Striving towards a drug free Sri Lanka | Daily News


Striving towards a drug free Sri Lanka

A step in the right direction in eradicating the drug menace:
President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Law and Order Minister Sagala Rathnayake, Law and Order State Minister Piyasena Gamage and Deputy Social Empowerment and Welfare Minister Ranjan Ramanayake observing the cocaine being destroyed.
President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Law and Order Minister Sagala Rathnayake, Law and Order State Minister Piyasena Gamage and Deputy Social Empowerment and Welfare Minister Ranjan Ramanayake observing the cocaine being de

Drugs have emerged as a major social problem recently and has crossed the border of caste, class, creed, sex and nation. Drug abuse affects individuals, their families and society as a whole and they are often linked to organised crime and illegal weapons trade and the underworld.

Sri Lanka however, has taken a strong stance on the drug issue and in a warning to the world’s drug operators that it will not tolerate or encourage drugs being brought into the country, nor allow the country to be used as a transitional hub for the distribution of these drugs. 928 kilograms and 229 grams of cocaine, valued at Rs. 16.7 billion was publicly destroyed on Monday (15) under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and several ministers.

The Dangerous Drugs Control Board also issued several recommendations for the disposal of the cocaine. In particular it was strictly recommended that no solvent other than pure water be used for the purpose of dissolution of the sample at the pre-processing stage and for any other purpose, prior to destruction in the cement kiln. Substance residues in the containers that they were transported should be removed by rinsing these containers with water and the emptied containers and the water rinsed, should also be disposed properly using the same disposal method.

Environmentally friendly disposal

Meanwhile, INSEE Ecocycle had volunteered to dispose of the cocaine in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner under the guidance of the Government Analyst Department (GAD), the Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) and the Attorney Generals Department.

Speaking on the occasion, INSEE Cement CEO Nandana Ekanayake said, “We are proud to support a national cause of this nature, contributing towards building a drug free Sri Lanka by being a responsible corporate citizen. This drug menace has had a severe impact on our younger generation. Therefore, this stance by the government is highly commendable and we are glad we were able to contribute to this endeavour.”

INSEE Ecocycle is the only operational cement kiln co processing facility and it is the only sustainable waste management business in the country having over a decade experience in the industry, which has disposed of over 600,000 tons of waste. However, given the sensitive nature and high security requirement of the narcotic material, ensuring the safe and secure disposal was a challenge for them. But they were able to take on this challenge and it was the first time they have taken on such a responsibility to dispose of a socially harmful substance, thanks to the support and guidance of PNB and NDDCB experts throughout the value chain activities such as sampling, laboratory analysis and transporting up until the final destruction of the narcotic substance ensuring zero harm to society and the environment.

Meanwhile, according to the DIG of the Police Narcotics Bureau Sajeewa Medawatte, the main reason that INSEE Ecocycle was selected for this purpose was they are the only state of the art hazardous waste management facility equipped with geo-membrane floor, fully automated fire-fighting system, CCTV operations and emergency preparedness plan. The facility has also obtained all the required licenses such as the environmental protection license and solid waste management license.

The Chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Control Board, Professor Ravindra Fernando said, Laboratory testing conducted by the National Narcotics Laboratory of the NDDCB as per the order of the Colombo Magistrate Lal Ranasinghe Bandara, revealed the feasibility of the disposal of the specific court sample with the cement kiln of INSEE Ecocycle by the incineration process.

Drug disposals

Fernando said there was another stock of cocaine and heroin that had been seized and that they were in the process of determining whether other narcotic substances too could be disposed in the same manner. “The feasibility study for the destruction of other drugs such as heroin, cannabis and other narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances including new psychoactive substances using the same disposal procedure is under laboratory investigation at the National Narcotics Laboratory (NNL). In addition, the NDDCB has agreed to work on providing scientific recommendations, coordinating, supervising and monitoring of the disposal of court samples along with the Police Narcotic Bureau and other drug law enforcement agencies for fighting against the problem of drug trafficking and abuse in the country.”

Meanwhile, the confiscated stock of cocaine was liquefied in an aqueous medium at the processing facility in Katunayake, converting the chemical structure and the physical state of the substance- ensuring zero residual remains. The liquefied cocaine was then transported in a special hazardous waste transporting vehicle to the kiln facility in Puttalam, escorted by the PNB officials. The liquefied cocaine was then destroyed in the cement kiln at a temperature of between 1800 to 2000 C with 4-6 residence time. The INSEE cement kiln in Puttalam is technically proven to have a destruction removal efficiency of 99.999999 percent. Continuous emission monitoring was also carried out during and after the phase of the disposal process to ensure no harmful emissions were exposed to the environment.

Government Policy

Addressing the gathering after the initial stage of the process, Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake said,

“The decision to destroy the drugs that are confiscated by the authorities in a public manner was taken during a Cabinet meeting. “Usually the general practice had been to destroy the drugs that are seized at the relevant courts when the cases has been completed and the drugs are no longer needed as evidence. But this is the first time such a haul of seized drugs is being destroyed publicly. During 2015, 2016 and 2017, the total value of drugs seized is Rs. 34 billion. The value of the 928 kilogram and 229 grams is Rs. 16.7 billion. In fact Rs. 34 billion is half the annual expenditure heads of the entire Police Department. This is including the salaries, capital expenditure etc. This is a large amount and this is a clear sign of how powerful this drug business is. Generally it is known that drugs and organized crime goes hand in hand together with the weapons trade and the underworld.

However, our government is determined to break this cycle and the President and Prime Minister thus, gave orders to establish a new unit in the Police Department through a process of restructuring in order to fight drugs and related crimes. As a result the unit is functioning efficiently under the leadership of a Senior DIG.”

He noted that this was a warning to all drug smugglers who have made Sri Lanka a transitional hub for the distribution of drugs, that Sri Lanka will not tolerate or support the use or sale of narcotic drugs and would do everything in its power to break this cycle.

Meanwhile, Law and Order State Minister Piyasena Gamage said, “Based on a concept of the President to eradicate the drug menace from this country, a huge effort was taken during the recent past empowering the relevant units to make these detections. The drug menace has been affecting the country and a large number of young people have been affected by this drug menace. Although we have heard of seized drugs being destroyed, we have never witnessed such a process. Therefore, this is a very significant occasion for the country in its fight against drugs. Under the good governance government and the commitment of the Police Department, such a huge feat was achieved. Just as we have destroyed this huge stock of cocaine, we must ensure that these dangerous drugs are not allowed into the country in the future too and make this country free from this curse. The Police Department has a big responsibility in this regard and those who have been committed to this cause putting their lives on the line should be commended and the country’s gratitude should be extended.”

This stock of cocaine originated from Columbia and it came to Sri Lanka through Ecuador and was destined for India through Saudi Arabia. However, acting on a tip-off the Sri Lanka authorities were able to nab this stock of cocaine which was concealed in a container load of timber.

Speaking on this occasion IGP Pujitha Jayasundara assured that the Police Department was committed to rendering its fullest support to the President and Prime Minister in their endeavour to eradicate the drug menace from this country, completely.

Sri Lanka has been on the map for years as a transitional hub in the distribution network of the narcotic drug trade. As a result, the younger generation of this country too have been lured into it. As Minister Sagala Ratnayake pointed out, the drug trade is closely associated with the underworld and illegal arms trade, which has also caused much damage to the country in the past. Although drugs were seized on several occasions in the past, no one was aware of what happens to the seized narcotics thereafter and the authorities were constantly being questioned and blamed for the lack of transparency. Therefore, based on the recommendation of the President and Prime Minister, the public disposal of these seized narcotics is a positive move for the country and its endeavour in ridding the country of the drug scourge. 

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