Politics in the drug war | Daily News

Politics in the drug war

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is today shedding copious tears over the drug menace that has gripped society and the danger posed to the younger generation due to the government’s inability to stem the tide. Speaking to journalists at Abhayaramaya, Rajapaksa said that today even an innocent child is not in a position to walk the streets without being a victim of the rapid spread of drugs in the country. He said the same accusations leveled in the North against the government over its inability to control the drug situation is being leveled in the South too and this call needed to be heeded in all seriousness. Then comes the piece de resistance.

The former President says, during his time, the drug business was not widespread nor established like today and that currently large drug hauls are being seized from all over the country.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Narcotic drugs would not have reached the villages if law and order was properly administered in the country before 2015. “Whenever a suspect in possession of drugs was arrested in a raid, politicians at that time spoke over the phone and ordered the release of the suspect”, the Premier said. “Drug racketeering and sexual abuse of women were considered as qualifications to become a Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman then,” he noted. “But since 2015 we have issued strict orders to the police to act firmly to combat drug trafficking and racketeering”, he observed, addressing a meeting after opening a newly built auditorium at Ibbagamuwa, over the weekend.

The PM went onto state that the government decided to break the drug supply chain because once it is done, there won't be any drugs available for distribution. “Two things happen when there is a shortage in supplies. One is the increase in price due to short supply and the second is the decrease in supplies resulting clashes among distributors”. He attributed the frequency of the clashes among distributors that is being witnessed today to this phenomenon, making it easier for the police to apprehend the kingpins.

Be that as it may, Mahinda Rajapaksa is the last person who can claim to have taken stringent measures to control the drug mafia, during his time. The drug trade flourished in leaps and bounds during his tenure and like the Prime Minister stated, Chairmen of the Pradeshiya Sabhas owed their appointments to being notorious drug peddlers. This was borne out by the fact that the former President visited the home of a slain Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman in the South to pay his respects. Needless to say the killing was a result of a drug war between rival traffickers. Nay, the Monitoring MP for the Ministry of Defence, no less, was a well known drug baron who openly plied his trade even using state vehicles of his ministry for this purpose. This politico, who crossed over to the Rajapaksa camp from the UNP, had a rape a case against him, pending in the Attorney General's Department, withdrawn, pronto, and assigned to an electorate in the Colombo district which was soon to become a drug haven, that eventually led to the murder of a Presidential Advisor, no less, on the day of the local government elections in 2013.

That Rajapaksa paid only lip service to combat the drug menace was also borne out when he lost no time in going to the rescue of a notorious drug dealer politician from Negombo in whose home a large quantity of drugs was seized by the STF. One could still recall Rajapaksa, donned in a track suit, alighting from the Chopper, making his way to the home of the besieged politician accompanied by the supporters of the latter, as shown on television. Needless to say the STF Officers who made the detection received transfer orders for their trouble.

To be fair, all governments prior to 2005, (when MR first became President), failed to take adequate measures to deal with the drug menace. During the time of the late President Premadasa there was a story doing the rounds of a government minister paying his last respects to the well known drug kingpin Kudu Raja, in Slave Island, who was killed in a drug related incident. That ex-minister is today still an MP and a prominent member of the Joint Opposition. Nay, an Inspector General of Police, no less, was seen at a birthday bash thrown by a drug lord at a five star hotel in Colombo, as was prominently reported in the vernacular media, at the time.

Hopefully, all political leaders will make amends for their lapses in allowing the drug situation to grow to the current proportions and take concrete measures to eradicate the menace. The Police and the security forces, that are due to assist it in the war against drugs, should be given a free hand in this respect. Politicians, of all hues, should also desist from attempting to score political points with the drugs problem which is a cancer affecting the entire society. The various anti-drugs programmes that are currently being launched from school level under the guidance of the President, should be expanded and given full impetus to succeed.


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