Environmentalists demand probe into corruption in WCD


By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Species Conservation Centre’s Pubudu Weeraratne and Senior Environmental Lawyer Jagath Gunawardane. pic by Kamal Bogoda

Environmentalists on Tuesday raised concerns over lack of transparency within the Wildlife Conservation Department (WCD) in issuing permits, registration of captive elephants, and confiscation of illegal held elephants.

They alleged that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC) was trying to protect the officials of the Wildlife Conservation Department and others involved with issuing permits for illegally captured elephant calves without proper and thorough investigations.

At a discussion held in Colombo, Species Conservation Centre’s Pubudu Weeraratne said that only the Auditor General’s Department (AGD), Human Rights Commission (HRC) and Attorney General’s Department (AGD) had taken immediate action on complaints made by a group of environmental associations regarding alleged corruption in the issuance of permits for elephant calves.

Citing the AGD’s Audit Query issued on July 22, Weeraratne said that it had clearly shown that the licence bearing numbers 331, 334, 358 and 359 were illegal.

Those licences had been issued under the signature of former Director General of WCD Dr. Chandrawansha Pathiraja and present DG H. D. Rathnayake, he alleged.

However, Dr. Pathiraja has, in a letter addressed to Wildlife Resources Conservation Minister Gamini Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa on April 10, stated that his signature had been forged to issue elephant licence number 338 and 226; he has urged the Minister to take appropriate action.

Weeraratne stressed that it had been very clearly proved in the audit query that all information related to those licences was fake; certificates used to certify the ownership of the elephant calves were not authentic and those calves had been captured illegally from the wild.

"This is a clear violation of the law. So why doesn’t the CIABOC take action against the people involved in these corrupt acts?"


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