Court of Appeal inquires on imported waste material

Court of Appeal inquires on imported waste material

Written by Staff Writer

25 Jul, 2019 | 9:50 pm

Colombo (News 1st): The Attorney General assured the Court of Appeal today (July 25) that the garbage at the Colombo Harbour and the Katunayake free trade zone that was brought down from overseas will be retained at the same locations in a manner that would not harm the environment. The Attorney General made this announcement when the petition filed by Center for Environmental Justice was taken up for consideration today.

The Center for Environmental Justice in the petition notes that there is a risk of cancer and kidney disease spreading from germs present in the garbage dump. Through the petition, the Center for Environmental Justice has requested the court to annul the documents used to import such garbage in contravention to the provisions of the National Environmental act and to issue an interim injunction against the import of such hazardous waste from foreign countries.

Attorney-at-law Ravindranath Dabare noted that the Attorney General has given an undertaking to hold the containers in question without causing any harm to the environment until the petition is taken up again on Monday. He added that an order was issued for the transfer of these containers within Sri Lanka and the storage of them to be done under the supervision of the relevant officials.

Attorney-at-law Ravindranath Dabare said that the counsel representing Hayleys Free Zone Ltd, President’s Counsel Romesh De Silva stated in court that a stock of mattresses brought down from abroad are currently stored at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone. The President’s Counsel further states that the stock was stored to be re-exported later.

Meanwhile, ETL Colombo Private Ltd issuing a media release today denied any involvement with the import of the garbage containers in question. ETL Colombo notes that they are only involved only in freight forwarding and added that the garbage containers were imported by Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation (Pvt) Ltd.

ETL Colombo states that their company was only involved as an intermediary between Hayleys Free Zone and Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation (Pvt) Ltd within the limits of the law. The Company notes that they did not have any intention of disposing of the garbage in Sri Lanka or being involved in any other illegal activity.

Although ETL Colombo is only involved in freight forwarding shouldn’t the company be aware of the goods bring down?

Can the clarifications they make after being involved in the import of illegal goods be accepted?

Convenor of the Lawyers’ Association in Sri Lanka Attorney-at-law Manoj Gamage said it has been weeks since the import of this garbage was uncovered, however, this stock of garbage is still rotting and the garbage issues continue to aggravate. He noted that no officials have made any decisions regarding this and they know that generally if a man dumps a bag of garbage on the road he will be taken to court.

Attorney-at-law Gamage noted that companies are accused of importing garbage in containers mainly Hayleys Free Zone and a popular businessman. He added that when an average citizen dumps garbage they are taken before the court but when these massive corporations import garbage we are yet to see the police enforcing the law against them.

He went onto note that the people in this country have questions over the preferential treatment given to leading corporations and popular businessmen in this country.

Meanwhile, former Governor of the Western Province Azath Salley noted that the son of the former Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority is now a director at Hayleys and the present chairman of the ENC now says that these garbage containers will be sent back, they cannot do this.

He said if 320 garbage containers were brought into the island, they must identify and arrest those responsible. He noted that these containers were imported by Hayleys and it is the consignee. He noted that the government must launch an investigation immediately.  Salley went onto note that there is no way the ENC was not aware of this and those responsible must be punished.

Convenor of the Purawesi Sanwidana Saman Rathnapriya noted that there is no law in place that allows the import of chemical waste into the country. Fortunately, he said the waste and garbage containers were discovered.

He said a large mountain of garbage got collected in Kolonnawa and at a certain point of time, it even collapsed and killed many people. He noted that the CID must investigate whether garbage containers were imported since 2013 and whether the garbage mountain that collapsed included imported waste.

Meanwhile, the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Economic Affairs in Parliament had summoned all parties involved to inquire into the matter. MP Harshana Rajakaruna said it must be noted that there have been several shortcomings from the end of the Board of Investment, the Central Environmental Authority and the Department of Customs.

He added that as a private entity, Hayleys also has the responsibility, despite their claims rejecting their involvement in the import of the 111 garbage containers. He noted that they discussed this matter in parliament, and instructed them to take legal action and ensure such a situation will not occur again.

News 1st inquired from the police media spokesperson SP Ruwan Gunasekera on the police investigations launched into the incident. He said that the Police or the Criminal Investigations Department have not yet launched an investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile, the Movement for Consumer Rights Protection issuing a communique today stated that a French Company had also imported garbage into the country. The communique notes that an investigation into the matter should be launched as they are in possession of evidence of these imports.

They released an e-mail to the media today that shows a French Company promising a Sri Lankan Businessman US$1400 per container. The E-mail was sent on the 21st of November 2018.

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