Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya a leading environmental specialist in the South Asia Environment, Water Resources and Climate Change Unit at the World Bank office who was appointed as the Director General of the Wild Life Conservation Department (WLCD) in April made a promise: “ As an environmental professional, during my tenure as director general I will not violate the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance or do anything detrimental to wildlife conservation in Sri Lanka. I would rather resign than be instrumental in causing a negative impact on wildlife conservation.”
Many environmentalists extended their gratitude for appointing such an ecologist who had the academic knowledge as well as extensive experience in the World Bank managing its wildlife projects.
Dr. Pilapitiya bade goodbye to his job as the lead environmental specialist for the South Asia Environment, Water Resources and Climate Change Unit at the World Bank office, and undertook this post to work on his passion of wild life specially elephants and to protect this country’s wildlife and fauna and flora.
However, on Monday in a controversial manner he tendered his resignation to Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera. The Daily Mirror in an attempt to find out the real reason for his sudden resignation came across some serious issues which needed more clarifications by the relevant and responsible authorities.
According to a WLCD official, a doctor who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily Mirror that there were serious incidents which prompted Dr. Pilapitiya to resign his post.
Dr.Pilapitiya was branded as a ‘stubborn’ officer: WLCD official
The official said so much pressure was placed on Dr. Pilapitiya over various issues and they had allegedly disrupted his work.
There were issues; one had been regarding the release of some illegally detained elephants and more recently about a raid where a dead tiger and 46 kilos of animal meat found in the Yala National Park. Both these incidents made Dr. Pilapitiya to rethink about his job.
“In a previous instance, a person, representing all private elephant owners who was also holding a religiously and culturally important position of the country, had contacted Dr. Pilapitiya and asked him to release elephants to their private owners claiming they needed to be used for processions in temples. Subsequently, Dr. Piliapitiya had sought the advice of the Attorney General who had intimated that the elephants could not be released. The AG had also said that if the DG sends a request in writing [which can be interpreted as being against the law] , it can be done. Dr. Pilapitiya had refused to do so and had informed the AG that as long as he serves as DG of the Wild Life Department, he would not allow such things to happen,” the WLCD official said.
However, this incident had been reported to the President who had directed Dr. Pilapitiya to issue permits to capture the required number of elephants from forests which are under the administration of the Wildlife Conservation Department.
Dr. Piliapitiya has not agreed to initiate that directive either.