|Plants exporter succeeds with ministers help
Only two weeks ago, the same exporter from Dehiwala was stopped from exporting 1 tonne of the plant, also intended for the US. That attempt was made the night after the Cabinet meeting of July 17, at which a paper permitting the collection from the wild of seven varieties of plants was expected to be presented but was held back, evidently due to opposition.
The plants had all been collected from the wild, Customs sources said. A sample from the first unsuccessful attempt has been sent for further testing, and an inquiry into Thursdays shipment would also be held, for which purpose Customs have retained samples from it.
The first consignment was released back to the exporter on an interim court order on the grounds that the plants were perishable. The plants had all been of the Aponogeton (kekatiya) species, which are listed as threatened and endemic.
Director General of Customs Jagath Gunaratne said yesterday that he was not aware of last weeks shipment by Samudra Aquarist Fishgate (Pvt) Ltd. "They were stopped on a previous occasion and they have filed a case against us. The Court of Appeal also released the consignment back to them without restrictions, after allowing Customs to retain samples and a guarantee." The DG said nobody had tried to influence him on the matter.
Under the countrys laws, the export of any forest produce is banned under a December 5, 2000 amendment to the Forest Ordinance and threatened aquatic plants are protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance.
The Cabinet paper permitting collection from the wild for a period of six months was to be presented by the Ministry of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy and Investment Promotion. Though the ministry maintains that there was a general consensus to allow such collection at a Cabinet sub-committee, informed sources say many parties in the committee had objected to the move, stating they had only agreed to permit export of such plants if evidence of cultivation is given.
Legal sources also point out that the Cabinet approval, if granted, cannot supersede existing laws passed by parliament.
This is not the first occasion on which the company has been caught.
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