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X-Press Pearl disaster: Govt. to submit initial US$ 50 million claim as compensation



by Ifham Nizam

The government will submit an initial claim for US$ 50 million as compensation from the owners/insurance agents of the X-Press Pearl vessel, which was destroyed in a blaze in Sri Lankan territorial waters, a top government official said.

A Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) team is now working on the preliminary compensation proposal to be submitted shortly.

The Sunday Island learns that the team has also sought inputs from various other sectors affected by the enormous environmental disaster caused by the fire-stricken cargo vessel to prepare separate claims for compensation.

Central Environmental Authority’s Chemical and Hazardous Waste Management Unit, Director, Ajith Weerasundara said they would shortly spell out their recommendations regarding the extensive damage by the waste around the sea areas.

He termed the impact as “huge” with a strong chemical spread in the vicinity/

“MEPA is handling the calculations on the negative impacts on the ocean and to marine biodiversity”, he said.

Environmental Scientist, Hematha Withanage said only eight of the 1,486 containers had been cleared from the sea. “The longer the delay, the more extensive will be the damage caused”.

He said the fisheries sector has lost around Rs. 80 million per day and in addition, the clean up will have to go on for many more years though it may not be possible to trace 40 per cent of the debris.

The billions of plastic pellets that were washed ashore will remain intact for the next 500 to 1,000 years, Withanage asserted. “Every single plastic pellet is an environmental threat. We may collect 50 per cent, but the rest will remain buried in the sand the along the affected coastal belt”.

The ship seems to have been transporting around 42 different chemicals and around 45 different materials (of the declared goods) that possibly contain hazardous chemicals, he claimed.

He said while some are known toxics, the others are not chemicals of concern in their pure form. However, as the chemicals were ignited and also mixed with sea water, the damage will have a multiple ecological impact.

For example, the ingots when burned could emit lead vapour that cause air-borne contamination, he pointed out.

Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) are the ship owners and insurance companies, respectively.

Environment Minister Amaraweera said that the ship’s VDR (Voyage Data Recorder) would reveal those responsible for the ecological and economic disaster. “They should be held accountable”.

The environmental damage caused by the burning ship cannot be quantified as it’s so enormous , he  said.

He said the Marine Environment Protection Authority Chairman informed him that a team has already been sent to the vicinity of the sunken ship to investigate and obtain the oil samples.

“I received the list of cargo aboard the vessel. There were 193 items in about 1,486 containers”, the Minister said.

Debris from the container ship has affected more than 150km of Sri Lanka’s coastline, according to International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) experts who are on site.

ITOPF said more than 1,000 people are involved in the clean up operation. The specialist pollution response company Oil Spill Response has also arrived in Sri Lanka and will work with ITOPF in providing technical assistance.

The Wildlife Conservation Department said dozens of dead marine species have been found on beaches countrywide.

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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman




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




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



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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