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Wildlife and Forest officers angry over circular preventing legal action against govt. institutions

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Against environmental degradation

by Ifham Nizam

Wildlife Conservation Department and Forest Department officers are up in arms over a circular which prevents them from filing legal action against government institutions which permit deforestation and other illegal acts in violation of the Fauna and Flora Ordinance.

“This is tantamount to turning a blind eye when the country’s forests are being destroyed”, a Wildlife Department officer said, referring to the directive by the Secretary to the State Ministry of Wildlife Protection, Adoption of Safety Measures, Construction of Electrical Fences and Trenches and Reforestation and Forest Resource Development.

“We are being discouraged from instituting legal action against culprits just because they are government institutions”, he said.

“We strongly believe that the circular entitled “Procedures to be followed in taking legal action against public institutions” lead to discourage the authorized officers of the Fauna and Flora Protection (Amendment) Act No. 22 of 2009 and the Forest (Amendment) Act, No. 65 of 2009 from taking legal action,” said Convener, Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle of Sri Lanka, Supun Lahiru Prakash.

Environmentalists believe that deforestation is against the vision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in environment conservation and sustainable development in the country.

The Secretary of Defense also said recently that he has found some misconduct on the part of some Divisional Secretaries in issuing licenses to clear forest lands and it should be prevented.

The officers of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Forest Conservation have enough expertise to do their job and there is no need to consult the line ministry in this regard, the officers said.

Destroying the country’s natural resources including forests and wildlife should be addressed immediately whether those involved are public officers or private individuals, they pointed out.

“If we have to wait until the line ministry gives instructions, it will be too late. Stipulating guidelines to officers of the relevant departments (The Department of Zoological Gardens is also included in the circular) on taking legal action is not practical at a time environmental degradation is happening in a big way”, they protested.

Citing an example, they claimed that a group of organized persons led by an officer of the Medirigiriya Divisional Secretariat had illegally entered the Somawathiya National Park and replaced the boundary posts on Wednesday and Thursday, and illegally encroaching around 3,000 acres of lands belonging to the national reserve.

“If the wildlife officers of the relevant area wait until the instructions come without taking any action what will be the outcome?, they queried urging the President to take immediate action.

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SLFP: PCoI has exceeded its mandate and failed to address critical issues

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI on Easter Sunday Attacks to identify local and international forces behind the attacks, establish the motives of those groups and to punish those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks, but those issues had not been addressed by the PCoI’s final report, the SLFP said yesterday.

 SLFP General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the party’s Executive Committee had discussed the report in depth on Thursday and decided that the Commission had not addressed the issues it had been appointed to probe.

On the other hand, some of its recommendations have gone beyond its mandate.

Issuing a press release, the SLFP said that while the PCoI observed that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been soft on Islamic extremism and his government had not taken active steps in combating extremism, however, the PCoI had treated Wickremesinghe with kid gloves while taking a tough stance on former President Maithripala Sirisena.

 “The former President took over the Ministry of Law and Order on 30 October 2018, i.e. only five months and twenty days before the attacks. None of those who held the post before have been accused of anything. The report also focuses little on those who planned the attacks, those who financed the attacks and those who protected the attackers. Moreover, although there is evidence to prove that the weapons found in Muslim mosques after the attacks had been brought in by ships; the report had not investigated it in-depth,” the SLFP said.

 The party also said Pulastini Rajendran alias Sara Jasmine, the wife of Mohommadu Hastun, a suicide bomber, had fled to India sometime after the attacks. However, the Commission had not only paid any attention to it but also had ignored what could have been found.

 “The mandate set by President Sirisena says to look at current or former state officials who are directly or indirectly linked to these incidents. There is no mandate for the Commission to look into whether the head of the state or ministers have fulfilled their constitutional duties. Thus, the recommendations on the former President are beyond the PCoI’s mandate. The pages 292 and 293 of the report state that President Sirisena had instructed the Police to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim at the National Security Council. However, they also insist that the former President had not carried out its duties and responsibilities. Page 296 says that the former President not appointing an acting Defence Minister when he left for India and Singapore was a violation of the Constitution. However, in another place the Commissioners say that making such appointments is at the President’s discretion,” the SLFP said in a press release.

 The SLFP also states that the former President had carried out his duties and the report has ample evidence of it. Thus, there is no way that criminal proceedings can be instituted against him.

 “The concept that criminal proceedings can be instituted against a President for not carrying out some duty sets a bad precedent and is a slight to the power given to the President by the Constitution. The US and New Zealand security agencies had received information about 9/11 and the Christchurch shootings but the heads of the states were not charged. We vehemently refuse the allegations against the former President and reject many of the other recommendations too.”

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Dubai haven for majority of Lankan fugitives with INTERPOL red notices

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By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

Police had obtained INTERPOL Red Notices against 24 drug traffickers hiding overseas, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

In addition, DIG Rohana said INTERPOL blue notices had been issued for 87 wanted criminals who were currently residing overseas.

The DIG said a majority of the suspects were reported to be hiding in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, while some were in neighbouring India and European countries.

The country’s law enforcement agencies had seized over 1,610 kilos of heroin in 2020 alone, the DIG noted, adding that last year 33,125 suspects had been arrested for possessing heroin and 1,400 others for having in their possession synthetic drugs.

About 61,550 persons had been arrested for narcotic-related offences, in 2020, said the Police Spokesperson, noting that intelligence reports had suggested there was a shortage of heroin in the local drug market due to continuous raids carried out by law enforcement authorities. That had led to a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, such as ICE, he added.

INTERPOL assistance had been sought to extradite 129 Lankans wanted for various crimes, he said.

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Organise State Vesak festival at Nagadeepa with those of other religions- PM 

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has instructed authorities to hold this year’s State Vesak Festival at the Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya in Jaffna focusing on the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Prime Minister at a meeting held at Temple Trees on Thursday evening had given instructions to the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs Prof Kapila Gunawardena to organize the State Vesak Festival together with those following other religions.

Accordingly, the Departments of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Affairs under the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, will join in the efforts to organize the event.

Among those present were Sanghanayake of the Northern Province Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa Vihara Ven Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Navadagala Padaumakitthi Nayaka Thera, Sanghanayake of the Eastern and Thamankaduwa Ven Munhene Mettharama thera, Sanghanayake of the Matara-Hambantota districts Adrahere Kassapa Nayaka thera, State Minister Vidura Wickramanayake, MP Suren Raghawan and officials of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.

 

 

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