Despite an investigation initiated by the Botanical Gardens and Public Recreation Ministry to look into how baby elephant ‘Dinuda’ was included in an animal exchange programme, Minister Jayaratna Herath today said anyone could complain to the authorities concerned if there were allegations against him or other Ministry officials on the matter.
The donation of the five-year-old baby elephant named ‘Dinuda’, an elephant considered special as it was born on Victory Day (May 18, 2009), to a zoo in South Korea was halted on the intervention of President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently.
“We have initiated an investigation to determine how Dinuda was included in the exchange programme. I was not aware that the name was inserted. It is clear that an error had occurred in the Ministry or in other responsible Departments. If there are any allegations against me or any other Ministry official, they can complain to the Police, CID or the Bribery Commission,” the Minister said, shying away from hoards of questions raised by the media saying he could not give specific answers on the matter due to the ongoing investigation.
“It wouldn’t be fair for the investigation if I give more specific details on the matter. Everyone’s questions will be answered once the investigation report is published in two more weeks,” he said.
The Minister also rejected the allegations of having acquired money from having sold the elephant.
Ministry Secretary Willie Gamage said the elephant whose name was included in the exchange programme had undergone a surgery and Dinuda had been included instead, without the Minister or the Ministry being informed.
However two lions and two Bengal tigers had already been brought to Sri Lanka from Korea under the exchange programme. “We will either have to send two animals for the ones brought in or pay for the cost of bringing them here. We will decide what to do after the investigation is completed,” he said.
‘Dinuda’ currently resides in the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The Ministry said with the recent commencement of several safari parks and zoological gardens it was essential to have exchange programmes with other countries to bring animals to these parks and gardens.
The Ministry also noted that there was no exact age limit to send animals to other countries and said animals that can cope without parents could be sent. (Lahiru Pothmulla)