Coconut theft on the rise
By Quintus Perera
Coconut growers have urged police to take action against large-scale theft, warning that the industry would collapse if these issues were not resolved. The Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka (CGASL) at a crucial meeting with the police last week made these comments, saying coconuts were being stolen in large quantities from their estates. They sought assistance from police to take prevention measures as it has a negative effect on the coconut industry and the national economy, as a whole.

The meeting was held at Browns Beach Hotel, Negombo with DIG North Western Range Asoka Ratnaweera; DIG Western Province North Sarath Komalawithana; SSP Gampaha,S M Wickramasinghe; SSP Negombo K A J Keenawinna; SSP Chilaw, Upali Ranasinghe; SSP Kurunegala, Y R W Wijegunawardene; SSP Nikaweratiya, A M G B Amarakoon and SSP Kuliyapitiya, W P Dayaratne attending.

CGASL President J.V.R. Dias said the meeting was convened to discuss theft of fallen nuts/from heap and illicit picking, theft of livestock, particularly cattle; damage to barbed wire fences; connivance between estate staff and buyers of illicit nuts; using estates for illicit activities; threat to estate staff from criminals; theft/fraud by employees and police lethargy/complicity.

Coconut growers pointed out that this uncontrollable attitude prevails in the country due to lawlessness and if law and order cannot be established in this country, social and economic development could not be achieved. Growers noted that of the three commercial crops - tea, rubber and coconut - theft mostly occurred by gangs in coconut only.

Harindra Abeysekera, Executive Committee Member, CGASL summing up the proceeding said, "I don't think that they (robbers) have even spared those who own just one tree" and noted that coming to terms with the police in an attempt to overcome the problem was a good breakthrough. The problem was so bad that in some areas children after school were habitually robbing coconuts from estates.

Asoka Ratnaweera, DIG Western Province North said that the police would commence patrolling in these coconut growing areas, but said that their difficulty would be lack of sufficient strength to do so.

All these matters would be discussed at SSP level meetings and the decisions taken at those meetings would be passed on to the OICs for implementation. Growers should also have to meet the OICs regularly and coordinate the implementtion of these decisions.

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