Army can help solve human-elephant conflict – Karu

Karu Jayasuriya

The Army must play an active role in solving the human-elephant conflict, former Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) told the media on Thursday.

Given that 70% of the elephant habitat were located in human-inhabited areas, Sri Lanka needed a well-planned methodology to deal with the human-elephant conflict, former Speaker, Jayasuriya said.

A lot of work on the issue had been already done by Sri Lankan researchers like Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, Dr. AW Wijeratne and Supun Lahiru Prakash, Jayasuriya said.

Jayasuriya said that successive governments had ignored the proposals made by these experts and as a result, Sri Lanka had become the country with the highest number of elephant deaths in the world. Sri Lanka also had the second highest deaths of humans caused due to the human-elephant conflict.

“Various governments have promised to end the human-elephant conflict. But the problem is only worsening. Currently, 131 Divisional Secretariats in 19 districts in eight provinces are affected by the human-elephant conflict. Meanwhile, the conflict is rapidly escalating annually at a record rate.”

The human-elephant conflict can be seen from Hambantota in the South to the Madurankeni or Vadamarachchi East Divisional Secretariat at the Jaffna District in the North, Jayasuriya said adding that the findings of many world renowned Sri Lankan scholars who were respected and studied internationally but these scholars were ignored by decision makers in Sri Lanka.

“It is important to put up permanent electric fences as well as temporary electric fences around the paddy fields to protect settlements and cultivations against wild elephants. It is also important to carry out these activities through community based projects. At the same time, compensation for physical and property damage to the public must continue to be paid. As far as we know, no compensation has been paid for crop damage. Therefore, the government has to pay appropriate compensation for this damage. Also, in order to rid the country from this problem, an action plan needs to be planned at the national level.”

The former Speaker said that all relevant ministries and departments should be involved in solving the human-elephant conflict. A solution could be evolved through the active involvement of the Army as they did in the past during various disaster situations.

“A Presidential Task Force should be set up to provide the necessary facilities and guidance and oversee the implementation of an official plan. Only through such a joint process can the people of the country as well as the elephant resource be saved. We hope the government will pay attention to this.”

Jayasuriya said that a number of large scale frauds were being brazenly committed and that these large scale fraudsters should be brought to justice and punished.

“A person who resigned from his post because he was suspected of being either involved in or aiding such a massive fraud recently is working as the chairman of another institution which comes under the purview of the President. The government is not talking about the massive fraud of Rs. 10 billion that took place with his involvement. This is clearly a serious blow to the confidence that the people of this country have in the President. It will mar his reputation. He should understand that.”

(Source: The Island)