Posts Tagged ‘Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’

Drunk or Sober–Fishing for Mr. Big

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Two news items out of Malaysia: In the first, from The Star, Malaysia’s wildlife department (Perhilitan) demonstrates why more and more people see the wildlife department as a bigger problem than even the wildlife traffickers who exploit the country.  “Illegal trade in wildlife is happening in Malaysia but it is still under control with effective enforcement,”  said Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Per­hilitan), in an interview with The Star newspaper of Malaysia(emphasis added).  “The department is doing everything within its authority and jurisdiction to curb illegal wildlife trade in Peninsular Malaysia.” 

Really?  That’s the department’s official response to years of wildlife trafficking, to a reputation for so little law enforcement that Malaysia is a favorite hub for criminal syndicates moving endangered wildlife from Africa, Asia, the US and Europe?  We have it under control?

Obviously, the wildlife department cannot and will not fix itself any more than an alcoholic can fix himself without help.  The Malaysian people and the world have confronted the department with its problem (we have had the intervention)–everyone (except the wildlife department) recognizes years of abuse has occurred–of smuggling, of issuing endangered species permits to smugglers, of poorly managed rescue centers, and on and on (click perhilitan in my blog and you’ll see some examples over just the past 2 years; here’s a good story today).  The first step to reforming an alcoholic is for the person to admit he has a problem.  Despite all the endangered species that have passed through Malaysia, the wildlife department is not even at this stage yet.  It still denies it has a problem.  A person in denial cannot be cured.

In the second news item, from The Sun, Azrina Abdullah makes the case for increasing the punishment on Anson Wong, listing major laws Anson recently broke, “Come Down Hard on Illegal Wildlife Traders.” 

(BTW, news outlets around the world have picked up The Lizard King to describe Anson Wong, drawing the moniker from my book.  As Ms. Abdullah points out, Wong is not The Lizard King; he was part of the syndicate described in my book.  Wong was, of course, the subject of the National Geogprahic story, The Kingpin, which makes a good nickname, too.)

Last up, Malaysia’s Ministry of Environment (MNRE), which oversees the wildlife department, announces today it is creating an internal audit committee to review standard operating procedures in enforcement of laws and regulations on poaching, whatever that means.  A similar announcement was made last spring.  Malaysia’s new laws are excellent steps forward, but the audit committee idea sounds like just another way of saying, We aren’t going to do anything.

Which brings me back to the first sentence of this post.

New Wildlife Law for Malaysia!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Malaysia’s Parliament passed yesterday a comprehensive new wildlife act, the first major overhaul of its wildlife legislation since 1972!  Everyone involved–legislators, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment officials, Perhilitan supporters, NGO advocates, the Malaysian press, and the Malaysian public should be commended for taking this important step toward wildlife protection. 

The next, and more important step, is to enforce the new law.  (The last one was not well-enforced.)

This means funding for enforcement, and it means Ministry, Perhilitan and Customs officials investigating wildlife traffickers using controlled deliveries instead of simple seizures, moving against criminal kingpins instead of their couriers. 

Finally, it will mean prosecutors and judges taking the new law seriously. 

Perhilitan raided an operation recently with good success.

The new law comes none too soon, as this story today also demonstrates:

from  The Star

New Wildlife Law for Malaysia?!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Malaysia’s Parliament is currently debating a new comprehensive wildlife law, the Wildlife Conservation Act.  If passed-and MPs have only a few days to do it-the new law will be the first major wildlife law reform since 1972! 

Having a good law on the books will be a key to protecting Malaysia’s wildlife, to changing Malaysia’s reputation as a global wildlife trafficking hub, and to setting the country on track to becoming a regional leader on protecting its remarkable environment. 

Of course, good laws are only as strong as law enforcement.  The Ministry of Environment has taken positive steps to reform law enforcement and administration in the past year, but the Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) has a history of speaking one way to the media and the Ministry, and another to its “clients” in the wildife trade.  It takes both law reform and law enforcement reform to make a difference.   Passing this new law is certainly the first part of that equation. 

Hopefully, the debate this week will cover both the law and its enforcement.