Pundits and jumbos (Sri Lanka)


Editorial, The Island/Lankaweb

Date Published

The present government has mastered the art of selling family silver. 

Having handed over the country’s only inland port to China for a song and undertaken to lease the second international airport to India, the yahapalana politicians are now eyeing poor wild animals as a source of foreign exchange. They have already launched a night safari project to torture animals at the Dehiwala zoo and, thereby, boost its revenue.

Deputy Minister Karunaratne Paranavithana has gone a step ahead. He has said the solution to the human-elephant conflict is to sell wild jumbos to foreigners! He says there are 6,000 elephants in the country at present though our forests can accommodate only 4,000 of them. So, he wants as many as 2,000 wild jumbos exported! We hope the government won’t set up a separate ministry for selling elephants as part of its regaining Sri Lankan programme.

The yahapalana politicians seem to have taken leave of their senses if their inane utterances are anything to go by. It is popularly said that ‘bale thiyanakota mole ne, mole thiyanakota bale ne, [when one has power one has no brains and when one has some brains one has no power].

True, the country’s forest cover is shrinking rapidly and the attendant problems are numerous. 

There are several reasons for this unfortunate situation, the main being illicit felling by racketeers with political connections and slash-and-burn or fire-fallow agriculture many villagers are dependent on; and elephants are losing their habitat as a result. It is only natural that some wild elephants stray into villages in search of food and water. 
Villagers have to either slay these jumbos or be slain as the Wildlife authorities have done precious little to protect them. People die in wild elephant attacks almost daily. 

The last several years have seen scores of elephants including calves being killed by hakkapatas (improvised explosive devices which blow off animals’ jaws) etc.

The solution, however, is not to sell elephants to other countries, but to take urgent action to tackle the issue of deforestation by cracking down on illicit fellers and launching a comprehensive reforestation campaign while short-term measures are adopted to de-escalate the human-elephant conflict. 

The government should seriously consider having solar-powered elephant fences erected in areas prone to wild jumbo attacks. Some human settlements are situated in areas which were once elephant habitats. 
Elephants never forget and try to reclaim their land. These villages have to be relocated with better facilities provided to their inhabitants so that both humans and elephants can live peacefully without confronting one another. President Maithripala Sirisena, as the Minister of Environment, ought to work out a strategy to tackle this ever worsening situation.

A few weeks ago two elephants were found struggling to remain afloat in the choppy seas off the eastern coast; the Navy had to fight quite a battle to save them. During the war, the Navy fought Sea Tigers. Thereafter, it was tasked with seizing Australia bound human smuggling vessels. Now, it has had to save jumbos! Is it that the elephants have also given up hope and are trying to flee the country, fed up with yahapalana politicians?

Now that the yahapalana pundits have sought to deal with what they call an increase in the number of elephants by selling some of the animals to foreigners, what will be the government’s solution to the issue of increasing human population? Will it legalise and promote the sale of babies to foreigners by way of population control?

The newly ratified amendments to the local government election laws are bound to lead to a massive increase in the number of local councillors. There are also too many ministers, most of whom are without any work and making silly statements. Is there any possibility of selling these useless politicians to foreigners maybe for a few dollars each?