damn dump: Who did it?
Chris Kamalendran and Hisham Hilaly
and Ministry face storm
The Ports Ministry and the Ports Authority have come under
heavy criticism from government and opposition politicians
for their role in the current container controversy.
Environment Minister Rukman Senanayake took strong action
and summoned a Parliamentary Select Committee meeting to discuss
allegations that the Ports Authority had not taken necessary
precautions before allowing the containers to be removed to
a private container yard at Sedawatte.
said he would get Cabinet approval for a full scale probe
as to why the ship was allowed to unload the dangerous or
dubious cargo in the Colombo Port, what really happened on
the ship, why the containers were removed to Sedawatte and
Is Sri Lanka
being turned into a dumping ground for possible toxic waste material
and is someone at the Colombo Port taking dirty money to pollute
the country? These questions arise in the aftermath of a controversy
if not scandal over some 183 containers which were dumped in the
Colombo Port by a dubious ship.
Adding to the
scandal the containers allegedly containing pesticide waste were
suddenly moved out of the port without proper envirenmental safeguards
and stored in a terminal at Sedawatte in Grandpass. Amidst a howl
of protests from residents who complained that children were falling
sick, a court ordered that the containers be removed from Sedawatte
immediately and be taken back to the port.
But more than
48 hours after the court order the controversial containers are
still at Sedawatte and none seems to be sure as to what the hell
As The Sunday
Times invetigators visited the scene at Sedawatte a strong smell
emanated from the container yard a few kilometers away from Colombo.
Some of the children living around the area had been hospitalized
after they showed signs of vomiting and headaches. This was one
of the signs that some of the contaminated containers from the Colombo
port had leaked out before proper examinations had been carried
out on a controversial load of containers which had been unloaded
at the Colombo port after the vessel had reported a fire and sought
permission to call over at the port.
The first distress
signal came from the ship, LT Grant, an Italian registered vessel
on its way from China to Iran on February 13. They reported that
the ship had developed a fire. The following day the ship was inspected
by the Insurance agent and thereafter permission had been sought
to call over at the Colombo Port.
inspections by the Harbour Master and the Fire Brigade the ship
was allowed into the Port and it was detected that no fire had taken
place, but a strong smell was emanating from the containers. Some
of them had burn marks. Permission had been sought to unload some
of the containers which were believed to have been burnt.
This has raised
many questions about the permission granted to unload these containers
and whether some of those contaminated containers were carrying
pesticide waste. Some port workers say they were aware of moves
to remove the contaminated cargo as well as political influence
to get the containers removed to the container yard in Sedawatte.
had begun to move out from the Colombo Port before an inspection
was carried out whether the cargo contained any environmentally
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA), reportedly was not informed
and moved got into action almost a week after the controversial
containers were out of the Colombo port, ignoring the possible health
It was the
local police who first moved into action after the residents complained
that children were falling ill, some of them vomiting, suffering
from severe headaches and skin irritations. The residents said a
strong smell was emanating from the adjoining container yard.
Monday filed action in the Colombo Magistrates court and the court
ordered that some 184 containers removed from the Colombo port and
stored at the container yard at Sedawatte be sent back to the port.
But until Friday the containers had not been sent back.
On Friday moves
were underway to take away the contaminated containers to an undisclosed
location and chemically treat them. But the controversy as to how
the contaminated containers were removed from the Colombo port without
proper environmental precautions has not been cleared.
Sri Lanka Ports
Authority (SLPA) Vice Chairman, M.H.M.Salman said they were probing
how the containers were removed from the harbour to a container
terminal outside the harbour. Mr. Salman however defended the decision
of the Port to allow the vessel to come in. The Environmental Foundation
Ltd, an environmental NGO was the other group which has taken up
the issue and filed action in Courts.
Magistrate A.S.Gamlatharachchi who heard the case said the court
had to intervene as there were signs that the containers were causing
an environmental hazard. The court has ordered a full investigation
on the containers and directed the CEA, Government Analyst and the
Atomic Energy Authority to report back to courts on Tuesday as to
whether the containers contained contaminated waste and whether
they were toxic.
Ports Ministry appeared to be down playing the incident, the Ministry
of Environmental Affairs is taking a strong stand. On Friday Environmental
Minister Rukman Senanayake called a Select Committe meeting in Parliament
to discuss the issue with CEA, Ports Authority and Cutoms officials.
(See Separate story)
The exact contents of the containers are yet unknown though the
Ports Ministry claims they contained Oxime Carbamate.
Green ghosts at Akuressa mini polls
From Nalaka Nonis in Akuressa
With just a week away for the Akuressa mini elections, the campaign
is hotting up amidst allegations of malpractices, including the
entry of shadow candidates.
With the UNF nomination list being rejected, the battle for the
21-seat Pradeshiya Sabha is among the PA, the JVP and the Sinhalaye
Mahasammatha Boomiputhra Party.
The PA and
the JVP, which at national level are holding talks for the formation
of an alliance, allege that the UNF leadership in the Matara District
was carrying out a vigorous campaign on behalf of the Sinhalaye
Mahasammatha Boomiputhra Party which was contesting on an airplane
symbol, though the UNP has said it will support any party that advocates
a peaceful solution to the country's ethnic crisis.
Jinadasa Kithulegoda said that in some cases instead of listed candidates
of the Boomiputhra Party, "unofficial UNF candidates"
whose nominations were rejected, were campaigning for the election,
indicating there was a deal between the two parties after the elections.
He said the JVP had lodged a complaint with the Elections Commissioner
and the Inspector General of Police in this regard.
His views were
supported by Southern Province Chief Minister H.G. Sirisena who
charged that certain powerful ministers from the area were behind
the drama. When we visited the area we saw several posters in green
with the symbol "Plane". The names and pictures of the
candidates are not on the official list of the Bhumiputra party.
If they are
not from the Bhumiputra party, who are they? We asked this question
from Boomiputhra Party leader Harischandra Wijetunga. He said there
was no secret agreement between his party and the UNP. He said the
posters were the work of opponents of the Bhumiputra party who wanted
to thwart his party's success at next week's elections.
said the situation was peaceful and only two election-related complaints
had been reported to the police. The complaints were made by the
JVP. One of the complaints was about a UNPer campaigning for himself
under the Bhumiputra banner though he is not an official candidate.
Interestingly national politics is not playing a big role in this
election. It is the local problems such as the water crisis, roads
and underdevelopment of the area that dominate the campaign trail.
PA Chief Minister Sirisena, said his party's main rival at the elections
was the JVP. He said that although at national level, the two parties
were holding talks to form an alliance, at the Pradeshiya Sabha
level they were rivals. Mr. Sirisena said that the PA was considering
this election as a crucial one as it would give an indication of
the public feeling on various issues. Akuressa inspector Mahesh
Kumara said that maximum security would be provided for the 42 polling
a nightmare for these residents
By Tania Fernando
Despite complaints to police and other authorities on the noise
from a nightclub in a residential area, little or no action has
been taken against the nightclub. The club at Duplication Road,
Bambalapitiya, shares a common wall with a residence. A resident
said it impossible for them to even watch TV in their living rooms,
as the noise from the nightclub was so loud and that they found
it hard to have a peaceful night.
made complaints to the police, the Environmental Authority and the
Municipal Council. Once a Police team came and ordered the night
club to reduce the noise, but after the police left the owner and
the manager of the nightclub, came to my residence and told me they
won't stop it," the resident said.
Police said they had warned the nightclub owners not to disturb
the residents but it was the CEA that had to take legal action in
such matters. A CEA official said they had jurisdiction only over
industrial areas and not residential areas.
The Colombo Municipality's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam,
said the CMC could take legal action if at least three residents
made an official complaint.