24 May, 2019

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When The Best Man For The Job Is Not Allowed To Do His Job

By Ajita Kadirgamar

Ajita Kadirgamar

Ajita Kadirgamar

Wildlife enthusiasts, conservationists, environmentalists and plain right thinking Sri Lankans (they may be a minority, but they do exist) are up in arms at the news that Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya who was appointed Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) on March 30, 2016 has tendered his resignation.

After a 23 year career with the World Bank culminating as the Lead Environmental Specialist, South Asia, focusing on Environment, Water Resources and Climate (which included managing the organisation’s wildlife projects as well), Pilapitiya’s appointment as Director General, was a godsend in the minds of citizens who truly have the country’s interests at heart.

For a man who had taken an early retirement to study the social behaviour of elephants, and is passionate about these creatures and the island’s wildlife and environment in general, the position of Director General DWC is a fortuitous, yet tailor made job.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe no doubt saw in Pilapitiya a professional with internationally accepted credentials, combined with an impressive academic background and subject knowledge. And one assumes that when the PM offered him the post, he intended for Pilapitiya to do his job as a professional, using his expertise and best judgment in each and every situation he encountered.

Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya

Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya

Surely he did not think this man would be a stooge? That he would bow to pressure from incompetent, unqualified and often corrupt administrators? That he would conveniently look the other way as elephants continue to be abused, sold into captivity, tortured and mistreated in temples and processions? That he would condone the judgment of a magistrate ruling in favor of illegal elephant enslavers?

“At present, 17 elephants and tuskers are in the custody of the wildlife conservation department, while the persons who had kept them without licenses are remanded. The Colombo court has issued an injunction against a magisterial order to handover these elephants to the owners in order for their participation in pageants. Dr. Pilapitiya said at the meeting in response that he disapproved of the magisterial decision, noting that elephants are a world heritage and could not be reared as domestic pets.” (Sri Lanka Mirror June 2, 2016)

Also, how could anyone expect Pilapitiya, an environmental expert with a PhD on Solid Waste Management, to be in favour of dumping garbage on the perimeter of a wildlife sanctuary! “My position is still the same as it was then, when I told them that a garbage landfill near the buffer zone of the Wilpattu National Park was a specific ‘No, no’,” says Dr. Pilapitiya, adding that “just because I am the DG of Wildlife Conservation now, does not make way for what was ‘unsuitable’ to become ‘suitable’.” (Sunday Times, April 3, 2016)

As far back as June 2006, Pilapitiya who has a PhD in Solid Waste Management (SWM), implemented a SWM pilot project in his home town of Weligama where the town’s organic waste is converted to compost and sold back to the public at an affordable price. “According to Dr. Pilapitiya, Sri Lanka has the technical know-how, the necessary environmental regulations, and the funds to carry out proper SWM projects, but projects never actually materialise because the most important ingredient is not there — political commitment.” (Sunday Times, September 30, 2007)

These press excerpts show the calibre of Pilapitiya and the stinking quagmire of politics that he has found himself catapulted into. Social media, Facebook in particular, and citizen activism in general, both gaining ground in Sri Lanka may just make Pilapitiya a hero at the end of the day. A hero the people and the animals of this island desperately need.

“In this melee, the Director of Wildlife Conservation, an elephant expert himself, unable to stomach these politically motivated actions, is threatening to resign, putting in jeopardy the whole wildlife conservation, and welfare and treatment of animals in Sri Lanka, which he has undertaken to protect. It is believed that ONLY he can stand up for the rights over objections that don’t stand up in a Court of Law or in the Court of Morality.” (Facebook, Ranjit Hulugalle)

“I admire the man’s integrity. The GoSL should appoint people of his caliber only if they are willing to let the person do their job and not bow to ridiculous pressure from various special interest groups, which in this case must be the Perahera lobby.” (Facebook, Tilak Dissanayake)

Prominent Facebook Community groups such as Reforest Sri Lanka, Say NO to Cruelty To Our Elephants of Sri Lanka, Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka and Wildreach are all lending their support for Pilapitiya.

Supun Jayaweera, environmentalist, activist and law student is spokesperson for the Protest organisers. As citizen activists the group is very clear about the need for people to voice their concern at this turn of events. “The field of wildlife conservation always lacked a charismatic, pragmatic leader. Dr. Pilapitiya filled that lacuna and managed to achieve many developments from different perspectives within a short period of time. As environmentalists and nature lovers we were more than glad to have a DG with a vision. Corrupt politics in this country has always hindered the work of honest men and as members of the general public, it is our responsibility to back and support these honest men and be their voice. Hence the need of a protest to show support to Dr. Pilapitiya, to urge the government to re-appoint him as the DG and let him do his job without any hindrance, and to warn the government that we, the general public are concerned about the recent events.”

Sumith Pilapitiya is a product of the World Bank system. The key word is ‘system’. He would approach the myriad of DWC problems and setbacks in a systematic way. He would demand that his staff work within the rules and laws of the country, he would educate the public and hopefully the boorish politicians who seem, more than other citizens, to need edification. Never in recent times has there been a man better equipped for the job at hand. For god’s sake let sanity and moral conscience prevail over avarice and corrupt agendas. Let Pilapitiya get on with the job. In peace.

How to make your voice heard:

Sign the Petition

Attend the Protest on Sun June 12th at 10 am at Pettah railway station

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Latest comments

  • 30
    0

    Dear Ajitha

    This is the sad plight in oue dump where good people are suppressed and evicted while political stooge run havoc and destroy the country.

    You father was is a person who should have ruled Sri Lanka, A grater human being we had for a long time, Yet he was not even given prime minister post!

    We must gather round and say enough is enough of this crap, otherwise we are running out of time to save our country!

    • 17
      3

      Ajitha, you are very naive about the World Bank which most economists despise for being part of the problem rather than solution to global inequality and poverty.

      TO survive at the WB as Pilapitiya did for so many years, you have to be a master politician because it is a corrupt and highly political place.
      World Bank and IMF has legalized financial corruption in the global financial system where Panama Papers off shore tax havens are the norm. Every year there are massive protests in Washington DC when World Bank and IMF meet by environmental groups and those genuinely working to end poverty and inequality. Pilapitiya is no angel!

      However, if Pilapitiya is standing up for animal rights NOW and trying to do a good job we applaud him.

      Taking Elephants in Peraheras is CRUELTY TO these majestic animals who are covered up, chained and marched in the heat to make SInhala Buddhist monks with massive EGOS feel treat – like Podi Hamuduruwa at Gangarama – who is really an insult to Buddhists.

      • 9
        2

        Dinuk,

        What you say is true with regards to IMF and the World Bank. Not many people know that these are privately owned banking organisations with the main aim of making money for corporate bankers. As a result they engage in utterly reprehensible ways to make that money. Yes they are the problem rather than the solution to world poverty and the ever widening divide of the have’s and the have not’s.

        Yes, if Dr Pilapitiya is trying to do he right thing even at this late stage in his life, I do agree, he should be supported.

        The cruelty meted out to man and beast by our own Sri Lankan brothers and sisters is mind boggling. The poor elephants will continue to suffer because of the iron grip the monks have on the Mahawamsa and Mahanama befuddled and deluded people of Sri Lanka. Every Buddhist in Sri Lanka is an affront to what Buddha preached.

      • 6
        2

        Dinuk ,

        I also agree with your above statement , WB and IMF are utterly corrupt institutions where all the big time crooks get together to advice developing nations . case in point former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn , what a corrupt character to head an equally corrupt IMF.

        As to Pilapitiya , i don’t know much about him ;hence, i’ll refrain from commenting about him for the time being;nevertheless, i ‘ve got to comment on some thing which he had commented during his speech though. according to him , most of the victims happened to be drunk men , is this a fare and accurate statement ? i personally know , one man got killed by an elephant when he was going to work in the morning ;furthermore, there were so many incidents where elephants wreak havoc in many villages. Dr Pilapitiya your effort in saving the jumbos is commendable , but be careful what you say in public.

    • 1
      0

      Welcome to life in Sri Lanka. There are hundreds of “best Men” who will never be allowed to do anything in Sri Lanka because they will challenge the system that is in place !

      We need to change the “system” and by this I mean the very fabric of society before “best Men” are allowed to work or even survive in this Country.

      You of all people should know this !

  • 18
    9

    Are “Maria Kade” politics of Premadasa Junior a factor in this bloody awful affair?

    Kick Premadasa out.

    Bring Dr. Sumith Pilapitya in!

    Cheers!

    • 12
      5

      Ben boy, Tamils genocide denier and believe jaffna library burnt by ltte, hope u accept sinhala Buddhist fools ruined u r land and mine….
      cheers

      • 8
        7

        JAMIS MUTHU BANDA

        The Demela speaking Sinhalam

        “hope u accept sinhala Buddhist fools ruined u r land and mine…. cheers”

        The land is ours, you and Ben the long-term leaseholders.

        If both misbehave I may have to evict both of you.

        • 1
          0

          [Edited out]

          • 3
            2

            JAMIS MUTHU BANDA The Demela speaking Sinhalam

            “[Edited out]”

            Brilliant, thanks for keeping it brief.

          • 4
            2

            Dear Muthu (Banda),

            Love your brief response to Native. As so often is the case with you brother, it makes no sense.

            Cheers!

            PS:
            Is Muthu your childhood, up-country nickname?

  • 5
    3

    More important problem to discuss and expose and settle rather Dr Pilpitiya case. Without Pilapitiya any way wild life goes usual as many other organizations in Sri lankan low level ways.I do not know why no one is talking about day time robbery of poor tax payers money with fake professor appointment in local Universities. Recently I checked Sri Lankan Universities Management faculty Lecturers and Profs credentials. It is shamed to see that no person has PhD from recognized world class University (at least top 100) and AACSB accredited place. Still this day time robbery of fake professor appointment are continuing at local University level. Now all Sri Lankan tax payers duty is to expose fake professors to the nation. I guess more than 95% are fakes eating poor tax payers money as salary.

  • 10
    4

    Brilliant words from a daughter of an illustrious late farther!

  • 10
    0

    Wow. Thank you Ajita for bringing this to the forefront. Ten men of the caliber of this man would do wonders in strategically appointed posts for the betterment of the country.
    Brilliant. I hope everything turns out okay.

  • 5
    0

    The events leading up to the DG of Wildlife’s resignation is just an indication of all that is rotten about those we have elected to lead our nation.

    While there may be a few who do try to do the best that they can, by far the majority of them are there for the sole purpose of self gain irrespective of the cost to the nation, its people, its environment.

    Enough is enough me thinks, we should not continue to just turn the other cheek saying ‘so what to do aney?’ – time to show these charlatans that we the people stand for what is right, for honesty, integrity, for professionalism, for the doing what is right.

    This current GOSL was elected on the premise of #Yahapalanaya, #GoodGovernance; its not taken long for them to revert back to doing exactly what the previous one did – no surprise really considering that it’s the very same people…

    • 1
      0

      Sumudu Dhanapala:-

      Westminister Democracy, does not seem to be Working for Sri Lanka.

      It has become a Contest of Personalities and Parties, not The Will of the People!

      What has become of, ‘By the People, For the People’?

  • 4
    0

    Dear Ajitha

    The people of Sri Lanka are fast learning the lesson that we need people who are professionals to develop as a nation.

    As the Americans say, “we will remember in November” it is unlikely Sri Lankans will forget when it comes to the 2020 elections.

    I will be surprised if many of the current members of parliament retain their membership.

    • 8
      0

      Chameleons always retain seats, alas, but not morons!

  • 3
    1

    Yahapalanaya is not interested in the best man.
    They want my man.

    What crap Ajitha…. did you not know that Yahapalanaya was all about CRAP?
    Hope in Ranil faded in double quick time and Ranil has proved that he is just another Nicompoop.

  • 10
    0

    Political cronyism and political interference has sadly been a curse on the Sri Lankan system for a long time. Be it UNP or SLFP or whatever Pee, this has always been a curse. Those well meaning, accomplished people who were asked to take over certain jobs to do something good are always relentlessly attacked or have to bow to sub-educated low life Ministerial Deities. This has become worse over the past 2 decades.

  • 9
    1

    Good or Bad Ranil Wickramasinghe at least had some good sense to appoint the guy. Our Village idiots with their sarongs raised high have lost out. So they have to get rid of Sumith?
    I saw the idiot Dela Bandara talking a truck load of Rubbish. Wish Sumith had accidentally dumped him in his rubbish dump and turned in to compost! These priests have not got the foggiest idea of, the Lord Buddha’s teachings.
    The president has to stop chanting Bana and learn to think.
    Like some one correctly said 10 of Pilapitiya with Knowlege , self respect and Intergrity will put Sri Lanka right! I noticed the people in the wild life department protesting about his retirement. That shows their commitment and all they need is direction.

  • 7
    1

    Many issues are there to discuss likewise Ms. Dilka said University mafia business and fake professor appoints etc. But Sri Lankans by nature goes behind small petty thing such as Elephant Judge and Wild life director resignation. Without Dr Pilapitiya wild life goes in Sri Lankan ways. Western wild life concepts can not apply here. Politics is the reality in this part of the world. Rather resigning, he should be able to changed the way of thinking (mentality change) of politicians gradually. Working in Neo classical institutions’ such as WB is not a qualification to get good position because WB is the main obstacle for developing country to get out of poverty and under development.

    • 4
      0

      Nobody is forcing any country go to WB! Why do you go to WB?

  • 4
    0

    Fight for Pilapitiya to stay on- its the battle for Sri Lanka’s soul.
    Don’t give in to the politicians
    Right is might

  • 5
    4

    Sri Lanka Veterinary Surgeons Association has protested about the treatment of elephants.

    http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/sri-lankan-veterinarians-strike-better-treatment-elephants-2010

    Now they too should support Dr Sumith Pilapitiya in his efforts to ensure justice for the elephant population.

  • 21
    0

    “The key word is ‘system’. He would approach the myriad of DWC problems and setbacks in a systematic way. “

    This looks more of an advertisement for position on behalf of `clubWBguy`
    sense of perceptual reality vs conceptual reality

    Refusal to accept a system not because it is incorrect, but because it is the system,- is to think outside the box.

    Forget the beautiful air castles and return to life itself.

    dog mans best friend.-Hachikō!

  • 10
    1

    “For god’s sake let sanity and moral conscience prevail over avarice and corrupt agendas.” Ajitha, I am sure you are joking. When did sanity and moral conscience prevail in Sri Lanka. Avarice and corrupt agendas is the only agendas of the politicians in Sri Lanka, the only agendas of the Monks in the temples, the only agenda’s of the perehara organisers, and to tell you the truth almost (well almost) all the Sri Lankans for that matter. In the game of avarice and corruption some win handsomely (like the politicians and monks) and most others lose – most certainly the average voter. If Dr Pilapitiya stands on the way of avarice and corruption he must be removed and made to move. So he is leaving before being pushed. That is all.

  • 5
    3

    I do not know why Dr Pilapitiya can not understand UNP top is using him to discredits Sajith and tarnish his image because they want to stop Sajith is coming to top in UNP. But poor Pilapitiya used by UNP top to attack Sajith. Pilapitiya should be able to understand that reality. You see WB workers’ common sense. I guess Ajitha also same. Read first Ranil and his strategy not the books. UNP top may be laughing for Sri Lankan educated peoples’ common sense and IQ.

  • 9
    0

    The present regime was voted in not because they were wanted. The whole idea was only to get the previous regime out, and the public voted the present regime on false promises, which are broken daily. The poor man is hit, as usual, whilst the politicians are riding in luxury vehicles (duty free), coupled with a loan to purchase them. Vehicle prices have been increased to levels beyond the average person’s affordability and one Ministerial type says, “that it is to prevent unwanted people from buying cars”. Who are the “Unwanted people” except the politicians themselves?

    “YAHAPALANAYA” is the biggest disappointment in recent years, with all the defeated and rejected crooks from the previous regime being given top Ministerial posts. What right have they got to be there? Just to consolidate the positions of MS and RW ??

    The crooks are back, including at the Central Bank.

  • 12
    0

    Waste Management the Mismanaged like Climate – Arnold “Al” Gore Jr 2007
    10 years on the public is being ripped off by the new breed of mismanaged waste.

    We enjoyed our bio degradable free bags and no sooner the revolutionary plastics would be bio degradable thanks to scientific research of the manufacturers and public.

    All this was halted because of waste management lobbyist who is into making money salvaging it as a tax free venture but they will not wet their hands and let the plastic flow into rivers and canals, ocean. They want to stop the people’s natural habit to have bags to carry??

    They have stopped unilateral pro-public research into bio degradable and taxed us at source for the plastic (double tax)

    2 days back BBC current event.
    British Waste management expert: The amount of plastics that clog the waterways is alarming and disgusting. We create collector jobs and recycle.
    Singapore Waste Management Expert: Why have you stopped bio-degradable and charged for the non-bio- degradable? You are not picking the plastics off the waterways?

    There are hills of waste (kollannawe) that could be made into sculptures with golf cart size heavy earth moving machines even women can handle like toys. Seen Green Jihad at Sierra Loren by Fareed Zakaria- now that is art at its best. That’s what we call cultural charity scoop.

    Don’t waste your time with a WM who is not in his profession but that of human sciences- biologist.

  • 0
    0

    lawlessness has to stop somewhere

  • 1
    0

    Cruelty to animal is bad in all its senses.Can some one commenton killing of all animals by millions, for food is also bad and be stopped. Whether an ant or an elephant its life that matters!

  • 4
    0

    The perennial curse of Sri Lanka: the capable and competent are trumped by crooked, devious and downright incompetent politicians and their proxies.

    May their tribe rot!

  • 11
    0

    Run across any hall of honour, with statutes of the great men of history lining the corridor, and you will perceive that rationality of conduct is probably the last thing to be recalled from their lives.

    Is it not plain `passion` rather than reason rules the world?

    The public like face licking humans.

  • 1
    1

    If sri lanka is to develop this type of nonsense has to stop. Today the qualified personnel cannot suggest and implement what is good for the country due to the jealousy and the small mindedness of the politicos and their ” jonnys “. Brain drain will continue from Sri Lanka leaving the few right minded people in the country like us, at the mercy of political hooligans ! Lets team up and fight for what is right and pressurize the lawmakers to retain Sumith as the DG.

  • 0
    0

    We as humans have to move forward with the rest of the world on these issues specially of our precious elephants and wild life. We don’t want our elephants to end up in history books and pictures like dinosaurs atleast their extinction was natural . What we do to the poor elephants and other endangered species would be man made “ignorance taken over knowledge “. So it is time to educate the people. Just think about while the rest of the world is working with computers we are still working with elephants. Our crooked politicians has to start from college not from the paddy fields. The srilankan citizens should be more wise when electing people. We should not forget that when we do, we are leaving our most valuable and vounarable resources in theses people’s hands. May be there should be a qualification process they should be put through to find out where there education level and ideas are. Before they could go in to the public to address and represent the people! Our goal should be to draw attention to Srilanka in a positive way . The only way is by releasing the elephants to the wild. By doing so would put us on the padestal and also the rest of the world will see what humans are capable of. It is time to set an example and be an example to the rest of the world .

  • 0
    0

    Will Dr Sumith Palpitiya personally tell us how and who prevented him from doing his job?

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