X-Press Pearl disaster: SL still awaiting response to its initial compensation claim
By Ifham Nizam
There has been no response so far from the Singapore flagged ship, X-Press Pearl owner and insurance brokers to Sri Lanka’s initial claim for compensation, an official said.
They have still not gone beyond saying the “damages caused will be assessed”, he said.
“We have asked the Singaporean government to exert pressure on the ship’s owner to expedite the process of removing the wreck of the gutted feeder vessel”, he further said.
Meanwhile, the committee studying the five sectors badly affected by the disaster has indicated that an initial assessment showed this was the biggest catastrophe to the country’s marine species and biodiversity.
Four experts from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) arrived in Colombo last week to share their inputs on the damage assessment and recovery process.
X-Press Feeders said in a recent statement that due to the exposed nature of the anchorage to the prevailing south westerly monsoon, it is likely that the wreck removal can only start after the adverse sea conditions subside. Caretaker services will remain on site until then.
The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) believes that the ship’s wreck would be cleared within three months.
State Minister, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, quoting experts assessing the damage, said Sri Lanka has to grapple with the worst plastic nurdles (small plastic pellets serving as a raw material in the manufacture of plastic products) disaster in its history.
Earlier, he held a discussions with foreign experts now in the country to help local teams assess the damages.
The nurdles are about the size of a lentil, and like anything tiny and round, they are hard to keep track of as they roll away and tumble into waterways. The wind can also blow them around, scientists pointed out.
“Sri Lanka is facing a serious issue because of the nurdles stored in 87 containers on board the X-Press Pearl”, they said.
According to the experts, a major part of the nurdles may have been destroyed by the fire, with around 40 per cent getting into the ocean to be washed ashore.
Sacked PUCSL Chairman fights back, writes to Prez
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Janaka Ratnayake yesterday wrote to President Wickremesinghe denying all allegations levelled against him.
Earlier in the day, Ratnayake received a note informing of his removal from the PUCSL.
“I write in response to your above captioned letter dated 22 March 2023. At the outset I strongly deny all and singular the several allegations contained against me in your letter under reference,” he said.
The PUCSL Chairman said his letter contained a detailed response..
“I was given an extremely short period of one week, despite the serious consequences that could flow from the misconceived allegations made against me,” Ratnayake said.
He said that the PUCSL was not a rubber stamp for proposals put forward by the Electricity Industry including the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).
“But the PUCSL should duly exercise its powers and functions as an independent regulator even when the consequent decision reached by it may be one which is not desired by the CEB or the Government,” he said.
Ratnayake said that the PUCSL acting independently has resulted in the Minister of Power and Energy being unable at times to act at his whim and fancy.
“This appears to have irked the Minister of Power and Energy, and also the President. In May 2022, the secretary to the President had phoned my personal assistant instructing her to “ask the Chairman of the Commission to refrain from making any announcement or statement contradicting the speech made by the Prime Minister.”
Singer Sri Lanka bags top awards
Singer Sri Lanka PLC clinched the People’s Brand of the Year and Durable Brand of the Year Awards for the 17th consecutive year at the SLIM-KANTAR Awards held at the Monarch Imperial on 27th March, 2023. Singer Sri Lanka PLC Chairman Mohan Pandithage receiving the award from Chief Guest, Sri Lanka Test Cricket Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Guest of Honour, Past President-SLIM Kalana Ratnayake at the glittering ceremony. Singer Sri Lanka PLC CEO Mahesh Wijewardene, Marketing Director, Shanil Perera, Marketing Manager, Piyum Jayathilaka and other senior officials were present. Pic by Kamal Bogoda
SJB trade unionist calls for significant fuel price reduction
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Convenor of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) trade union wing, Samagi Joint Trade Union Alliance, Ananda Palitha yesterday (28) said that with the appreciation of rupee against the USD and comparatively lower crude prices in the world market, the government could reduce the price of litre of petrol (92 Octane) and diesel by as much as Rs 100 and petrol (95 Octane) by Rs 125.
The trade unionist said that the price of a litre of kerosene, furnace oil and naphtha, too, could be decreased by Rs 100 each.
Responding to The Island queries, the former Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) employee said that fuel prices should be revised as fast as possible for the benefit of the public.
Lanka IOC should follow the new pricing formula, the former UNP trade union leader said, strongly urging the government to re-examine the petroleum sector. It would be pertinent to mention that petroleum and water sectors, too, should be brought under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in terms of PUC Act No 35 of 2002, Ananda Palitha said.
Former Power and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that he was out of the country.
Therefore, I couldn’t comment without studying the latest developments.
Ananda Palitha found fault with political parties represented in parliament for the inordinate delay in fully implementing the Act that was meant to regulate three vital sectors. The PUC received authority to regulate the electricity industry, in terms of Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009, Palitha said. However, respective Acts, pertaining to Petroleum and Water, were yet to be passed by Parliament, the trade union leader said pointing out that the delay on the part of the parliament seemed deliberate.
Asked whether they opposed the further liberalisation of retail market with the entry of more foreign companies, Ananda Palitha said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was exploiting the current political-economic-social crisis to advance the original agenda of Wickremesinghe.
“We are facing a frightening situation,” the SJB activist said, urging political parties represented in parliament to review rapid developments taking place. The entry of four foreign entities should be examined against the backdrop of Lanka IOC further expanding its operations here, Ananda Palitha said.
The outspoken trade unionist warned against moves to gradually weaken Sapugaskanda oil refinery to pave the way for increased import of refined products. “The refinery that launched operations in 1969 during Dudley Senbanayake’s era received the attention of President J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. But, since then no President paid attention to the facility,” Ananda Palitha said. Instead of enhancing its capacity, successive governments were working overtime to weaken it for obvious reasons, the trade unionist said.
According to him, all were attacking Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera over the continuing crisis in the petroleum sector. “We should question President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Cabinet-of-Ministers headed by the President and the relevant Sectoral Oversight Committee,” Ananda Palitah said.
Ananda Palitha said that political parties as well as some trade unions should accept responsibility for the pathetic situation in the petroleum sector. For want of a cohesive action plan, politicians and interested parties regardless of on and off setbacks were able to pursue their agendas detrimental to Sri Lanka, he said.
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