Prominent environmental lawyer, Jagath Gunawardena last week dismissed the need for amendments for Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and urged the Government to fill in vacancies at the Department of Wildlife Conservation and to provide the Department with the needed financial, material and moral support.
In the wake of complaints received concerning dolphins and whales being disturbed by tourists in their habitats in places like Mirissa, Minister of Wildlife Gamini Jayawickrema Perera is reported as having stated that a new set of laws would soon be introduced to protect wild animals, creatures in the waters of the Ocean, and the environment.
However, Gunawardena said there was no need for new laws. “The Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance which was last amended as the Fauna and Flora Protection (Amendment) Act, No.22 of 2009, is adequate for the task and there is no need for new laws,” Gunawardena said, adding that the problems at present were with regards to aspects pertaining to the implementation of the laws in place.
Proposals for new laws in such a context are merely attempts to cover up inadequacies in the implementation or in the Department, he added, noting that the Minister could not be completely blamed as he may have been advised by others with regards to the said move.
“The Ordinance in question has regulations with regards to the protection of marine mammals. As in the recent case involving a sea eagle being killed, dolphins and whales are protected by the local law. It is a cognizable offence,” he opined.
He said suspects can be arrested by the Police or the Department of Wildlife Conservation without a warrant. Punishments include fines and imprisonment.
“If there are interferences to the conducting of the duties of the officials in the Department and corruption in the Department, these must be addressed. Every law should ideally be revised and amended every five years,” he added.
“The present law has stood for more than five years. What is the substantive basis for an urgent need to amend it? Calling for an amendment of a law whenever a problem is encountered is not very good. We can cope with the existing legal circumstances,” he observed. Ministor Perera was not available for a comment.