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Sri Lanka battles waves of plastic waste from burning ship

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Tonnes of plastic pellets from a burning container ship swamped Sri Lanka’s west coast Friday, prompting a ban on fishing as international efforts to salvage the vessel dragged into a ninth day.

The government announced the ban along an 80-kilometre (50-mile) coastal area, including Colombo, fearing contamination with pollutants and plastic waste from the stricken ship.

“We will compensate the owners of 5,600 boats affected by the ban,” fisheries minister Kanchana Wijesekera said while adding that seafood currently in the market was safe for consumption.

Millions of plastic granules washed up at the holiday resort of Kalutara — 43 kilometres south of Colombo — on Friday, a day after similar pollution at Negombo, a tourist and fishing area 40 kilometres north of the capital.

Sri Lankan authorities meanwhile deployed hundreds of security personnel in hazmat suits to clean the beaches of plastic waste and other debris from the Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl burning since May 20.

Sri Lanka navy chief Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne said the fire was largely under control and the risk of the vessel breaking up had diminished.

“Right now there is no threat of the ship breaking up, but we don’t know how much of oil is still left,” Ulugetenne told reporters in Colombo.

Microplastic threat Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) said a possible oil leak was the biggest threat, but the ship’s plastic cargo had already caused extensive damage.

The impact on mangroves and lagoons was still being estimated while a beach clean up was already underway. Harm to marine wildlife and birds is also being assessed.

“Sri Lanka is one of the best bio-diverse countries in Asia and this type of plastic pollution, especially from microplastics can have long term repercussions,” MEPA chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura said.

“Microplastics are already an issue in the world’s oceans and this disaster here is making it worse for us.”

Microplastics are very small pieces of any type of plastic less than five millimetres and could be ingested by fish and in turn get into humans.

She said much of the cargo, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), lubricants and other chemicals appeared to have been destroyed in the huge fire.

Bulldozers scooped up tonnes of the polythene pellets that came from at least eight containers that fell off the ship on Tuesday.

Officials said the vessel was known to carry 28 containers of pellets that are used as a raw material in the packaging industry.

The X-Press Pearl, which is anchored just outside the Colombo harbour, was still smouldering and an international salvage effort to put out the fire was underway.

The fire broke out on May 20 as the ship waited to enter the Colombo port. Authorities believe the fire was caused by a nitric acid leak which the crew had been aware of since May 11.

The 25-member crew evacuated on Tuesday and two of them suffered minor injuries in the process, the owners of the vessel said on Thursday.

Oil residue and charred containers have already washed ashore at Negombo.

Four Indian vessels have joined Sri Lanka’s navy in the battle to contain the fire. Two of the vessels were also equipped to deal with an oil slick, officials said.

Salvage operations are led by the Dutch company SMIT which has sent specialist fire fighting tugs.

SMIT, renowned salvage troubleshooters, was also involved in dousing the flames on an oil tanker that caught fire off Sri Lanka’s east coast last September after an engine room explosion that killed a crew member.

The fire on the New Diamond tanker took more than a week to put out and left a 40-kilometre (25-mile) long oil spill. Sri Lanka has demanded the owners pay a $17 million clean-up bill.



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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman

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Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand

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At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night

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President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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