Garbage Scam : Three weeks and no action, will this be swept under the carpet?

Garbage Scam : Three weeks and no action, will this be swept under the carpet?

Written by Staff Writer

28 Jul, 2019 | 9:01 pm

COLOMBO (News 1st): It has been three weeks since revelations were made on a consignment of containers carrying waste material which had arrived in the country from the United Kingdom. However, it is questionable as to whether the proper legal action has been taken against those responsible.

On the 6th of this month, we initially made revelations on 65 containers containing mattresses imported from the UK, which was under the custody of the customs. Later on July 10th, the customs opened some containers and investigations revealed that they were full of garbage.

Two days later, we made a revelation that this garbage is similar to what was dumped at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone. The Secretary of the All Ceylon Customs Services Union, J. A. Gunathilake said that it was a gazette notification that was issued in 2013 that legalized the activities of these smugglers.

Against this backdrop, the garbage at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone was inspected by officials of the Central Environmental Authority and they claimed that it was stored in unsafe conditions.

A few days later, the names of the three companies connected to the import of the garbage containers were revealed;

  • Hayleys Free Zone Limited
  • Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation
  • ETL Colombo (Pvt) Ltd

On the 22nd of July, a writ of mandamus was filed at the Supreme Court seeking an order to send the containers back to the countries from which they were imported. However, on July 23rd, UPFA MP Nimal Lanza made a revelation that the garbage instead of being re-exported was dumped in Muthurajawela.

Hayleys Free Zone issues a press release denying that they are the importers or exporters of the containers. Meanwhile, ETL Colombo also issues a press release stating that they only acted as an intermediary between Hayleys Free Zone and the Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation. Ceylon Metal Corporation later said that they are the owners of the consignment of containers and says Advantis Hayleys is the company they are dealing with for the re-export of the goods from the free trade zone. Hayleys then made clarifications saying they only re-export the goods to the designated location.

However, it has now been 23 days since details about importing garbage into the country have come to light. What steps have the authorities taken?

Attorney at law Janaka Edsirisinghe speaking on this matter said that the BOI is going to take action on the garbage stored inside the country since the relevant individuals do not have a permit to do so. He said that even if they do hold a permit that they could not simply dump garbage in this manner since there is a law on the country on the issuance of environmental safety permits for the disposal of garbage. However, he says that if they do not have such a permit that it would be very easy to file a case against them.

“If the garbage was brought down for processing and re-export and if there is no mechanism to process this garbage, what was sent back in these containers that were re-exported. There is also a question as to if there is money laundering taking place via the documents that change hands” says the lawyer.

These transactions could launder black money to the country because if any other item is brought down it could be processed and cleaned up using machinery but where do we get the machinery to re-process garbage which is why the lawyer tries to explain that there is a large scale customs scam behind this. He said that this is why they should be investigated because he could not directly hold them faulty that in a legal perspective that these are all possibilities. He added that although the law has been formulated for state institutions to act on such matters they have not acted promptly.

Meanwhile also speaking on the matter President of the lawyer’s collective, Attorney-at-law Manoj Gamage said that the CEA is silent on the matter and that the accused have still not been brought before the law. He also spoke of the Rotterdam Convention which deals with the responsibilities in relation to the import of hazardous chemicals and electronic waste. He further explained that as per this convention that when such waste is being transported from one country to another, especially in Sri Lanka that the Central Environmental Authority is the responsible institution.

Environmentalist Jayantha Wanigasekara says that it has been revealed that both the company who exported the consignment and the Ceylon Metal Processing Corp are one, owned by relatives or brothers. He said that now they are receiving information on alleged connections between the owner of the Hayleys and the Metal Processing Corporation. He questions if there is such a connection why the law is not being enforced against them because when on a closer look all these three companies are one company and the same. Making another revelation he says that there is information on the son of the former chairman of the Central Environmental Authority being on the Board of Directors of Hayleys and questioned if this could be the reason for the authority to not implement the law.

It does not seem as if the current Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority and the former Chief Minister of Western Province Isura Devapriya is taking any action against this. He has been limited to mere statements.

National issues of this magnitude cannot be swept under the carpet like the attempt to purchase expensive chairs for the provincial council.

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