October 23, 2013
This week Vietnamese customs officials discovered and confiscated 2.4 tons of elephant ivory. The ivory had been shipped from Malaysia, again. Earlier this month the same Vietnamese officials confiscated a shipment of 2.1 tons of elephants ivory, once again shipped from Malaysia enroute to China.
As anyone can see, Malaysia remains a very important link in the illegal ivory trade, resulting in about 100 elephants a day being slaughtered just to provide ivory trinkets and ornaments. Does it cross your mind why the Vietnamese customs officials can detect ivory, but not their Malaysian counterparts? I mean. Both have human beings as customs agents.
Both have laws to uphold. However, when it comes to spotting ivory shipments, Malaysian government officials appear struck by something akin to selective blindness.
On Aug 12, this year Minister of Natural Resources & Environment (NRE) G Palanivel declared publicly an independent audit of ivory stocks held in Malaysia was unnecessary and his staff were “ ……. in the midst of doing an inventory of the ivory seized,” .
Two months later we are still waiting for the outcome. Against a backdrop of suspicion some ivory may have been misappropriated, do you think Perhilitan is struggling to make its sums add up?
An independent audit is the only acceptable answer. Preventing such an audit implies officials have something to hide, and here again their lack of transparency brings this suspicion and public exposure upon themselves. The minister also declines to have the ivory destroyed – after an independent audit.
If you were of a suspicious mind, you could be forgiven for wondering if there is any ivory left to destroy and might this be why the minister and his Perhilitan department don’t want the ivory put on public display prior to its destruction? What’s the point in keeping the ivory?
I don’t suppose anyone has been arrested yet, much less prosecuted for trading in ivory. Why might that be you may well wonder?
One way or another the minister and his staff are making a real mess of this ivory scandal. In doing so they are bringing shame on Malaysia almost on a weekly basis. It seems highly likely Malaysia will be sanctioned by CITES – the ultimate embarrassment and shame for his ministry and Malaysia. All self inflicted.
I just hope the ministry and his staff do not attempt to blame me or others. Stopping the ivory trade flowing through Malaysia is their responsibility. The only reason why I write on this subject is because, as you can see, the ivory trade appears to be going from bad to worse – and via Malaysia.
Being sanctioned means a country has repeatedly failed to uphold its international commitments to CITES, ignored warnings, resulting in a country being banned from all international trade in wildlife. When this happens Malaysia will be abandoned to a group with the worst track record in the world for complicity in the illegal wildlife trade: Could this final indignity happen on Palanivel’s watch?