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X-Press Pearl disaster: SJB demands inquiry to establish accountability



… appreciates UN assistance to ascertain damage

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Samagi Jana Balavegaya spokesperson Mujibur Rahman, MP, says the government ought to explain why specific investigation have not been launched to identify the failure on the part of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and others to ward off the threat posed by X-Press Pearl carrying a leaky container of nitric acid.

Referring to the recent Justice Ministry statement regarding the formation of four committees to inquire into specific issues caused by the destruction of the vessel in Sri Lankan territorial waters North West of the Colombo port, MP Rahman said that controversy surrounded the decision not to examine the SLPA’s response.

Noting that SLPA Chairman Daya Ratnayaka had been named last Friday (18) as the new Secretary to the Industrial Ministry in place of Anusha Palpita ahead of Lanka Phosphate Company coming under Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa brought under Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, MP Rahman said that the handling of X-Press Pearl was questionable.

Former Army Chief Ratnayaka has been replaced by Capt. Nihal Keppetipola as Chairman of SLPA with Upul Jayatissa named new MD.

Lawmaker Rahman emphasized that it would be of pivotal importance to establish whether the SLPA and other state institutions responded to the threat as expected. Asked to explain, MP Rahman pointed out that the Navy owed a plausible clarification why Indian assistance was not sought till the afternoon of June 25, over six hours after an explosion on the ill-fated ship.

According to the MP, Indian High Commission made the revelation in a statement issued ahead of deployment of their assets in support of Sri Lanka. Pointing out that an SLPA team had boarded X-Press Pearl on June 20 afternoon, the day after the vessel dropped anchor outside the Colombo Port, MP Rahman asked the SLPA and Shipping Ministry to explain steps taken to neutralize the threat.

Lawmaker Rahman appreciated the government decision to seek the assistance of the international community to assess the impact on the environment by the X-Press Pearl disaster. A UN team of oil spill and chemical experts, provided by the European Union (EU), is in the country. The team consists of Dr. Stephane Le Floch, Dr. Camille La Croix, and Luigi Alcaro. The team is led by Hassan Partow from UNEPs Resilience to Disasters and Conflicts Global Support Branch (Ecosystems Division).

MP Rahman said that the SLPA and the Shipping Ministry refrained from challenging The Island revelation that the SLPA lacked wherewithal to fight a ship fire. The SLPA had only one fire-fighting tug called Megha and two tugs were leased from Ceylon Shipping Company, MP Rahman said, adding that according to The Island even the X-Press crew was rescued by a tug belonging to the private company.

The lawmaker questioned whether the fire could have been averted if tangible measures were taken to bring the vessel into the harbour and remove the leaking container. Declaring that the incident exposed the pathetic situation at the Colombo harbour though it was considered a major port, MP Rahman suggested that a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) was required to examine the incident. The SJB spokesperson said that Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena’s response to the X-Press Pearl incident as well as the SLPA failure underscored the need for a no holds barred investigation.

Lawmaker Rahman said that the SJB was closely watching Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC and Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam handling the incident and the case filed by the Center for Environmental Justice moving the Supreme Court in respect of X-Press Pearl destruction.

MP Rahman alleged that those responsible for ensuring safety and security of ships in Sri Lankan waters obviously failed the country.

Colombo High Court on June 16 granted bail to Sea Consortium Lanka Chairman Arjuna Hettiarachchi arrested by the CID on the same day over the revelation his outfit deliberately withheld information pertaining to the leaking container though being alerted by the skipper of the ill-fated vessel.

SJB MP insisted that a no holds barred investigation was required to establish the truth. Instead of proper inquiry some ministers and officials were engaged in a media circus meant to deceive the public.

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Shocking 17,500 video clips of Lankan children being sexually abused



By Norman Palihawadane

There were over 17,500 video clips of Sri Lankan children being sexually abused, on the Internet and action had been taken to arrest those responsible, Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday. The Sri Lanka Police had sought the assistance of international law enforcement agencies and the Internet service providers to track down the persons involved in uploading those video clips and child sex trafficking via internet, the SDIG said.

Crimes against children in Sri Lanka were rising at an alarming speed, the SDIG said.

The police would conduct a special awareness programme together with the National Child Protection Authority to curb the alarming trend, he said.

The first programme was held recently in Nuwara Eliya where it especially focused apprising police officers attached to that Division.

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Private buses to insist that inter-provincial commuters carry proof of vaccination?



By Rathindra Kuruwita

A limited number of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) and National Transport Commission (NTC) buses and trains would maintain limited inter- provincial operation from 01 August, State Minister of Transport, Dilum Amunugma said.

The State Minister said that certified documents issued by the respective depot superintendents and the letters of approval by the NTC were mandatory, he added.

“The buses and trains will be permitted to operate only in the morning and in the evening for office workers,” Amunugma said.

The State Minister added that passengers should behave responsibly when using the inter-provincial transport services and understand that those services were only for commuters engaged in essential services.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly. If one infected passenger travels in a bus, all other commuters will contract it” he warned.

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has decided to make proof of vaccination compulsory for inter provincial travel from 01 August

LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said they had written to the President and Transport Minister asking for permission to enforce it.

Wijeratne said that all bus operators in the Western Province should ensure they were inoculated by August 15.



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TNA Leader complains against appointing Sinhala officers to Tamil areas



By Dinasena Ratugamage

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader, R. Sampanthan had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, objecting to the appointment of Sinhala government officers to the Northern Province, former TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah told journalists on Wednesday (28.)

The President and the Prime Minister are appointing officials violating democratic principles, Senathirajah said after a meeting of party activists at Karachchi Divisional Secretariat Office, Kilinochchi.

“A lot of Sinhalese are appointed to the North and the East. They must appoint Tamils. These appointments undermine our struggle for a just language policy,” he said.

Senathirajah said that it was customary to appoint Tamil officers to Tamil majority areas. However, this tradition was being violated increasingly in recent times, the former MP said.

“The TNA has nothing against Sinhala government officers. However, appointing Sinhala state officers to majority Tamil areas is a great injustice to the people. So, our leader has written to the President and the Prime Minister asking them to stop this practice,” he said.

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