Defence Secy. requested to act against illicit miners in Nat. Parks

 By Ifham Nizam

 Wildlife Resources and Conservation Management Minister Wijithamuni de Zoysa has requested Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to order security forces particularly, the Special Task Force (STF) to take strict action against those who carry out illegal operations inside national parks by claiming to be his associates.

Minister Zosya told The Island yesterday that he had also instructed park wardens not to hesitate to nab anyone who entered the parks for illegal purposes. "I am a professional gem merchant. I could identify any gem stone and price any stone. I also often purchase gems. Obviously, lots of people know me in the gem circles. This doesn’t mean the illegal gem miners could get away by using my name.

The Minister said that the Department of Wildlife was corrupt. "I know there are a number of stumbling blocks within the department. The President has confidence that I would clear all of them," he stressed.

Some of the Wildlife Department officials told The Island that they found it hard to conduct raids against illegal gem miners in three national parks, as the culprits claimed they were operating with the blessings of the Minster.

Officials said that Kiri Oya in the Wasgamuwa National Park, Nilgala area, in the Gal Oya National Park and a place in the Angammedilla National Park, had become havens for illegal gem miners.

Environment Conservation Trust (ECT) Convener Sajeewa Chamikara told The Island that they had taken up the matter with the minister and pointed to the gravity of large scale gem mining in national parks, however, he had failed to come with a viable solution.

"We would certainly go on pressuring the minister, to take action against illegal activities under the Fauna and Flora Act," Chamikara added.

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