UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that refraining from seeking international assistance either by the Sri Lankan government or “MEPA” to extinguish the fire of the Express Pearl when it was on fire knowing that it was in danger, is a huge question.
Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe who questioned as to why the government did not enforce the existing law between May 20, 2021 and May 25, 2021, said that a Parliamentary Select Committee should be appointed immediately to look into the matter as it was questionable and suspicious.
The Leader of the United National Party Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks while issuing a special statement to the media regarding the incident of the Express Pearl ship also further expressed.
If this explosion took place when the Express Pearl was anchored in the Port of Colombo, it would not have been possible to estimate the damage. If that was the case, all the buildings from the Colombo Port to the Shangri-La Hotel would have been destroyed.
The ship arrived at the outer Port of Colombo on the night of May 19, 2021. On May 20, 2021, our team entered the ship. Then it was detected that a chemical container which was stored in the ship had got fired. The Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) has informed the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that by May 25, 2021, that this sea area will be in danger.
The Marine Environment Protection Authority alarmed this danger since the marine environment is at risk. This condition is called "Tier 2" in English. This means that if Sri Lanka finds it difficult to control the fire and it may need outside assistance.
Although the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was notified that there could be a need for assistance, neither the government of Sri Lanka nor MEPA requested their assistance. Accordingly, why did not the government enforce the existing law between May 20, 2021 and May 25, 2021? That is the important question in this case.
In such a situation it was possible to convene the National Council under the Disaster Management Act and declare a disaster situation for the coastal region. This National Assembly can be convened with twenty MPs , including the President and the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition and five Members of the Opposition. The National Council thus appointed could have met and taken decisions on the protection of the coast. But no one made such a decision.
If a national disaster had been declared, we could have obtained foreign aid to extinguish the fire. As the fire spread we got help to put out the fire from India. But by then the fire was out of control because the notification to India had been delayed. It is European and East Asian countries who have the expertise in extinguishing fire on a ship which contains chemicals.
Why the international assistance was not sought by informing the International Maritime Organization to put out the fire? Why the fire was allowed to grow and to destroy the ship? These questions arise here. Why didn't we think about the damage to our future economy and environment from the ship fire? The government and the Marine Environment Protection Authority should have thought about these matters.
Nitric acid mixing with seawater poses a risk of destroying the coral reef around Colombo in the Sri Lankan sea. It is because of the coral reef in Colombo that we survived the tsunami disaster. If this coral reef is destroyed, Colombo will be unsafe in the event of a tsunami
Therefore, I propose to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee immediately to look into the fire on this ship as Parliament convenes this week. There is a possibility of appointing members soon and appointing a select committee this week. Accordingly, the Committee will meet and furnish an initial report in the first week of July 2021 about the environmental and economic damage caused by the fire.
The public has a right to know how this ship caught fire and why the fire could not be extinguished. People also have the right to know what steps we will take with regard to the ship. Therefore, we urge the government to fulfill its responsibility and duty to the country as soon as possible. "
Lanka Newsweek © 2021