Saturday, 14 June 2014 00:00
The arrest of two brothers while they were transporting 85 kilograms of heroin is yet another dramatic revelation of how deep the drug menace runs in Sri Lanka. The bust, which follows on the heels of a Police OIC and his wife peddling drugs as well as a drug scandal engulfing the Prime Minister, shows the depth of the drug war in Sri Lanka. Given the scale of the battle, it seems law enforcement authorities are wholly outgunned in this battle.
Then comes the involvement of politicians and other powerful members of Government. The crony system that is in place allows for an unhealthy alliance between wrongdoers and politicians with no space for the law to do its duty impartially. Even though known drug lords are part of the governance system, there is no provision within which to target them as the crony system protects them, usually at the cost of the public.
Official records show 53,000 people have been arrested for drug offences in 2013. According to Government statistics, 78% of imprisonments in 2011 were of drug users. The number of imprisonments due to drug addiction reached 10,568 in 2011 while 6,165 persons had been imprisoned due to the same offence for the second time and 2,073 for more than two occasions. Police have noted that in the first six months of 2012, over 19,000 people suspected of drug possession were arrested.
So bad has the problem become the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) has been placed on alert that Sri Lanka is being used as a transit point for smuggling hard drugs to other countries. Of them 25 were Pakistanis, four Indians, six Maldivians and five Iranians. In 2010 alone, 25 foreigners were arrested for the trafficking of 55 kilos of heroin.
From 2009 to 2010, the street value of heroine increased by 43%, showing the massive amount of money involved in the trafficking. The report also pointed out that over 30,000 people were imprisoned in 2010 on drug-related charges, creating a massive challenge for law enforcement authorities. It was reported in 2012 February that special teams have been deployed at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) to detect the attempts.
In 2011 the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board warned that the country was under increasing threat in its annual report. According to the report, 58 foreigners have been arrested in Sri Lanka for drug trafficking within the last five years. From 2009 to 2010, the street value of heroine increased by 43%, showing the massive amount of money involved in the trafficking.
Drug addiction is a grave problem for the public. It is no secret that the drug trade often receives powerful political patronage and given the longevity of trafficking in Sri Lanka, it can be supposed that the support has also extended over many long years.
Taking tough and holistic action against these offenders is the only way to mitigate this horrific problem. It is clear from the latest statistics that Sri Lanka needs to step up its vigilance through awareness, better legal action and tougher punishment for the drug lords in the country. Even Government Ministers are slowly waking up to the stark reality of drug trafficking in Sri Lanka, but unless they strengthen the Police and legal systems, it may soon be too late.