Letter to the Editor, Friends of the Earth Malaysia

Following is a Letter to the Editor, by Friends of the Earth Malaysia (Sahabat Alam Malaysia) published by BERNAMA, Malaysian National News Agency.  The letter follows-up the New Straits Times feature on The Lizard King:

Dear Editor,

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) refers to the book ‘The Lizard King’ by Bryan Christy. It is a shocking revelation of what goes on behind the smuggling scenes and the involvement of a Malaysian wildlife smuggler operating under the glare of the Wildlife Department. What caught our attention was the department’s immediate response to the feature article, brushing it off as merely a work of fiction. It is even more mind boggling that a government agency had come forth to the defense of a notorious wildlife smuggler by claiming that he operated within the law. Recent evidence emerging from criminal investigations suggest a close nexus between wildlife smugglers and government agencies. The author has focused his attention on the trade of live animals, and from investigations and first person interview has uncovered new levels of corruption and obfuscation that have enabled one trader to operate with impunity for several years. From the latter’s admission it can safely be said that the power of bribes has been instrumental in keeping the Malaysian smuggler in business. Indeed such large scale operations would not be possible without the assistance of someone in authority, and taking advantage of the loopholes in the law. The smuggling of wildlife is a low-risk, high profit enterprise, proving increasingly attractive to crime syndicates. When caught smugglers often face little more than a fine or short jail term. In countries with weak judicial systems, suspects can stall their cases indefinitely while resuming their illicit business. The danger of losing the war against wildlife crime is real, especially for some endangered animals and plants, unless modern professional law enforcement techniques are directed against wildlife smugglers and traders who care for nothing but profit. As the custodian of the nation’s wildlife, the wildlife department should conduct large scale investigations into the officers implicated in the book. At the same time, it needs to revise completely the whole wildlife legislation to plug existing loopholes. However, strict protection measures alone cannot address wildlife conservation and poaching. It requires the support of the local community. Information sharing to control poaching and smuggling needs to be developed amongst enforcement agencies and stakeholders. The department must address all weaknesses in the current system, show where it fails and clearly outline what needs to be done to address all weaknesses in the Act. Thank you.

Yours sincerely

S M Mohd Idris President

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