Former Prime Minister and Leader of the United National Party (UNP) Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday (6 June) called for the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to investigate the MV X-Press Pearl incident.
Wickremesinghe was recently picked by the UNP Working Committee to represent them in Parliament using the lone National List seat the party secured at the last general elections.
Issuing a press release, Wickremesinghe pointed out the impact of the maritime disaster and questioned why the Government was slow to seek international assistance in responding to the fire aboard the ill-fated vessel. “Therefore, I propose that a Parliamentary Select Committee be immediately appointed to inquire into the fire on this ship. There is a possibility of appointing members and appointing a select committee this week when Parliament meets. Accordingly, the committee may meet in the first week of July to present a preliminary report on the environmental and economic damage caused by the ship fire. People have a right to know how the ship caught fire and why it could not be extinguished. Also, the people have a right to know what steps we will take next regarding the ship. We urge the Government to expedite this,” the former Prime Minister stressed.
The Government and the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) had failed to seek international assistance in spite of notifying the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the press release said.
“In such a situation the National Disaster Council can be convened under the Disaster Management Act. It has the potential to gather and declare a state of disaster in the coastal region,” Wickremesinghe added.
He pointed out that if a state of disaster had been declared Sri Lanka could have obtained foreign assistance to put out the fire. “As the fire spread, we got help to put out the fire from India. By then the fire was out of control because the notification to India had been delayed. Europe and East Asian countries have the greatest knowledge about the fires of such a chemical ship.”