Troops into drug war | Daily News

Troops into drug war

Different opinions have been expressed over the deployment of the Tri-Forces in the government's war against the drug underworld. With the escalation of drug related killings, perhaps, in a desperate move, the government has decided to enlist the services of the security forces to eradicate the drug menace. This is in addition to the operation of the death penalty as a deterrent against drug trafficking.

A joint Cabinet paper submitted by President Maithripala Sirisena in his capacity as Defence Minister and Public Administration and Law and Order Minister Ranjith Maddumabandara has pointed out that while the Police and Police Narcotics Bureau did a commendable job in apprehending drug related crime, the worsening drug situation in the country required the assistance of the Tri-Forces. The Minister in the paper pointed out that the Navy was already engaged in apprehending drug traffickers on the high seas, in accordance with their Customs Ordinance and the Emigration and Immigration Act, the planned move to deploy the Tri-Forces in the anti-drugs operations will only be an extension of this.

Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka though has begged to differ. He told journalists that it was improper to engage the security forces to prosecute the drug war and it was strictly the job of the police.

The Field Marshal may perhaps be of the opinion that it was infra dig for the security forces to go after drug racketeers after fighting a fierce enemy on the battlefield for three decades. The soldier in him may baulk at such an eventuality. He would also be of the opinion that it will be a stain on the military uniform to engage the military in drug busting operations. True, the military is no more a ceremonial army as it used to be, but a hardened combat outfit. But to the likes of Sarath Fonseka, who was the Army Commander, demeaning the troops by deploying them to fight drug traffickers was out of the question. Besides, drug racketeers were not opponents on the battlefield but run of the mill crooks who do not deserve to be pursued by gallant military men.

But the drug menace has grown out of proportion, which has even prompted the President to reintroduce the hangman after four decades. Hardly a day passes without a killing linked to the drug mafia in this country. Three local government politicians were gunned down within the space of three months- all three, drug related killings. The situation has developed to such a degree, the task has become too big for the police alone to handle.

True, there were operations carried out in earnest by the police recently to flush out the underworld and massive drug hauls seized. They (police) also netted in scores of dangerous underworld characters and even fought gun battles with some. But, as has been observed, the police tend to relax after such successes, when the main villains who go underground surface again.

It will be a different kettle of fish where the Tri-Forces are concerned. They (forces), with their combat training and discipline, are unlikely to let up on things and will fight the war to the finish. This factor, no doubt, would have prompted the authorities to engage the troops in the fight against drug related crime. As mentioned, the situation has reached alarming proportions that warrant desperate action. It is perhaps this desperation that drove Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to take drastic measures he has taken to combat the drug menace in his country. Here too it has come to a crisis situation and security forces are usually deployed and adept at dealing with crisis situations. We saw this during the recent flood disaster, where no other agency but the security forces could have performed the tasks at hand.

Besides, tackling the drug menace could turn out to be a complicated one. Like Minister Mangala Samaraweera said, most of the drug barons today pose as pillars of society and are clothed in respectability. According to the minister some drug kingpins in this country are not those languishing in jails but those heading charity and service organisations such as the Lions and Rotary, comments which are sure to cause a flutter among the membership of these bodies. If that is the case, they, with their money bags, could well afford to buy the silence of certain high ranking police officers. This certainly will not be the case with the Army, though there may be the odd rotten apple here as well, as Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, himself, admitted.

Nothing short of drastic measures would suffice in eradicating drug related crime in this country if we are to avert the fate of some of the Latin American countries which are awash with drugs and where drug lords rule the roost. The death penalty may or may not act as a deterrent. Even in countries where the death penalty exist for possession of drugs, the problem has been arrested only marginally. What is paramount is to go after the ringleaders and tackle the problem at the source. The police alone will not be equal to the task. The backing of the Tri-Forces will be inevitable. 


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