X-Press Pearl disaster; Sri Lanka files litigation in Singapore

The Attorney General’s Department filed litigation in Singapore on April 25 seeking compensation for the X- Press Pearl disaster, an official said.

Chairman of Sri Lanka Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Asela B. Rekawa confirmed that action was filed in Singapore, but said more details were not available immediately.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl, carrying 25 tonnes of chemicals, caught fire in Sri Lankan waters off the Colombo Port on May 21, 2021. Many of the containers sunk in the sea before the fire was doused, resulting in extensive damage to the marine environment including the fisheries from oil and chemical spillage.

There was widespread criticism by the environmentalists and the political parties because of the delay in the litigation process. They questioned as to why it took such a long time for the Sri Lankan authorities to proceed with legal action despite the enormity of damage.

The issue was mired in further controversy after Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe alleged that US $ 250 million had been credited to the offshore account of a Sri Lankan named Chamara Gunasekera living in the UK as a bribe to influence the legal process to be delayed.

However, the veracity of this allegation is yet to be established. The police investigations are now in progress into the allegation. Some Cabinet ministers have inquired about it from Minister Rajapakshe at the weekly meeting last Monday.

Meanwhile, National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa questioned earlier as to why the case was to be filed in Singapore. He said the incident happened in Sri Lanka and therefore the case should have been filed under Sri Lankan jurisdiction.

“If the case is filed here, we can stake a claim for a bigger compensation,” he said. (Kelum Bandara)

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