Holding forest officers ‘hostage’: Inaction amounts to tacit assent – Dr. Gunawardana

By Faadhila Thassim | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 15 2022
News Holding forest officers ‘hostage’: Inaction amounts to tacit assent – Dr. Gunawardana

By Faadhila Thassim

Chairman of the National Environmental Council (NEC), Dr. Jagath Gunawardana expressed concerns over the failure to take action against those who allegedly held a team of forest officers ‘hostage’ when they went to arrest seven persons involved in deforestation in the Wattegama-Kebiliththa Forest Reserve in Moneragala District on 11 January. 

The act of individuals who illegally entered the Wattegama-Kebiliththa Forest Reserve on Tuesday (11), destroying the forest reserve, and holding forest officers hostage, is an obstruction to the lawful exercise of the duties of officers, Dr. Gunawardana said.

The forest officers were allegedly held ‘hostage’ by about 200 persons. 

Dr. Gunawardana added that the failure to take action against such individuals is of grave concern, while saying that the Department of Forest Conservation is vested with the power to take action against those who unlawfully enter a forest reserve and engage in deforestation according to the provisions of the Forest Conservation Ordinance.

He said thereby the officers attached to the Department of Forest Conservation only carried out duties vested in them, adding that interfering with the lawful act of an official amounts to obstruction of duty and is punishable under Section 183 of the Penal Code, while threatening an officer involved in the legal exercise of his duties is an offence under Section 186 of the Penal Code.

Holding officers hostage is also an offence under Section 331 of the Penal Code, Dr. Gunawardana said, adding that an assembly of five or more persons is designated as an ‘unlawful assembly’ under Section 138 of the Penal Code, noting that irrespective of the relevant legal provisions, inaction of authorities is an issue.

He added that inaction could also amount to tacit assent to such acts and is a challenge to all officers involved in forest conservation.

By Faadhila Thassim | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 15 2022

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