COLOMBO : The Customs today(July 22) clarified facts on the containers of garbage that were imported into the country.
111 garbage containers shipped from the UK are currently held at the CICT terminal of the Colombo port, while another 130 garbage containers are currently at the Katunayaka free trade zone.
Media spokesperson of the Sri Lanka Customs, Sunil Jayaratne noted that the main stakeholder is Hayley’s Free Zone Private Limited and it has the right and legal capacity to enter into agreements with third parties. He added that for the contract they had come to an agreement with a company by the name of ETL Colombo Private Ltd. A 4th party by the name of Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation Ltd was also involved in the import of garbage. He revealed that therefore, the company that actually imported the consignment of containers of garbage has been identified as ETL Colombo Pvt. Ltd. He went on to note that the company has taken 130 of these containers to the processing zone inside the free trade zone in Katunayake and 10 of these containers have been re-exported.
Director of Customs, Lal Weerakkody said that following the conclusion of customs investigation they will send notices to the relevant parties and demand them to appear before a customs inquiry. He noted that the import documents show that the company, Hayley’s Free Zone Pvt. Ltd is under the BOI. He added that 130 containers which were taken to the free trade zone were taken there following the correct paperwork. He went on to note since the other parties have no intention of taking the rest of the containers out they are being held at the Colombo port. He noted that according to the bill of lading they have identified the consignee of the shipment as ETL Colombo Pvt. Ltd and Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation Pvt. Ltd. as the importer of these containers.
Sunil Jayaratne noted that the first 130 containers were under the company Hayley’s when it was released from the port and before it was ETL Colombo.
Lal Weerakkody noted that they had mentioned this other company as the notified party, the company named Ceylon Metal Processing Private Ltd. He added that when the goods are being cleared from the port a document is approved by the importer and according to that document, the importer is Hayley’s Free Zone.
Sunil Jayaratne added that although Hayley’s is mentioned as the importer in this document the actual importer in both instances is the other company.
Sunil Jayaratne confirmed that it was the same parties who were involved in the import of both 111 and 130 containers. He added that this time they had not involved Hayleys in the import and it has been done in a very tactful manner. He added that the first set was brought saying that they are being re-exported, the metal in the mattresses was being removed for metal and processed to send overseas. He noted that it was humorous to bring mattresses for metal when there are other materials which could be imported for metal.
He added that it was not speculation or wild guesses and they presented what they found in the documents.
They agreed that since the government provides various concessions to this company, that the government is also responsible for the matter.
Meanwhile, Customs today released footage of a few containers containing garbage stored in the CICT Terminal at the Colombo Port.
JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath noted that Haleys Free Zone is denying their involvement in this regard despite their name in the database of the customs department under these imports. He added that the facts were concrete enough to prove that they are involved. He went on to note that it was clearly stated in the release issued by the BOI that since the company had failed to re-export the goods as committed, the Board has decided to take stern action against the company. He added that it was important to pay attention to the fact of how this shipment slipped through Customs and the Environmental Authority?
He noted that it is too late to re-export them and it should be buried immediately before the condition worsens. He concluded that the government should take measures to destroy this stock instead of instructing to re-export this garbage.
Vasudeva Nanayakkara Leader of the Democratic Left Front noted that the containers should be quarantined and should not even be opened. He added that the government is responsible and they cannot escape using the 2013 gazette. How dangerous is it that the BOI board is not allowing the inspection of any of these containers? –
Harshana Rajakaruna, Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Economic Development noted that through the 18/30 gazette they have given permission to carry out such activities. He added that as the Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Economic Development he advised that all parties involved in this issue should be called before the parliament on Wednesday at 2 pm and a report should be produced before the parliament.
Lahiru Weerasekara, Youth Movement for Change noted that the import of garbage has been done since 2017 and it was the same year when the Meethotamulla garbage tragedy occurred. He added that it was the same year where Hayleys Free Zone Limited started to import garbage containers to Sri Lanka. He added that import of the garbage into the country would only increase the amount of waste in Sri Lanka.
The Centre for Environmental Justice filed a mandamus writ petition at the Court of Appeal requesting for an order to be issued to the Central Environmental Authority and the Sri Lanka Customs to send the consignment of garbage brought down from overseas back to the country of origin.
The Centre for Environmental Justice has also requested the court to prevent any future imports of garbage into the country.