Written by Staff Writer
24 Jul, 2019 | 9:40 pm
Colombo (News 1st): The Telegraph in the UK reported that the British government has launched an investigation into the containers sent to Sri Lanka as they appeared to contain human remains disguised as recyclable metals. AFP also reported that the containers carried loads of hazardous mortuary and clinical waste.
Several foreign media organizations including Telegraph and Daily Mail news sites in the United Kingdom, France’s AFP and Business Insider have reported on the garbage imported to Sri Lanka.
The Telegraph said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was investigating reports that human organs and body parts were inside the container, but said it was yet to be approached by the Sri Lankan authorities. News 1st reached out to Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom.
The Department said they are awaiting the response of the relevant Sri Lankan authorities as they had contacted them for further information. The report added that inside the crates, customs officials found the “extremely hazardous” materials mixed in with mattresses, plastics, and clinical waste.
Quoting Sri Lanka’s Central Environment Authority, the report added that the waste material brought to the country under the guise of mattresses from the UK is extremely hazardous. Meanwhile, the Surakimu Sri Lanka National Movement staged a demonstration opposite the British High Commission in Colombo and handed over an epistle.
Speaking to the media Chairman of the Surakimu Sri Lanka National Movement Venerable Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero noted that the Board of Investment is now trying not to take the responsibility. He noted that it is very clear that the team including Chairman of the BOI Mangala Yapa, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Malik Samarawickreme are behind this.
He pointed out that the people of this country have a strong backbone and they love the country. He said they do not worry about Britain but about Sri Lanka. The Thero said they are demonstrating opposite the British High Commission to urge them to take their waste back.
He noted that a fair solution was provided, however, after the Defence Chief refused it, another responsible officer came here and a cordial discussion was held with him. Pahiyangala Ananda Thero noted that they initiated an investigation even before the Sri Lankan government did and noted that they will act against the UK Company.
He added that they will also investigate as to how this took place within the Sri Lankan government. He went onto note that they promised to inform their organization with regard to the investigations.
However, it does not seem like the Central Environmental Authority has made an effort to resolve the garbage crisis. Speaking to News 1st, Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority Isuru Devapriya noted that Hayleys had not obtained a permit. He noted that according to the law they have to obtain a permit from the BOI when doing something of this nature.
He went onto note that the Central Environmental Authority is hoping to take legal action against the company in question. According to the Chairman they have also informed the company to re-export the waste material in the containers at CICT and at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone. He noted that the Central Environmental Authority is also conducting an investigation.
Several reputed international media organizations are now reporting on the garbage containers in Sri Lanka and the question that should be raised is, does this not bring disrepute to our nation?
There seems to a visible delay when it comes to enacting the law with regard to this garbage container crisis. Those responsible for taking action against these have a track record of hoodwinking the general public.
During the controversial Central Bank Bond Scam, it was announced that the accounts of Perpetual Treasuries were frozen and that the loss could be reacquired. However, this was not the complete loss incurred by the Bond Scam.
It should also be remembered that Singapore is not sending fugitive, former Governor of CBSL Arjuna Mahendran because Sri Lanka departed from due process in making a request for him to be sent back. However, under the FTA, signed by Malik Samarawickrema, Singapore is able to send garbage to Sri Lanka.
Now that the UK investigating body has also asked for the information to be provided, will the same be done and will this effort be pushed to the wayside?
Will Sri Lanka again depart from due process in providing this information to the UK?
Similarly, will this garbage also be dumped in Sri Lanka or sent out of the country?
Will they attempt to hoodwink the public once again without proper legal action being enacted?
Does the fact, that the BOI falls under Minister Malik Samarawickrema, also have an impact on how events pertaining to the garbage containers are unfolding?
During the time these containers were brought into the country, a close relative of Minister Malik Samarawickrema held a directorship at a company that is said to be responsible for the import of these containers.
Is the current chairman of the BOI, Mangala Yapa not speaking out against this, since these are methods used by a niche few to make money?
The question arises as to whether anything better can be expected from people such as Mangala Yapa who took over a government agency even before the Parliamentary act regarding it was approved?
Shouldn’t the directors of all the companies that are involved in the garbage importation be arrested and brought before the law?
A debate regarding garbage being brought into the country was held in Parliament today (July 24). UNP MP Chaminda Wijesiri said that maybe Meethotamulla tragedy occurred, which claimed many lives, as a result of the quantity of garbage which would have been imported into the country based on 2013 circular.
He pointed out that toxic chemicals contained in this imported garbage could have caused such a tragedy because it caused somewhat of an explosion. He noted that a proper method should be set in place in order to identify those who are to be held responsible for the loss of lives and damages to property and they should be punished.
Responding to this J.C. Alawathuwala noted that they will inquire into this and see if such a scenario like he claims has occurred. He noted that he does not believe that is what happened.
MP Bandula Gunawardane challenged the government, to try and render this circular issued in 2013 by Mahinda Rajapaksa, void. He noted that the only agreement which legalized the import of discarded material is the Singapore Agreement.
Deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Nalin Bandara Jayamaha agreeing with him said there is no issue with the gazette. MP Bandula Gunawardane noted that they provided a false interpretation regarding this gazette notification to the world.
UNP MP Mujibur Rahman noted that the Customs Unions clearly stated these containers have arrived in the country under this gazette issued in 2013. Responding to this MP Bandula Gunawardane requested him to read the gazette. He noted that what the Customs Union says is not the law.
He questioned; “Doesn’t the person representing the place which makes the law know what the law of the country is?”
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister Jayamaha noted that he agrees there is nothing wrong with the circular nor the gazette. He noted that it does not state that the Customs cannot inspect containers brought under this gazette.
He noted that the Customs can inspect these at any given time, but the issue here is they have mixed this up with other matters. He noted that they say this is a result of the Singapore agreement but it is not. The Deputy Minister noted that he saw the parliamentarian standing next to a pile of garbage, somewhere in Thailand.
Responding to this MP Gunawardena noted that they did not intend to disrespect people, however, they only a posed a question relating to law. He noted that the country is currently in turmoil due to these issues.
Deputy Minister Jayamaha said he is not stating that the gazette will be nullified, however, they intend to take action in a legal sense. He said if Hayleys has done this intentionally, they will take action. He said the government has provided them a grace period of one week to provide them with explanations and another 3 weeks will be given to send these containers back.
UPFA MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara questioned; “if there is a cost involved in importing discarded material from England, who is bearing that cost? How much are they paying? What is the profit that can be earned by recycling the material and re-exporting it?”
In his opinion, if they look into this, they will see a large scale money laundering process. He noted that those who collect waste from England and send it here, deposit their money in England and the process of re-exporting is merely what they see on the surface, in actual fact, what is happening is money laundering.
Non-Cabinet Minister Dr Harsha De Silva noted that this issue was brought into the spotlight by Sirasa and they requested the government to take immediate action. He said it was as a result of this investigative journalism that this issue was highlighted. He noted his personal opinion is that that this national tragedy cannot be resolved by simply nullifying the gazette.
He noted that the issue is not the gazette, the issue is whether any person carrying out an illegal activity using this gazette as a veil. He said if Hayleys claims they accepted this material as Non-Hazardous Waste and if the gazette includes provisions for value addition to occurring within the free zone but in the end, discarded material from morgues have been brought, someone has committed a major fraud down the line.
Speaking in Parliament MP Nimal Lanza noted that today, at the Economic Oversight Committee, all corporations representing the Government accepted that what has been brought into the country is municipality waste. He noted that in essence, they accepted it is garbage.
Lanza noted that there are 102 containers at the Customs, but there is no one to claim responsibility for these containers. He said Rs 875 million should be paid in demurrage costs alone for these containers. He added that what has happened is, the containers are stored here, and they claim the person who imported them has gone bankrupt. Therefore, he noted that they cannot earn any money neither can they send the containers back.
Non-Cabinet Minister Dr Harsha de Silva noted that he feels, the money should be earned in some way, at least by freezing their assets. He noted that even England has ordered for an inquiry to be carried out to ascertain how these discarded waste ended up here, therefore they have a way of solving this issue.
The Chairman of the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection Ranjith Vithanage making a revelation about the garbage containers in Sri Lanka, today (July 24) noted that not only the United Kingdom but even a company in France also exports garbage to Sri Lanka. He added that they will soon reveal the name of the organization.
Vithanage noted that this has been done using the Gazette notification and only around 2 – 3 businessmen can fulfil these requirements. He said US$ 5 million should definitely be invested and 63% of foreign investment should also be there.
He said according to what has been revealed by the BOI and the customs, 29 containers have been re-exported. He suggested that the Central Environment Authority looks into if these businessmen make such an investment to re-export 29 containers.
Chairman of the National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection requested the officer in charge not to deceive them and not to hide anything to media. The movement yesterday revealed that waste is being imported to Sri Lanka through the airport.
He said the Civil Aviation Authority has been calling tenders to handover the waste to businessmen for 3 years. He added that they then take what’s economically beneficial and the rest is burnt and this creates germs in the country.
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