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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Sri Lanka arrests X-Press Pearl captain under pollution law, seeks IMO expertise

INTERNATIONAL EXPERTISE: Justice Minister Ali Sabry says Sri Lanka has sought international expertise for the X-Press Pearl case.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka arrested the captain of MV X-Press Pearl, a ship which caught fire after travelling with a leaking acid container and over 800 tonnes of alkali on board and is partially sunk off Colombo Port.

The captain was arrested under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and released on bail.

Sri Lanka has made an interim claim from the ship’s insurers for 40 million US dollars for cash costs and immediate damages.

Assessments are being made by five separate committees on the broader losses.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry said UN expertise had been sought.

“On the 15th three experts will come and give us advice on the whole process,” he said.

X-Press Pearl was carrying several classes of dangerous goods designated by the International Maritime Organization (IMDG).

Questions have been raised whether there were loading conflicts and storing acid above a cargo of alkali was permitted under IMDG segregation requirements.

The ship was carrying over 800 tonnes of Sodium Hydroxide and some other dangerous cargo.

The ship after leaving Jebel Ali, discovered a leak in the acid container but Port Hamad in Qatar and Hazira in India did not help offload or re-pack the container.

It is also not known who issued the packing certificate for the acid container. (Colombo/June14/2021)

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Sri Lanka cabinet nod for President to discuss cancelled LRT with Japan

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe discuss resuming a Japan funded. Light Rail Transit (LRT) project cabinet spokesman said, as the island nation is in the process of mending ties with Tokyo.

However, any such deals are likely to take place after the debt restructuring and Sri Lanka starts to repay its foreign loans to come out of default, analysts say.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the 1.5 billion US dollar LRT and East Container Terminal (ECT) projects in 2021. Japan agreed to fund the LRT project while it was one of the tripartite members of the ECT project along with India and Sri Lanka.

The abrupt cancellation hit the diplomatic ties between the two countries and Sri Lankan government officials have said Japan had given the project to Sri Lanka at a very lower financing cost.

President Wickremesinghe returned from Japan late last week after having met top officials of the Japanese government including its prime minister.

“In recent history, due to the stopping of several agreements and proposals suddenly, President Wickremesinghe went to Japan after creating the background to clear some of the worries we have,” Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told the weekly media briefing.

“Before he went, he got the approval from the cabinet to resume the discussion on the light railway project. He got the approval from the cabinet to get parliament approval for bilateral agreements signed or any other investments project. Any change or cancellation of a project could be done only with the approval of the parliament.”

Japan has backed Sri Lanka under Wickremesinghe’s presidency after the island nation declared sovereign debt default. (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to tighten grip on television with broadcast law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has formulated a broadcast authority law to regulate electronic media which will be made public soon, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

“The draft prepared by a cabinet subcommittee under Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa has discussed with various parties will be given to all media institutions and broadcast media,” Gunawardana said.

“We do not have to hide or force anyone. A legal framework that can be acceptable to all for all sectors.”

“In a week or two Minister Wijedasa will discuss with state and private stakeholders.”

At the moment Sri Lanka has issued frequencies without conforming to an “international procedures”, he said.

In Sri Lanka television frequencies are issued under a state television act.

Successive administrations in Sri Lanka has since around 1980 mis-used state television duopoly which including for conducting elections according to critics.

Private television as well a raio emerged around the 1990s and has since over shadowed state media.

There have been calls by ruling party politicians from time to time to control private media. There is now calls to control social media.

At a Committee on Public Accounts meeting of the Department of Government Information, ruling coalition legislators called for regulation of television content. (Colombo/May30/2023)

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Sri Lanka rupee at 296.75/297.25 to dollar at open, bond yields steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 297 /297.50 against the US dollar in the spot market on Monday, while bond yields were steady, dealers said.

The rupee closed at 296.75 /297.25 to the US dollar on Monday after opening around 296.50 /297.50 rupees.

A bond maturing on 01.09.2027 was quoted at 26.50/75 percent steady from Friday’s close at 26.50/65 percent.

Sri Lanka’s rupee is appreciating amid negative private credit which has reduced outflows after the central bank hiked rates and stopped printing money. (Colombo/ May 29/2023)

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