Opposition questions fate of contraband ivory

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The haul of African Elephant tusks seized by Sri Lanka customs last year are still locked inside the customs stores securely, assured the Leader of the House minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. He made these comments in the parliament on 22nd Friday answering a special statement made by opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe about an attempt to release this stock of ivory.

What will be done for the stock of ivory is yet to be decided after consulting relevant authorities minister further added. Sri Lanka is a signatory of Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) that has black listed ivory as an item that should not be traded internationally. Minister Nimal Siripala stated that the international follow up actions has been conveyed to the relevant international authorities such as Asia Pacific Regional Intelligence Liaisons Office who had tipped Sri Lanka customs to seize the haul of ivory.

Tragedy: The 359 African elephant tusks concealed in a container on a ship sailing from Kenya to Dubai. Pic by Indika Handuwala

Tragedy: The 359 African elephant tusks concealed in a container on a ship sailing from Kenya to Dubai. Pic by Indika Handuwala

The full text of the opposition leader’s statement published in media questions whether this consignment of ivory has been listed with the Wildlife Department. As per the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, when such ivory is taken into custody, it should be listed in the Wildlife Department prior to release from the Customs. However, according to our reliable sources of information, this consignment of ivory had been taken out of the Customs without such a listing, on an order issued by the President’s Office, pointed out the Opposition Leader.

Ranil Wickremasingha also alleged that ivory has been undervalued. According to the market rates, at a glance, they can be valued at a sum over Rs.4,000 million while ivory has been valued at a sum of Rs.450 million, he alleged pointing out that this incident raises a serious concerns as to whether those who are responsible will be up to a racket in the pretext of offering the ivory for the use of temples.

There were 359 tusks in this haul of ivory that was shipped from Kenya, en-route to Dubai. Under the Customs’ Ordinance, the tusks were confiscated. Environmentalists staged their protest to release the tusks claiming that even the international investigation on the ivory is not over. They call either to return this ivory stock to the authorities of country of origin or publicly destroy them since distributing them will add value for the ivory which will create demand.

What is reflected through that offering of blood-smeared ivory to the temples is that our temples agree to any type of inhuman act. Equally, it also brings up a view that it is justifiable to kill tuskers for the purpose of providing ivory to the temples. It also has a direct impact on the population of tuskers in Sri Lanka, states opposition leader’s statement.

Why was the decision to offer this consignment of ivory to the temples taken? Who has taken that decision? Can the list of names of the temples, to which such ivory was decided to be sent, be tabled? Were the Chief Prelates or other priests consulted prior to taking this decision? If so, who are those priests? Is the Ministry of Buddhist Affairs connected with this decision? If so, at what level?; questions the opposition.

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