Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando says children were being transported without life jackets on the ferry that capsized in Kinniya this morning.
Speaking in Parliament today, Minister Fernando said it was also reported that the individuals who operated the ferry service had fled the area.
The Minister said he spoke to the Inspector General of Police and the Deputy Inspector General of Police and urged them to enforce the law.
He urged individuals to refrain from laying blame on the government and for the situation to not be politicised and to be used for political gains as lives of innocent children were claimed.
The Minister said the previous administration did not care for area residents.
He said the bridge falls under the purview of the Provincial Council adding they called for tenders to construct the bridge.
Minister Fernando expressed his regret over the delay and conveyed his condolences to the families.
The Minister said he instructed the Governor of the Northern Province to conduct an investigation into the legality of the ferry service and to look into who granted permission for the ferry service to operate.
He said he considers this incident as murder adding perpetrators must be brought to justice irrespective of alliances.
The Minister claimed the foundation stone for the bridge was laid during the term of the good governance government without following proper procedures.
He said the government sought to expedite construction under the 1,000km project of the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour policy statement.
He said an alternative route was constructed for the use of the public adding however the public was hesitant to use the road as it was 3km longer.
He said the ferry service was implemented by the Urban Council, which falls under the purview of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya and was authorised by a local council governed by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
Parliamentarian Nalin Bandara Jayamaha joining the debate refuted claims by Minister Johnston Fernando that the ferry was operated by an Urban Council governed by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.
The MP said the SJB did not contest Local Authorities Elections adding that an inquiry must be conducted into MP MS Thowfeek’s involvement in the ferry, as his residence was attacked after today’s accident.
He questioned why authorities provided such an impractical solution to the lack of a bridge and expressed the SJBs condolences to the families of the victims.