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X-Press Pearl wreck leaking oil: Environmentalists appeal to President



By Ifham Nizam

A group of concerned Sri Lankan environmentalists has appealed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to intervene to stop the oil leak from the X-Press Pearl wreck.    

“We strongly believe that Your Excellency’s intervention is vital at this stage.  We hope you can access all of the relevant videos, photographs and daily reports which are in the hands of the Insurer, Caretaker Company, and Oil Response Team to understand, for yourself, the gravity of what has happened, and of the greater catastrophe that could happen, if this wreck is not made safe soon,” the team has written to the President.  

Experts are Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera of Protect Sri Lanka, Ravindranath Dabare, Chairman, Centre for Environmental Justice, Hemantha Withanage Friends of Earth Chairman, who is also Senior Advisor to CEJ, Yohan Weerasuriya, Federation of Environmental Organisations, Thilak Kariyawasam- FIAN Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Nature Group, Herman Kumara – National Convener-National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation, Vincent Bulathsinhala – Janawabodha Kendhraya, Negombo, Dilena Pathragoda – Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice, Chinthaka Rajapaksha- Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform, Sajeewa Chamikara- Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform and Jehan CanagaRetna– Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS).

“We see only the lethargic responses of the relevant Government agencies in taking any meaningful action. For the last one and a half months, we have received information that the oil leak has spread to Negombo. We have learned that this oil comes from the air vent connected to the oil tank which is located not far from the deck,” Attorney-At-Law Ravindranath Dabare, Chairman, CEJ, has said.

Resolve Marine, the ITOPF (the Emergency Response Team), Oil Spill Response Ltd. (OSRL) and the McLarens Group understood the seriousness of this oil leak, but they have not taken any steps to stop it, the environmentalists have pointed out.  

Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera has said that the Sri Lanka Coast Guard and the Marine Environment Protection Authority(MPPA), despite being aware of the situation, has not taken any meaningful action so far.  

“According to our information, this oil leak can be prevented by merely placing a cap on the vent. The precise location of this vent could be pinpointed by placing an unmanned underwater vehicle or a simple underwater camera, or just by asking the shipping company for a plan of the ship. We are particularly alarmed as this oil leak can create long-term environmental damage to coastal habitats, especially to the coral reefs and fish populations,” Environmental Scientist Hemantha Withanage has said. 

The ship contained 81 containers of hazardous materials, and many others contained chemical products including lubricant oil, gear oil, brake fluid, lithium-ion batteries, and a number of other such goods.  

Some of these containers have heavy metals such as lead and they have the potential to destroy marine life.  

The environmentalists have informed the government that the agencies responsible for preventing the oil leak are more interested in calculating compensation instead of tackling the oil leak.  “We also agree that compensation to fishermen, and to others whose livelihoods have been affected by this accident, should be considered as a high priority, but the environmental damage must also be mitigated, they have said.

 “We do not believe that the Insurer, who seems to control every aspect of this operation, has Sri Lanka’s interests at heart.  Therefore, the government, instead of depending on the insurer, should get a local team of experts to handle the matter.  The location of the wreck is of prime importance as the Gas Terminal and Oil Terminal are in the same area. Therefore, it is important to remove this toxic wreck, and its chemical containers, as soon as possible,” Withanage has said. 



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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries



The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.


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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students



By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter



The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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