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SJB steps in to help SL claim damages for X-Press Pearl disaster



By Saman Indrajith

The main opposition SJB has sent letters of demand to the owners of the MV X-Press Pearl containership seeking compensation for the worst-ever maritime disaster in the country’s history.SJB and Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday (11) that the party had filed legal action against a number of shipping companies associated with the ship in a bid to assist the government’s efforts to file a damages claim.

A preliminary letter of demand has been issued by the SJB to EUSRO (Pvt) Ltd, followed by LoDs to Sea Consortium (Pvt) Ltd, X-Press Feeders (Pvt) Ltd, Sea Consortium Lanka Ltd, London Steam Ship Owners Mutual Insurance Association Ltd, GAC Shipping Ltd and one other company.

“These shipping companies seem to think there are groups in this country that can be bought. There is no one in our country who can be bought. I think this will be a strength to our efforts to obtain USD 6.4 billion,” Premadasa said.

He accused the government of coming up with excuses for not actively pursuing the damages claim.Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said the government has filed a claim in Singapore but will also fight the case in the UK after insurers and owners went to Admiralty Courts seeking to limit compensation to 19.2 million sterling pounds.

Sri Lanka filed a case in Singapore on April 25, seeking damages, which was to be heard in June but has been brought forward to early May. Sri Lanka’s lawyers will seek more time, Minister Rajapsakshe said.

He said that an expert committee appointed on the matter has estimated the total damage at 6.4 billion US dollars. Sri Lanka has sought 22.1 million US dollars in damages for the marine environment and 273.014 million US dollars for fishermen, India has sought 495.3 million Indian rupees from Sri Lanka as the cost of firefighting operations, which was 1941.5 million in Sri Lankan rupees. Sri Lanka has hired Dentons Rodyk and Davidson LLP legal firm in Singapre and Sparke Helmore of Australia to argue its case.

The owners of the vessel and its insurers have gone to an Admiralty Court in the UK seeking to cap damages to the ship and the marine and coastal environment at 19.2 million sterling pounds, Rajapakshe said.King’s Counsel Peter MacDonald from DAC Beachcroft firm has been hired to represent Sri Lanka in seeking a removal of the cap on damages, he said.


GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets



Prof. G.L

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.

The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.

Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.

Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.

While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.

Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.

Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.

Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.

Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.

Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.

Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.

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LPBOA demands bus fare hike



By Rathindra Kuruwita  

Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.

On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.

Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.

“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.

School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.

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Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR



A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.

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