business or other undertaking vested in the Government under any other written law and any company registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty percent or more of the shares of that company, who – (a) refuses or fails without a reasonable cause to cooperate with the Commission, to secure the enforcement of any law relating to the holding of an election or the conduct of a Referendum; or (b) fails without a reasonable cause to comply with any directions or guidelines issued by the Commission under sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4) or sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (5), respectively, of Article 104B, shall be guilty of an offense and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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AKD says no improvement at Sapugaskanda oil refinery since it went into production in 1969



The capacity of the Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery (SOR) has not increased since it was established in 1969, National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says.

Speaking at a public rally recently he that in 1969, the SOR used the most advanced technology available at the time.

“CPC started construction in 1968 and SOR started operations, refining oil, on August 5th, 1969. During that time, the CPC could refine 50,000 MT of crude oil. 55 years later, the capacity remains the same. In 1969, the CPC started with the most advanced technology available at the time. Technology has improved now. We are still refining oil with 1969 technology,” he said.

Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka built a fertiliser factory to use the byproducts of the refinery and, in 1982, a newspaper reported that 5000 MT of urea, produced by that factory, was exported to Pakistan. Today, that factory is closed.

“The CPC also had a nylon factory, as a subsidiary. We built our own nylon thread fish nets. By-products of the refinery were used as pesticides and insecticides for our pineapple and flower production. Those factories were closed, too. We had a candle industry from the by-products, we produced lubricant oil. It was sold to American Caltex. Refinery produced fuel for airplanes. It has the capacity to sell USD 1.4 million worth airplane fuel per day. We can buy crude oil, refine, and sell to ships. These are opportunities we must use to earn foreign currency. Recently this section of the CPC was privatized,” he said.

The ruling class has failed to secure even the most important assets, he said. Agriculture, land, gems, ilmenite, our natural resources, so will these rulers protect what is left, he asked.

“They have absolutely no plan to build this country. Selling our resources, closing down factories and selling valuable machinery is what they know. Every government has taken part in the destruction of the refinery. This is why we need a change in the economy. We need to transform our economy. Only NPP can do that,” he said.

The NPP leader said that the existing constitution concentrates too much power in the hands of the executive president. Sri Lanka has had this executive presidential system for 40 years and executive power was used against the people, repressing them.

“Our economy was destroyed. It has done no good to this country. One man cannot develop the country. Individuals have capacities and limitations. We need to unite our capabilities to govern this country. It’s a collective effort and the NPP is the only party to undertake it. That’s the point of difference. There are talented people from all fields like history, economy, mathematics, law and so on. There are lawyers, university academics and professionals. The government has to unite these capacities and talents to bring optimum results for the country. NPP will do that. For that we have to abolish executive presidency and rewrite the constitution vesting more powers in the Parliament. We will bring about this change,” he said.

Dissanayake said an NPP administration will limit the number of Ministers to 18. He added that crossovers have distorted the democratic system and corrupted the political culture.

“People vote for them in one party but for money and positions they change political allegiance. This has become a public nuisance. Some MPs demand ransom to stay in the party. We will add a provision to the Constitution to ban crossing over,” he said.

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JVP: Where are President’s influential foreign friends?



By Rathindra Kuruwita 

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who assumed duties, claiming that he had very influential friends overseas, now claims he can hardly afford to pay government servants, National People’s Power (NPP) MP Vijitha Herath says.

“If anything, things are worse than before. The government is afraid of the people and is trying to postpone elections,” Herath said, adding that the March 09 local council election would mark the beginning of the end for the Ranil-Rajapaksa administration.

Herath said so addressing an NPP election rally recently.

 “They will no longer be able to pretend that the people are with them. Not that they have any legitimacy, locally or internationally, but the level of their unpopularity will be seen on 10 March,, when the poll results are announced” he said.

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