By Daniel Namwini
Lilongwe, September 30, Mana: Malawi Police Service (MPS) has committed to uphold the law and tackle serious crimes in the country especially the illegal trade in forest products and wildlife such as pangolin and ivory among others.
Commissioner of Police who is also a Director of Human Resource, Stein Kaliza, made the remarks at National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe on Wednesday during a media briefing on combating wildlife and forest crime.
“This is a commitment that is fully aligned with the government’s resolve to ensure both ecological and social justice in the country.
“The illegal plundering of our natural resources results in substantial losses that are both environment and economic thus have a significant impact on our citizens,” he said.
The country has in the past years convicted 51 suspects for wildlife crime.
Kaliza said the rate of arrest has increased substantially in recent years from 89 in 2018 to 123 in 2019
He pointed out that those individual who are arrested with small amounts of wildlife and forestry products argue that they are not part of organized crime network.
“However, they ultimately feed into illegal markets that require a high level of organization, corruption and collusion to reach the end customer,” he said.
He, therefore, said police would disrupt those organized criminal activities and networks that are known to trade in a multitude of products including gems, arms, timber and charcoal.
Department of Wildlife and National Parks Director, Brighton Kumchedwa, said the department is working MPS to develop specialized capacity to combat wildlife and forest product crimes.
“This includes a focus on trafficking and trade of round wood and charcoal both of which feed into high organized illegal network to meet both local and international demand,” he said.
The department has with police fortified entry points including airports with canine services to stop wildlife crime.
Kumchedwa said courts would impose custodial sentences on convicts.
In the Forest Act Amendment Bill of 2020, government recognized the gravity of forest crime which can now attract up to K10 million and custodial sentence of up to 20 years.