Poser over signatures on wildlife permits
However improbable this may sound, it was suggested by Perhilitan Deputy Director-General I Misliah Mohamad Basir.
“There is a possibility that my signature was forged on the permits issued, as it happens quite often. But I need to have a look at the documents involved before jumping to conclusions,” she said when Malay Mail enquired about her alleged involvement in approving import-export permits to Anson Wong, a notorious wildlife smuggler
featured extensively in the widely acclaimed book The Lizard King — The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers.
Misliah admitted that she was responsible for issuing the permits and that Wong’s documents had been legitimate and legal before the approval was given. There were ISO guidelines to follow when issuing permits then, and a standard procedure was involved.
Wong had started a business in animal imports and exports in the 80s. Misliah joined the Penang Perhilitan in the 90s as director and was aware of Wong’s business.
His reputation as a smuggler arose only much later. Misliah said the department had only issued permits that allowed him to export animals from Malaysia that were not endangered such as monitor lizards, frogs, milipedes and centipedes.
“As far as Malaysia is concerned, he abides by local laws and has the necessary licences. What he does outside the country is not our concern,” she said.
When Malay Mail questioned Misliah on his international smuggler status, which is a matter of concern to the local wildlife, she replied that Perhilitan does monitor him very closely and he does not dare do anything on Malaysian soil.
But questions were raised when it was found that a couple of permits had been issued to Wong in 2001 — while he was serving time in the United States for smuggling.
Last Friday, Malaysian Animal Rights and Welfare Association (ROAR) president N. Surendran, lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on possible corruption involving Perhilitan with regard to smuggling.
He said Perhilitan has failed in its duty to protect the wildlife — that was entrusted to them — by allowing such permits to be issued to Wong. A source had provided him with the permit numbers given to Wong during his jail term.
“Malaysia has now turned into a hub for wildlife smuggling. It is an embarrassment that while a country such as the US has been taking pains to stop the smuggling, we have been encouraging it,” Surendran said.
Pet Positive president and PJ councillor Anthony Siva Balan Thanasayan, said this issue should not be taken lightly and he hopes the government would be able to set up a royal commission to look into the problem.
Also present at MACC were Teluk Intan Member of Parliament M. Manogaran, Malaysia Animal Welfare Society (MAW) president Shenaaz Khan, SPCA Selangor chairperson Christine Chin, and Kapar MP S. Manickavasagam.
Responding to their doubts on Perhilitan’s role, Misliah told Malay Mail that if they were able to prove it, Perhilitan would verify the information and take action accordingly.
“We will definitely cooperate fully with MACC. It’s also a chance for us to take a look at the documents involved,” said Misliah.
On the 2001 permits issued, Misliah does not remember if she was in charge then, and would need to refer back to the documents.
Recognising Surendran’s name, she recalled that he had lodged a police report against the Penang Wildlife Department for keeping 2,400 banded rat snakes, which were seized in an operation on March 6, 2007 in Batu Maung complex.
The snakes were stored there for several days before being delivered to traders. Malay Mail had reported in March 22, 2007 that Surendran claimed the department had breached the Protection of Wild Life Act 1972 when it sold the snakes.
He had also said instead of selling them the department should have released them into the wild, either here or in Thailand, where they were smuggled from.
Misliah said: “Surendran had taken a wrong stand on this. The rat snakes could not have been released into our habitat as it would damage the ecosystem, especially since they were not local wildlife.”
In November last year, Malay Mail had interviewed lawyer Bryan Christy, author of The Lizard King — who refuted claims by Perhilitan that the book was simply fiction.
In the book, US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent George Morrison, who arrested Wong in 1998, refers to Malaysia as “Fortress Malaysia” because Wong had flourished so easily in the country.
Christy said there were officials who were dedicated to protecting wildlife, but without stronger laws and policies, it will remain “Fortress Malaysia”.
All consignments checked: Deputy DG
FORGED Malaysian importexport permits are a favourite among smugglers as Deputy Director-General I of Perhilitan Misliah Mohamad Basir told Malay Mail that our permits are viewed as being very reliable.
“Countries such as Japan trust Malaysian import-export permits. We monitor and check all consignments and request for the countries involved to verify permits with us before allowing the consignment to pass. They will hold it until we give our approvals.”
However, as these consignments are in another country, Perhilitan will not be able to monitor them directly and would rely on the countries involved for verification.It is also through these verifications that Perhilitan finds out about forged permits.
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