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X-Press Pearl disaster: Lanka seeks Chinese help to evaluate pollution



Sri Lanka has requested Chinese help to evaluate the scale of the pollution caused by the X-Press Pearl disaters, Xinhua reported on June 3.

A fire erupted on board the vessel on May 19. The government made an abortive bid to tow the vessel to deep seas. It sank on Thursday (3)

Xinhua report said: On day two after the explosion, Chinese experts from the China-Sri Lanka Joint Center for Education and Research (CSL-CER) received a request from Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), the principal national institute responsible for safeguarding aquatic resources in the country.

Through a forecast model, the CSL-CER helped evaluate the scale of the pollution caused by the debris and the extent to which the chemicals could spread.

The southwest monsoon makes frequent landfall in Sri Lanka in May. At the observation site of the CSL-CER based on the campus of the University of Ruhuna, an Automatic Weather Station (AWS) has been recently updated to study the effects of the monsoon outbreak.

Luo Yao, associate professor at the CSL-CER, told Xinhua that the AWS can improve the accuracy of forecasting models, and it can forecast marine environmental disasters caused by the burnt cargo ship.

“The AWS can monitor the atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction, solar radiation and other marine atmospheric parameters. The accumulated data through long-term observations can be used to study the impact of climate change, sea level rise and other issues in the Indian Ocean and surrounding areas,” Luo said.

Sri Lanka is located in an area with warm currents between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean and is one of the most active regions on the path of the monsoon, with frequent marine meteorological disasters. Due to the shortage of marine scientific research personnel and the lack of a mature monsoon climate forecast system, Sri Lanka is vulnerable to marine disasters.

In order to strengthen the capacity to cope with climate change, the CSL-CER was established in 2015 at the University of Ruhuna, the only university in Sri Lanka with a faculty of fisheries and marine sciences.

Vijithamuni Zoysa, former Sri Lankan minister of fisheries, once spoke highly of the observation network, saying that “the network has provided scientific and technological support for the development of the marine economy in Sri Lanka and the reduction of marine meteorological disasters caused by extreme weather such as tsunamis and storms, which are related to people’s livelihood and economic development.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some difficulties for personnel exchanges at the center, it has not stopped its activities. In March this year, the China-Sri Lanka Joint Workshop on Monsoon Climate and Marine Environmental Resource was held as scheduled in both China and Sri Lanka simultaneously by combining online and offline methods.

“As an island country, Sri Lanka is particularly concerned about the monsoon. The enhanced cooperation between China and Sri Lanka on the monsoon issue will enable us to better understand the impact of the monsoon on the environment and reduce disasters caused by climate change,” said Tilak Gamage, co-director of the CSL-CER.

“The successive bilateral seminars on the ocean and climate have greatly enhanced Sri Lanka’s capacity to address climate issues and influence in the international arena,” Gamage said.

Zhang Changsheng, director of the CSL-CER, told Xinhua that since its establishment, the CSL-CER has not only done research but also paid attention to cultivating marine science talent in Sri Lanka.

The center has trained about 30 Sri Lankan graduate students in the fields of marine science and environmental science. They have later engaged in further scientific research in Sri Lanka.

The center has also conducted hydrological training for Sri Lankan institutions and trained personnel for meteorological observation, instrument use, and maintenance.

Charith Madusanka, a research fellow currently employed by both the CSL-CER and his alma mater the University of Ruhuna, is the first China-trained master’s degree student in oceanography from Sri Lanka.

Madusanka said, “Since I went to China, many of my classmates have turned to China.”

Nalin Wikramanayake, a senior Sri Lankan oceanographer, told Xinhua that the CSL-CER has made a major contribution to marine sciences and oceanography in Sri Lanka. 



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MONLAR: Govt. has fallen for millers’ ruse



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Farmers would be harvesting their paddy by the time the government imports 100,000 tonnes of rice and it would lead to a decrease in prices they received from millers, Chinthaka Rajapakshe, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) warned yesterday.

Addressing a post-Cabinet Press Conference on Monday, co-Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella announced that the Cabinet had approved the import of 100,000 tonnes of rice to increase competition in the market.

Rajapakshe commented that successive governments had been importing large quantities of rice close to the harvesting period.

“Several large mill owners create an artificial shortage of rice when the harvesting season nears. The government responds by importing large quantities of rice, often of dubious quality.  The paddy prices collapse, allowing mill owners to buy paddy from farmers at dirt cheap prices and then the mill owners release some of the stocks they have to the market. Given that Sri Lankans prefer to eat Sri Lankan varieties and that the imported rice is of poor quality; no one buys the imported rice,” Rajapakshe said.

 The MONLAR moderator said that there was an assumption that the Yala harvest would be low because of the impact of fertiliser shortages on rice production. There had been reports that rice plants were yellowing and their growth was retarded due to a shortage of nitrogen.

 Commenting on the allegations that there was a shortage of fertiliser, Minister of Plantation, Ramesh Pathirana told The Island that by the next paddy season the government would be able to provide adequate amounts of compost fertiliser. “There will be some difficulties in the next few months. We must work together to face them. Everyone agrees that organic agriculture is good, but some think the government’s decision was too hasty. However, by the time the Maha season starts we will have enough fertiliser stocks. We are also ready to compensate farmers if there are issues in the current season.”

In response,  Rajapakshe said that it was not too late to address the issues that had arisen from nitrogen shortages and questioned how the government had decided that it needed to import 100,000 tonnes of rice, given that it had not studied the impact of fertiliser shortage on the paddy harvest.

“How on earth did they come up with this number? Obviously, this is a scheme to enrich a few businessmen, politicians and some officials. The government should empower farmers’ associations, cooperatives and small mill owners if it wants to find a permanent solution to annual rice shortages experienced by the people,” he said.

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Wijeyadasa no longer considers himself govt. member



By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, says he no longer considers himself as a member of the ruling party.

Asked to comment on his present status, the Justice Minister, in the previous UNP regime, said that he had stopped participating in SLPP group meetings since the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct last year.

Dr. Rajapakse, who entered Parliament from the Colombo District on the SLPP ticket at the August 2020 general election, voted for 20th Amendment despite his criticism of it. In the previous Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse represented the UNP.

Responding to another query, Rajapakse said that the SLPP had refrained from appointing him to any committee though he had in the past served and in some instances headed important outfits, such as the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE).

 The former minister alleged that the SLPP had caused so much turmoil that the country was now in a bind. Instead of taking the people into confidence the incumbent administration adopted strategies meant to suppress dissent.

 Commenting on what he called a severe economic crisis against the backdrop of the worsening Covid-19 epidemic, Dr. Rajapakse alleged that those at the helm lacked basic understanding to rationally address issues.

The former minister said that the government appeared to have ignored the growing threat of the EU going the whole hog in the wake of its parliament adopting a resolution against Sri Lanka.

The resolution expressed the concern of the European Parliament regarding the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and related human rights issues in Sri Lanka. It highlighted that the GSP+ status is linked to the implementation of 27 international conventions by Sri Lanka. The GSP+ monitoring process is conducted on a regular basis by the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the EU mission in Colombo told The Island.

The following is the relevant section from the EU resolution: “…Underlines that the GSP+ scheme offered to Sri Lanka has made a significant contribution to the country’s economy, from which exports to the EU have increased to EUR 2.3 billion, making the EU Sri Lanka’s second-largest export market; highlights the ongoing monitoring of Sri Lanka’s eligibility for GSP+ status and stresses that the continuance of GSP+ trade preferences is not automatic; calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to take into due account current events when assessing Sri Lanka’s eligibility for GSP+ status; further calls on the Commission and the EEAS to use the GSP+ as a leverage to push for advancement on Sri Lanka’s human rights obligations and demand the repeal or replacement of the PTA, to carefully assess whether there is sufficient reason, as a last resort, to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to Parliament on this matter as soon as possible.”

For want of a cohesive strategy, the SLPP hadn’t been able at least to rationally assess external and internal threats and take remedial measures, the MP said.

Referring to the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, MP Rajapakse alleged that the government was on an extremely dangerous path. The EU resolution reflected the Western thinking and the current leadership acted as if China was our main buyers. How could they ignore the fact that the US and EU countries remain major contributors to the Sri Lanka economy though our decision-making process was aimed at satisfying China.



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Geneva concerned about deaths in police custody, Shani’s safety



The Sri Lanka Core Group has joined the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in calling for what it calls independent and impartial investigations into deaths in police custody. The six-member grouping led by the UK has also stressed the need to ensure security of former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera, who recently received bail.

Abeysekera had been interdicted. The ex-CID Director has also figured in taped conversations with former MP Ranjan Ramanayake now serving a jail sentence for contempt of the Supreme Court, discussing how to fix certain court cases then being heard, especially against political opponents.

The following is the text of statement issued by Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi,

Montenegro and the UK at the 47th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC): “Council resolution 46/1 called upon the Sri Lankan Government to address the harmful legacies of war and to protect human rights, including for those from religious minorities. We regret the lack of progress on these issues, with a number of further concerning developments.

The Sri Lankan Government has attempted to dismiss a number of emblematic cases and to initiate criminal proceedings against individuals pursuing some of these cases. This counters the Council’s call for prompt, thorough and impartial investigations. We call for former CID director Shani Abeysekera’s safety to be ensured.

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the recent intention to introduce a rehabilitation process lacking adequate judicial oversight. Human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, and poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem, remain detained without trial and further arrests under this Act have continued, including among minority communities and the political opposition.

We remain concerned about the restrictions on memorialization . We join the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in requesting independent and impartial investigations into recent deaths in police custody

We are concerned over appointments to the Office on Missing Persons and reiterate the importance of ensuring independent and credible institutions to achieve justice.

We encourage Sri Lanka to cooperate with the Council and OHCHR in relation to resolution 46/1 and stand ready to support this.”



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