Despite Sri Lanka’s obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, there has been a surreptitious move by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa to misappropriate an entire stock of blood ivory seized by the Sri Lanka Customs and now plans are being made to smuggle out the blood ivory from the Customs custody, Colombo Telegraph learnt.
Last year Colombo Telegraph exclusively revealed with the documentary evidence that the President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempt to misappropriate the entire stock of blood ivory.
Now it is more than a year since a massive quantity of illegal ivory valued over millions of dollars was seized by Customs in the port of Colombo whilst being transhipped to Dubai. They were believed to be from over 300 wild elephants poached in Kenyan game reserves.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) require them to be destroyed in public to discourage this barbaric act. However being a signatory to the convention, it is learnt that the government of Sri Lanka continue to defy its obligations under the CITES.
The international community strictly follows the guidelines adopted by the CITES. Accordingly Kenya carried out the destruction of 12 tons of raw ivory in Kenya in 1989 and in 2011. Hong Kong has begun burning its entire stockpile of illegal ivory, joining the US, China and France in combating the illicit trade. France destroyed its stockpile of 3 tonnes of ivory earlier this year, worth almost 1 million Euros. The US has crushed more than 5 tonnes of Ivory while China has set fire to 6 tonnes of confiscated tusks and carvings.
When the unacceptable conduct of the government of Sri Lanka was questioned at the CITES symposium held in Bangkok last year, that the government was planning to misappropriate the ivory, the government representative, Justice Rohini Marasinghe, vehemently denied it. Yet, the truth remains that there was a clear direction from the President’s House to the Director General of Customs to handover the entire stock of ivory to the President’ House.
During the recently concluded Commonwealth Head of States Conference in Sri Lanka there was a proposal mooted by the Customs to organise an awareness program with a burning ceremony of ivory in public, in the presence of heads of state attended the Conference, including conservationists, researchers, diplomats etc, which could have caught the international attention throughout the world, delivering a strong message to the world; “Please don’t buy blood ivory’.
Now it is learnt that on the government initiative pouches are being made out of gold to install this blood ivory and then distribute them amongst influential Buddhist monks. And plans are being made to smuggle out the blood ivory from the Customs custody soon.
“Why should one keep blood ivory in temples, forcibly removed from elephants brutally killed? If right thinking people failed to do something to discourage this inhuman behaviour, the days may not be that far where the elephants disappear from the planet earth.” a top Customs officer told Colombo Telegraph.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity asked “So which option is better – for lifeless tusks to be displayed in temples take propagate ‘ahimsa’, or destroy them and make the world aware of the crisis, which would prove a factor in stopping the illegal ivory trade?”