The Supreme Court today granted leave to proceed with the Fundamental Rights petition filed by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith seeking an order directing the authorities to provide financial assistance to the fishermen in the Gampaha, Colombo, and Kalutara Districts who have lost their income following the X-Press Pearl disaster.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court three-judge-bench comprising Justice Vijith Malalgoda, Justice Janak De Silva and Justice Mahinda Samayawardhena fixed the petition for January 20. The respondents were directed to file objections on the next date. The Supreme Court also granted leave to proceed with the Fundamental Rights petition filed by Dr Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan.
The petitioners had named Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Port Authority Chairman Nihal Keppetipola, Marine Environmental Protection Authority, Harbour Master Capt. K.M. Nirmal P. Silva, Sea Consortium Pte. Limited (X-Press Feeders), Sea Consortium Lanka (Pvt.) Limited and several others as respondents.
The petitioners are also seeking an order directing the authorities to prepare the estimated loss and damage caused to the fishing industry in Sri Lanka, resulting from the burning and sinking of the MV X-Press Pearl.
The Petitioners stated that they instituted this in the best interests of the public and the environment, for the benefit of the public and environment, to ensure justice, and to secure meaningful and due relief and redress in respect of the severe ecological and economic consequences arising from and out of the burning and sinking of the naval merchant vessel 'X-Press Pearl', off the western coast of Sri Lanka on or around June 2, 2021, including to specifically ensure the rights and interests of the fishing communities in the Gampaha, Colombo, and Kalutara Districts.
The petitioners emphasize that this public interest litigation has been instituted for the above reasons, and not to pursue or advance any political motivations.
The Petitioners state that the marine pollution caused as a result of the catching of fire and sinking of the MV X-Press Pearl resulted in two grave and egregious consequences: namely, widespread environmental damage, and economic losses caused to the fishing communities of the Western Province.
The petitioners said a total sum of Rs. 109.9 Million has been paid as compensation to the most severely affected fishermen and communities, despite initial representations claiming that UDS 3.6 Million (approximately Rs. 720 Million) would be reserved as compensation for the said fishermen and communities as an interim payment for the period 20/05/2021 to 02/06/2021.
Attorney-at-Law Nilshantha Sirimanne with Uween Jayasinghe and Deshara Gunatilleke appeared for Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.
Senior Counsel Chrismal Waransuriya appeared for Dr. Ajantha Perera. Additional Solicitor General Nerin Pulle appeared for the Attorney General. (Lakmal Sooriyagoda)