Poor institutional coordination leaves X-Press Pearl disaster compensation in dismay.
By: Staff Writer
January 04, Colombo (LNW): Several issues have emerged due to the lack of coordination among the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), the Fisheries Ministry and the Attorney General’s Department with regard to the X-Press Pearl maritime disaster, a parliamentary committee has observed.
At a recent meeting, the Sectoral Oversight Committee (SOC) on Environment, Natural Resources & Sustainable Development said this has affected the payment of compensation to the fishermen hit hard by the damage caused by the fire-ravaged freight ship X-Press Pearl.
Accordingly, SOC chair MP Ajith Mannapperuma instructed that the AG’s Department, the Fisheries Ministry, the MEPA and the members of the MEPA-appointed experts’ committee jointly prepare a program and submit a related report to the Committee.
During the meeting, MEPA officials told the SOC members that despite asking the AG’s Department in writing about the activities of the experts’ committee and its future needs, they have yet to receive a proper response.
The MEPA officials also said that they had received information from the Justice Ministry that an international, independent experts’ committee would be appointed to continue the assessment of the damage.
As a result, they explained that the MEPA expert committee has not made a firm decision on how to proceed.
The officials also pointed out that it is problematic that the MEPA is unaware of the work being carried out in this regard by the AG’s Department.
It was revealed that since the payments related to the research activities conducted by the experts’ committee appointed by MEPA have not been made, the Ministry was requested to submit a Cabinet paper to look into the ability to make relevant payments.
It was also disclosed that no appointments have been made to the experts’ committee for the year 2023.
Sri Lanka has confirmed receiving further compensation for pollution from the lost container ship X-Press Pearl, which burned and sunk off Colombo in 2021.
“Sri Lanka Treasury has received US$890,000 and Rs 16 million (around $49,200 dollars) as interim payment for costs incurred by the Maritime Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and for the affected fisherfolks,” the justice ministry said.
Since the disaster happened, Sri Lanka has received payments totaling $7.85 million.
Its government received the first payment of $3.6 million in July 2021. Another $1.75 million followed in January 2022, and a third payment of $2.5 million arrived in September.
Sri Lanka initially filed for a compensation claim of $40 million shortly after the vessel sank off Colombo in June 2021. However, a 40-member expert committee convened by MEPA put the price of the environmental disaster at $6.4 billion in an interim report early last year.