Center for Environmental Justice and several activists yesterday filed a Fundamental Rights petition citing government authorities including the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as respondents requesting a Presidential Investigation Commission to inquire about the failure to take sufficient measures to claim relevant compensation caused due to the Xpress Pearl vessel fire.
The Petition was filed by Center for Environmental Justice, Hemantha Withanage, Herman Kumara and Aruna Roshantha in the Supreme Court yesterday (17).
Marine Environment Protection Authority, Sri Lanka Ports Authority and its Chairman, Director General – Merchant Shipping, Harbor Master, Central Environmental Authority and its Director General, Director General of Coastal Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department, Director General of Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, The Minister of Ports and Shipping, The Minister of Environment, The State Minister of Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness, X-Press Feeders and its Agents, Sea Consortium Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Director General of Wildlife Conservation, Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General and especially His Excellency the President, have been named as respondents in this case.
Although months have passed since the Express Pearl disaster, the state authorities are still taking snail-paced efforts to assess the damage and clean the beaches, accuse the petitioners. The petitioners also state that Sri Lanka has now experienced two major maritime incidents within the span of nine months (MT New Diamond, X-Press Pearl), both of which have highlighted the inadequacy of preparedness and response mechanisms to deal with such incidents. As we are among the world’s top cargo ports on one of the world’s busiest sea routes, Sri Lanka needs to take stock of its readiness to ensure its marine resources are safeguarded from the potential fallout of incidents such as the fire in the MV X-press Pearl, and oil spills in particular. Thus, the failure of the Respondents to have a proper system in place to handle such situations despite the recent experience with MT New Diamond constitutes a continuous violation/imminent threat of a violation of the fundamental rights.
Petitioners also state that the Hon. Attorney General, Marine Pollution Prevention Authority, Director General of Merchant Shipping, Central Environment Authority, Coast Conservation Department, and other State Respondents have failed to prepare formal agreements and take steps for the ship’s salvage, for a dousing of the fire, wreck removal, obtaining compensation. The failure of the aforesaid respondents has given rise to a severe loss of compensation that could be obtained from the wrongdoers/polluters, giving rise to violation/continuous violations of the Fundamental Rights of the citizenry, including them, claims the petitioners.
The petitioners have also requested to appoint a Presidential Commission in terms of the provisions of Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry Law No. 07 of 1978, to investigate into the X-Press Pearl tragedy.