By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): In the wake of allegations of bribe taking amounting to Rs250 million to delay the legal process Sri Lanka is to file a case in Singapore against the shipping company of MV X-Press Pearl over the disaster in Sri Lankan waters today.
The Attorney General’s Department said that the case will be filed in a commercial court in Singapore.The case is to be filed today (Monday) to seek compensation from the company in a hurried move by the Attorney Generals’ Department. .
X-Press Pearl was a Singapore-registered container ship which caught fire off the coast of Colombo, in May 2021.
The vessel was engulfed in flames by 27 May and declared a total loss. It was still afloat, and the fire was thought to be under control by Sri Lankan firefighters by the late hours of 27 May 2021.
After burning for 12 days, the vessel sank on 2 June as it was being towed to deeper waters.The incident was considered the worst marine ecological disaster in Sri Lankan history for the chemical products that spilled.
According to X-Press Feeders, salvage operations to remove the wreck began in November 2021.As of 15 June 2021, about 40 dead turtles were reported to have washed up on the shore.
In addition to turtles, many species of fish, whales, and at least six dolphins also washed up with multiple burn marks.
Sri Lanka witnessed what is considered one of the worst marine environmental disasters after the Singapore-flagged container ship caught fire in Near Colombo Port.
The vessel, only three months after being commissioned, caught fire some 16 kilometers off Colombo on May 20, 2021, while transporting 1,500 containers including 25 tonnes of nitric acid.
The fire that continued for nearly two weeks resulted in a massive spillage of damaged containers, microplastics, plastic pellets, chemicals and other harmful substances into the sea.
Following the disaster, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) appointed a committee of experts comprising professors and other relevant top public officials to assess the damage.
Earlier, the MEPA said it has provided all necessary documents to the Attorney General’s Department to prosecute the ship owner or the operator or the ship’s agents in Sri Lanka under the Criminal Law, in terms of Section 26 of the Prevention of Maritime Corruption Act.
As the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers was previously given to continue the litigation process in Singapore, the Attorney General’s Department recently mentioned that it is proceeding with the legal matter accordingly.
However, the committee of expert lawyers appointed to look into the matter has suggested that the prosecution be done in Sri Lanka to recover the estimated US$ 6.2 billion in damages.
The decision to continue the legal proceedings in Singapore attracted criticism as it was deemed a very costly move.
The MEPA, however, explained that the Australian law firm, which is assisting the Attorney General’s Department with the civil suit to claim compensation, has advised that carrying out the litigation process in Singapore is favourable to the island nation.