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Technical and human errors could have caused Suez blockage – top official

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CAIRO: Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority chief said on Saturday that officials could not lay out a set timetable for when Panamanian container ship, The Ever Given, will be dislodged, according to the Arab News.

Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei has been quoted by Arab News as sayinng that the ship broke the canal’s bank and can only be moved using excavators.

The ill-fated ship has been wedged diagonally across the canal since Tuesday, blocking one of the world’s most vital waterways in both directions.

In a press conference on Saturday in Suez, Rabei said strong winds “were not the main reason” for the grounding of the ship, but that technical or human errors could have led to the incident.

A dredging operation could free the ship without having to resort to removing its cargo, he added.

Outlining Egyptian efforts with tugboats and excavators to free the bow and propellers of the ship, he said that more than 300 vessels are now waiting at either end of the canal. Rabei said that the dredging process is important in removing the trapped vessel.

He added that two operations are being conducted to end the crisis.

He said it was possible that the ship could be moved “today or tomorrow, depending on its responsiveness to the tides.”

The results of the first day’s work were “not good” and the ship “could not move because of its huge size,” Rabei warned.

He said that only 12 ships were waiting to cross the canal the day of the incident, but an alternative plan was put in place to stop them in Timsah Lake and Bitter Lake.

Rabei said that the authority has received many proposals to solve the problem that are being examined.

“We are working with soil, with rocks and there are tidal waves. We are also dealing with the size of the ship, its great height and the number of containers on board,” he said.

“Investigations will take place after the flotation process is complete. Our concern now is to move the ship,” he added.

Rabei said that the ship had previously crossed through the canal without issue.

Figures from last year show that the canal handles a daily income of $12 to $13 million. The grounded vessel is blocking about $9.6 billion worth of cargo business each day between Asia and Europe, according to Lloyd’s List data.

Rabei said that the canal “will not lose customers” and that the authority will provide incentives to those who have been affected by the incident.

He said that the incident has not resulted in any injuries, deaths or oil pollution.



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JVP accuses EC of conspiring to delay LG polls

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has told Parliament that the Election Commission and its Chairman are collaborating with the government to postpone the local government elections.

Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023, on Friday, MP Dissanayake said that as local government bodies should be reconstituted before March 20 2023, the Election Commission had to publish a gazette calling nominations by late December or early January.

“The EC has the authority to do so. It has sought the Attorney General’s opinion on some matters. There is no need at all for it to seek the AG’s advice,” he said.

“This is a conspiracy. The Elections Commission can publish the gazette even tomorrow. It is clear that the Elections Commission is collaborating with the government,” he said.

Dissnayake said that Election Commissioner Nimal Punchihewa’s impartiality was in question. “We know where Punchihewa worked before and at what party office. We know the governments and persons he has worked with closely. He is not an independent person.”

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Diana wants bars open 24/7

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By Saman Indrajith

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage says liquor outlets should be kept open longer if the country wants to boost tourism.Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023 on Friday, State Minister Gamage said: “We have to keep these places open 24/7. I have spoken about it many times. Liquor is the highest tax earner in the country. In this paradise, we are closing bars after 11pm. Foreigners in hotels can’t get any alcohol if they need, because all the places are closed.

We need to keep this country open 24 hours. Like Singapore and other countries, people must have entertainment.”

“I talk about the night life, and when I talked about that earlier many criticized it and saw it as a big sin. That is ones who are incapable of understanding it,” she said.

“What we call night life is actually a night economy. All the countries in the world have developed because of night economy. These countries get 70 percent of their income from the nigh economy. They only get 30 percent during the day time. We have to develop a night economy in this country. That will earn 70 percent of the income. Only that can develop this country.

“We can do that. And also our museum, that closes at 5 pm. In other countries, museums earn most during night. It must be opened 24/7.  This night economy is essential for a country’s economy. People must have places to spend their money.”

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SJB asks govt. to introduce political reforms fast

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has asked the government when it will introduce the political reforms demanded by the international community.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Kiriella said that when the Opposition parties met the members of the Colombo-based diplomatic community during the Aragalaya protests, the latter had demanded that Sri Lanka implement political and economic reforms to receive foreign assistance to get out of the prevailing crisis. “That was six months ago. We have been asking the government repeatedly to inform this House whether it has implemented those reforms.

“The riginal plan was to establish an interim government for six months to restore the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It was stated that an election would be held after six months. Now, what has happened? The politicians who are responsible for the crisis are still in power.

“Foreign Minister Al Sabry met USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Friday. Samantha Power called for the same political and economic reforms again. The international community is asking for the same.”

Leader of the House, Minister Susil Premjayantha said that political reforms were being implemented. “It is as part of the political reforms we are setting up a National Council, Sectoral Oversight Committees and three other committees. Counter terrorism act is in the pipeline. It will be taken up within couple of weeks. We passed several bills with your support. There were nine amendments to be introduced to the criminal law,” he said.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: “The bills and amendments that have been passed are not enough as far as the international community and we are concerned. The biggest request is to allow the people of this country for a new mandate. Allow the people to express their will. Give them a chance to establish a new government or to maintain the same government now they have.”

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