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Concern over delay in Sri Lanka animal welfare law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan animal welfare organisations and activists are concerned over the delay in getting approval for a new animal welfare bill drafted 10 years ago to replace a century-old law, given increasing incidences of cruelty to animals.

Animal rights groups say they had to resort to court action to get government attention to the Animal Welfare Bill which includes provisions to set up an Animal Welfare Authority.

The objective of the Bill is to replace the antiquated Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance enacted over a century ago in 1907, and address current challenges in better protecting animals and promoting their welfare, a spokesman for animal rights groups said.

“Considering the escalating incidences of abuse and cruelty to animals, animal welfare  organizations and animals rights activists over the last several years  have been continuously agitating for priority attention for this bill,” he said.

Cabinet spokesman Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne last week said cabinet approval for the bill was delayed as several ministries had asked for time to make their observations.

He said there was no opposition to the bill nor amendments proposed and that it remained on the Cabinet’s schedule.

The Animal Welfare Bill was drafted by the Law Commission of Sri Lanka over a period of several years after wide consultation with the public, the spokesman for animal rights groups said.

The Bill was submitted to the then President in 2006 but as it appeared that there was no political will to pursue the enactment of this Bill, it was presented to parliament by Buddhist monk-turned parliamentarian Athureliya Ratana in 2010.

But with the dissolution of Parliament in the same year, the Bill lapsed, the spokesman said.

In 2010, a group of 14 religious and animal welfare organizations filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal seeking a court order to direct the relevant authorities to take action to reform  the laws for the better protection of animals.





“It was finally through this writ application that the petitioners were able to draw the attention of the government to the bill,” the spokesman said.
However, it was only in March 2015 that the bill was submitted to Cabinet by P. Harrison, the then minister of social services, welfare and livestock development, under new President Maithripala Sirisena’s “100 days work programme”.

The Cabinet directed Harrison to discuss the provisions of the Bill with the Treasury, call for pubic representations on the Bill and submit his report to Cabinet.

“We understand that after consulting the Treasury and calling for public representations as mentioned above, P. Harrison, presently Minister of Rural Economic Affairs, has now submitted his report to Cabinet, and a Cabinet decision is awaited,” the spokesman said.
 (Colombo/January 19, 2016)

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