Rev Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda and two fishermen today filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court seeking an order directing the authorities to award Rs. 500,000 Per fisherman, who were severely affected by the X-Press Perl ship disaster.

The petitioners had cited Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera, Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda, Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardhana, chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Marine Environment Protection Authority, X-Press Feeders Company represented by Its Local Agent Sea Consortium Lanka (Pvt) Ltd and several others as respondents.

The petitioners state that the X-Press Perl Vessel was on its way from the Indian port of Hazira to Singapore transporting 1,486 containers. The vessel cargo comprised of 25 tonnes of hazardous Nitric Acid, Caustic Soda, Sodium Methylate, Plastic, Lead Ingots, Lubricant Oil, Quick Lime and Highly Reactive and Inflammable Chemicals such as Sodium Methoxide, High-Density Polyethylene, Low-Density Polyethylene, Vinyl Acetate, Methanol, Bright Yellow Sulphur, Urea, Cosmetics etc. The entire consignment consists of 46 different types of chemicals which are categorized as extremely dangerous goods under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. This ship contained 300 tones ofBunker Oil as well.

The petitioners stated that the fishermen living in Negombo engaged in fisheries activities are thus severely affected by the contamination of sea areas and loss of fishing grounds due to the acts as well as omissions of the respondents.

The Petitioners state that there are 15 fisheries districts around the marine area of Sri Lanka. In the western province, fisheries activities are mainly focused on the area of Negombo, Wellavidiya, Kudapaduwa, Panadura and Kaluthara. Nearly 6000 fishermen and families live along Uswetakeiyava to Negombo coastal stretch and about 2000 boats go fishing in the ocean daily. 7753 fishing families have directly lost their total income as a consequence of the shipwreck, while another 2130 families employed in other fisheries-related such as drying fish and fish netting have also lost their income.

The Petitioners further state that their livelihood threatened due to this environmental restriction imposed by the government as they upkeep their lives owing to their daily wages as a fisherman who goes to sea daily. Thus, as a result of this, they were unable to carry out their everyday fishing activities for nearly a fortnight. The petitioners fear that they will likely suffer because of this for years to come.

The petitioners are seeking a declaration that the respondents have violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 12(1) and 14(1)(g)of the Constitution.


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