2 December, 2023


Who Brought The Elephant Into The Room And Who Will Remove It?

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Elephants are majestic creatures.  They are also beasts of burden.  They give stature to pageants.  Those who have tusks are especially valuable to the point that they are hunted, killed and divested of their prized ‘possessions’.   They also enhance status of owners.  Elephants are sought then for a variety of reasons.  There are therefore laws about acquisition.  Whether these are adequate is a moot point.  What is clear is that enforcement is a joke.  What’s worse is that there are sinister forces which deliberately and systematically subvert enforcement. 

We are talking here about the case of the illegal capture of elephants.  This is an issue that has been in the news for quite some time.  It is not just a matter of one status-seeking ruffian ferreting away a baby elephant, coming up with all kinds of excuses when found out and then working the system with whatever oil works to give slip to the law.  We are talking about an entire set of rogues working in concert.  We are talking of a system that is tailor made for theft.  We are talking also of a culture that encourages wrongdoing, trips those who would dare, by way of carrying out duties, subvert such machinations.

The allegations are serious enough.  Environmentalists have complained that forged documents have been submitted to support applications to register calf-elephants.   An audit query carried out by the Auditor General’s Department has revealed that this allegation is correct and that the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and the Public Property Act have been violated. A single permit (No 229) has been issued for two elephants (one male, one female).  Four other permits (Nos 331, 334, 358 and 359) have been issued by the Department of Wildlife Conservation although the stated information does not tally with the size of the animals.  In the case of Permit No 331, the elephant for which the permit was sought is a male although the application indicates it is a female.  Permits 226 and 338 contain forged signatures of former DWLC Director General, Chandrawansha Pathiraja.

The hanky-panky with respect to registration has been well documented.  Officials are yet to respond adequately to allegations. It would have been disturbing enough if relevant authorities had taken refuge in the ostrich option.  What we see, however, is active collusion by authorities.  In one case, for example, a magistrate is implicated over improper registration.  The owner of the Hambantota Bird Park Ajith Gallage as well as the now suspended Wildlife Officer and Flying Squad chief (no less!) have been identified among those involved in forging documents to obtain licenses for elephants captured illegally from the wild.

What is most disturbing about the current situation is the sudden and inexplicable transfer of a key official involved in the investigation.  Deputy Auditor General A. H. M. L. Ambanwela, previously in charge of the DWLC, Forest Department and Central Environment Authority (CEA) sections was transferred to the Labour and Sport section.  Ambanwela, coincidentally was the person who compiled the audit query.  His transfer is nothing less, at least in appearance, than throwing a spanner in the wheels of a process that would clearly have embarrassed a lot of important people.  The Auditor General has not covered himself in glory here.  Indeed it appears that either he himself is implicated or he does not have the integrity to defend the honor of the institution he heads in the face of political pressure.

This is not the first time that Ambanwela has been in the news.  When he was working on an audit of procurement in the Central Province he was subjected to an acid attack.  He is a man who has suffered and has borne his suffering without a flinch, clearly a man of integrity who takes his job seriously.  His track record is unblemished.   His new post, not surprisingly, carries little responsibility. A officer of his caliber and experience, one would imagine, would have been ideal to oversee areas such as the  ETF, an entity that had been rocked by scandal after scandal.

The problem here is that Lalith Ambanwela being sidelined from the case is not a random, one-off affair. It is one of what has come to become routine whenever any official or politician comes under investigation.  Lalith Ambalwela had acid thrown on his face.  A key witness in the case involving a politician forcing a school teacher to get on her knees was found dead inside a well recently.  Police officers who crossed the path of politicians, big and small, have been transferred by the dozen.

It is clear that rules and regulations, law and order, are not worth much in this country.  When a country reaches a point where honest officials with skill and a strong sense of integrity are deliberately sidelined or are subjected to threat, intimidation and attack, when a country comes to a point where the institutional apparatus does not function or is replaced by informal arrangements where political interference is what counts, it can be described as anarchic.

Lalith Ambanwela is not the only official who takes his job seriously.  There are countless others in the public service.  He is not the only such official who has been given the short end of the stick.  That’s what is most bothersome.  When such people are attacked, a strong message is given to all.  Those who are faint of heart will fold up immediately.  Over time a culture is produced; a culture of complacency, of looking askance and of doing-as-told-and-shutting-up.  In such a situation people like Ambanwela are quickly dismissed as mavericks and offloaded.  Or worse, one must add, considering what he has already had to suffer.

What does all this tell us of the overall picture?  The Government is clearly not clueless or spineless.  In fact it is showing remarkable clarity and spunk.  It is in in-your-face mode.  It is doing the dirty and asking ‘so what?’  In short the entire institutional apparatus has collapsed.  Fresh paint on façade cannot fool everyone.  The ‘dirty’ of the inside is, after all, seen by all and all the time too, whether it is in a police station, in a crime scene or a traffic accident involving VIPs.

There are two things one might do well to remember.  If the boss is up to no good, it  amounts to a license for everyone under him or her to likewise indulge in wrongdoing.  Secondly, if anyone in any institution is up to mischief, the chances are that those above are either up to mischief themselves or else incompetent and/or powerless to put a stop to it.  There’s a huge elephant in the room.  It is a wild elephant.  It is not the kind of creature that is the kathaanaayaka or protagonist of this story.  It has a name. Corruption.  It has been brought in by the powerful.  It is on a rampage.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Ayiyoo Malinda ,

    Still you are at the Kinder garden,
    either you are trying to do that, Hiding your xx.
    Are you afraid of the rope of Kudu Mervin,
    Who is going to say that,” He tied himself”.
    Beware of him, He knows many Secrets of your F king.

    Do not worry, They have many mahouts, who are sitting on their brains {like you].
    But all are Blind, and try to identify the shape of the Elephant.

    • 3

      Malinda Seneviratne –

      “There are two things one might do well to remember. If the boss is up to no good, it amounts to a license for everyone under him or her to likewise indulge in wrongdoing. Secondly, if anyone in any institution is up to mischief, the chances are that those above are either up to mischief themselves or else incompetent and/or powerless to put a stop to it. There’s a huge elephant in the room. It is a wild elephant. It is not the kind of creature that is the kathaanaayaka or protagonist of this story. It has a name. Corruption. It has been brought in by the powerful. It is on a rampage.”

      The Elephant in the room in the country is called Gaja, or MaRa.

      The Mahouts are the shills who pick up the Elephant dung called cronies and Shills and washes the elephant.

      You are familiar with them, because you are one of them, Gajaratne.

      • 0

        Stop the cruelty to ELEPHANTS Malinda – please start a campaign and use your pen…
        Elephants ran amok during the Kandy Perahera. The Perahera is institutionalized CRUELTY AND TORTURE OF ELEPHANTS by Sinhala Buddhist Modayas.
        Elephants who are forced to dress up and wear lights and boil in the heat to please stupid humans will naturally run amok.
        Animal lovers and environmentalists should call for a ban on the use of MASSIVE AND OBSCENE number of elephants in Perahera to boost the EGOS of the mahanayake of Kandy and Ganga Ramaya which stage masswive peraheras with huge numbers of elephants to should how great they are.
        These so called monks who show off with grand pereheras are an INSULT TO BUDDHISM and WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT>

    • 0

      Malinda Seneviratne –

      Rajapakse Government Family Tree


      Are in the Updated Family gravy Tree, to ride the elephants?

  • 8

    Elephants though huge are a minor matter compared to what’s happening elsewhere.

    What about the killing of the witness for the “Kneeling down the schoolteacher incident”.

    That is where Sri Lanka is at now. There should be a huge uproar about it. The SOB is in prison and he still managed to kill the witness as he had threatened and promised.

    “Mage ange malu natanawa e gana hithanakota” I am boiling with rage when I think of it.

  • 3

    I say, what’s up these days with young Malinda? He’s actually saying there is corruption in the country, and actually provided evidence to back that ‘outrageous’ claim up?!!

    Young fella, I am sure you realise that the elephantine issue you highlight in this column is of mouse-like proportion in comparison to the extent of perversion wreaked in all facets of society and officialdom in our thrice-blessed land. So while I guardedly applaud your point of view today, if you want your readership to consider that you have even a single hair of sincerity of purpose in the common good of the country rather than be a shill for the regime, I strongly suggest that you start at the top, call it like it is and then use the platform of your newspaper to systematically remove the bricks from this infinitely cursed edifice of corruption, one by one.

    Will it happen? Am I dreaming? I live in hope, but we shall see!

  • 1

    What our inhabitants need to worry about right now is the Green Elephant.

    After failing to set the Sinhala Buddhists against the poor Muslims in the South,now the latest attempts are to import the displaced, and the relatives of the disappeared who are Christians to Colombo and get the Mad Monks to attack them.

    With the Holy See arriving early in the new year,and the Presidential Election soon after, the Green Elephants and their mahouts have got into panic mode.

    One of their main supporters from the West has already waved the Yellow Card, to our inhabitants ,

    It was soon after he ordered air strikes on Iraqis, whom they liberated from the bad “Dictatorial President” to live in peace and harmony and practice”
    “safe Democracy”.

    Is stirring racist instincts and conning our poor inhabitant majority in to carry out pogroms against the minorities the only way now to get the foreigners to directly intervene and do regime change?.

    These are the issues the Srilankan Journs should focus on if they want to protect the current peace, stability and harmony among the inhabitants and allow the Nation to move forward , developing the country for the benefit of all inhabitants.

    • 0

      The Elephant is bling senile and cannot perform anymore. The Eleophant is just a smbol of the losers. All those who could have fed the elephant with viagra have changed sides so what does the elephant do but lie down somewhere and die.

  • 6

    Malinda has just woken from deep slumber..and voila` an epiphany!!

  • 2

    I forgot to tell you,
    this is not throwing mud but real facts on the scene of Jarapassa theatre in Sri Lanka.

    The undies washing “Sona ali Wada Ge” got the Sxxx Bucket Full and had a sxxx bath with blessings From Hothambaya’s MOD.

    And Huge bill boards of F king ‘s apologizing to M G R’s keep, in all over the T Naadu.
    What a shame for Us Sri lankans,
    but we know that, No shame for the Maadu mulan clan and you guys.
    You, Raj PAL, BANaDul’s and Other ilk’s times also, very very close.

  • 0

    Malinda, [Edited out] A long while back you lost your credibility as a journalist.

  • 2

    Elephant in the room, which brother are you talking about?

  • 0

    The last paragraph further confirms that the President has lost the grip of the Country and that it is now ruled by TERROR very surreptitiously unleashed by GR and the Clan…now he is planning to enter the parliament through Kotte electorate which is being decorated at a terrific speed …our own money is spent for his election…one should pity for him because he fears of his life if the Govt changes…he will not have a job….so .Malinda , you are right there is a total collapse

  • 1

    Malinda what is happening to 160 million paid by Chinese consortium for the land on the Galle face green. Has GR pocketed it for his election campaign. What is happening to his offshore Ammunition stores. What about Mr.10% BR, How much does the MR’S cut? Now how could this elephant in the room be removed? Could journalist educate the Sinhala masses about this corruption? When they come to know the cheats, let them decide whether to kill or chase this rouge elephant from the room.

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