At a time when the Sri Lanka government is taking action claiming damages for the Xpress Pearl Vessel disaster in the country’s territorial waters , a new allegation of taking a massive bribe relating to compensation issues has come up in the public domain.
Compensation due to Sri Lanka by the company that owned the ill-fated X-Press Pearl cargo ship that caught fire and sank to the bottom of the ocean, has been revealed by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.
The X-Press Pearl disaster is considered one of the worst maritime disasters in recent history.
Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has requested the country’s Police Chief to investigate the solicitation of a bribe, while Sri Lankan authorities were in talks to secure compensation for the destruction caused to the Sea of Sri Lanka.
Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that he was informed that a certain party had solicited a bribe of USD 250 Million and the money had been directed to a bank account in the UK.
A report prepared by the expert committee appointed by the Marine Environment Protection Authority revealed that Sri Lanka must secure USD 6.2 Billion as compensation from the owners of the X-Press Pearl, for the destruction caused to the marine environment in the Sea of Sri Lanka.
The reports to secure compensation were already directed to the Attorney General’s Department, and the Cabinet also gave the green light to file a case against the owners of the X-Press Pearl in Singapore.
However, experts have raised certain concerns with regard to heading to Singapore to file a case to secure compensation.
Attorney (Dr) Dan Malika Gunasekera, a Specialist in Admiralty, Maritime, Shipping and Law of the Sea said if a local court delivers a ruling, Sri Lanka can take action against the Insurance Company of the vessel and can thereafter secure the compensation
The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) says it has taken all the necessary steps to take legal action against the owners of the Xpress Pearl Vessel and its operators or local agents. Issuing a press release after environmentalists raised concerns on claiming damages for the marine disaster, the MEPA said the Attorney General’s Department has already filed criminal action before the courts.
The MEPA said it provided the AG’s department with the requisite information.According to the MEPA a second environment impact assessment report was also submitted by the expert committee appointed for the purpose to the AG’s department in January this year.
The MEPA also revealed that a key meeting was held on April 6 with the participation of the AG’s department, officials of the MEPA and experts in the field on the concerns raised by various groups on the compensation claim for the disaster.
The MEPA said at the meeting the AG’s department revealed the Australian legal firm assisting Sri Lanka in initiating legal action has confirmed the case can be filed in Singapore and it has the requisite jurisdiction to hear the case as the owners and operators of the vessel are based in Singapore.
The department had also said Singapore is a more important maritime hub than Sri Lanka could be more favourable in obtaining compensation. It also said it plans to challenge the limitation for compensations obtained through a court order obtained by the ship owners.