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Super tanker fire: Damage caused to marine environment estimated at Rs 4 billion

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By Ifham Nizam

In addition to Rs. 340 million sought by the Sri Lankan government for operations undertaken by its Air Force and Navy to prevent a far greater marine catastrophe, the country will seek an estimated Rs. 4 billion for the damages caused to the marine environment.  

The Insurance Company or the owners of the New Diamond Crude Oil Tanker have to pay some Rs. 4 billion as damages caused to the environment, a senior official of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday said.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that the process would take between one and two weeks.

He said that ship owners/insurer also had to pay Rs. 15 million for concealing information about environmental damage.

He said that Attorney General Dappula de Livera had submitted an interim claim of Rs. 340 Million to the counsel representing the owners of the stricken super tanker MT New Diamond.

According to MEPA Chairperson Darshani Lahandapura, the incident had affected marine life in Sri Lankan waters.

Laboratory tests proved there was an oil leak into the ocean, in addition to observation reports, said the MEPA Chief adding the team of experts reported the area in which the incident took place is home to turtles, Manta Rays as well as Dolphins.

“Preparing the Environment Impact Assessment report is a complex task,” said Lahandapura, noting dead marine life could possibly reach the shores of other nations.

The Government Analyst’s Department report confirmed that the oil which leaked into the ocean was the fuel used by the Crude Oil Tanker to power its engines.

According to State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne, the Coordinating Officer to the Attorney General the documented claim for costs incurred by Sri Lanka Navy, Air Force, Ports Authority, Colombo Dockyard PLC, Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) & Coast Conservation Department in providing assistance to douse and contain the fire as well as for related matters had been submitted to the MT New Diamond lawyers.

Rs. 340 Million was estimated as the expenses incurred until the 15th of September, said State Counsel Jayaratne.

The MT New Diamond tanker was transporting 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room, killing a crew member and causing serious burn injuries to its engineer in the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

The ship was sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point, Ampara when it caught fire with an explosion in a boiler in the ship’s main engine room.

The distressed oil tanker in eastern seas was manned by 23 crew members including five Greeks and 18 Philippine nationals.

It was also reported that 1,700 metric tonnes of diesel/furnace oil required for the use of the tanker were also stored onboard.

MT New Diamond is a 20-year old crude oil tanker that is 333 metres long and 60 metres wide, and sailed with a Japanese certificate. It is registered in Panama.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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