OVER 10,000 drug addicts arrested over the space of one month. Statistics can put the socioeconomic development of Sri Lanka into start perspective as little else can.
The ‘Mathata Thitha’ policy along with increased police vigilance has spawned this startling set of numbers. For a country that is focusing almost obsessively on economic development, it is important to keep social considerations under the radar as well. While it is important for Sri Lankans to grow monetarily, they must also understand how this economic growth must be achieved. The full definition of success is not merely having money – how you make that money is also important.
The objective of this piece is not to discuss who is responsible but rather to advocate a dual dealing process that, while promoting the use of legal means to quell the drug menace, also calls for more awareness and understanding of the drug scourge. More and more school children are getting involved in drugs, showing that this has gone beyond the boundaries of most social considerations and become a full-fledged problem. Even though most of these arrests are reported from in and around Colombo, it cannot be denied that the drug problem is a universal one.
There are round-the-clock patrols initiated by the Navy to keep an eye on the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Fishermen are required to take a special licence from them to operate their trade as many suspect the fishermen of being involved in the narcotics trade. Many organisations, including the LTTE at one point, find the drug trade a lucrative means of income and the sheer staggering mass of its wealth cannot be resisted easily.
Last Wednesday, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce awarded the Best Corporate Citizen accolades and while it was observed that the quality of the projects had increased, there was little dealing with drug and alcohol awareness. This is not to say that the work that they do is in any way negligible, but only to highlight the need for more concern from all stakeholders in battling the drug menace.
Young or old, people need to be aware of the results of drug addiction. There is a clear connection between the increase in drug use and the depletion of living standards. Petty theft and all other forms of crime grow as a result of the drug trade and social levels drop significantly as a result. Sri Lanka cannot be a developed nation unless it has holistic growth and therefore attention must be paid to deter potential drug users as well as assist in the rehabilitation process.
In cosmopolitan times, when Sri Lanka is more connected with the world than ever before, it would do well to remain conscious of the evils that can seep into society as a result of this linkage. Archaic as that may sound, the social cost of dealing with drug addicts as well as other offenders in addition to depleting tax money also degrades living conditions within a country. It is simply not possible to ignore the issue and expect to remain unaffected. These people need help and it is up to each of us to find ways of assisting them so that all our tomorrows remain bright.