The battle against narcotics | Daily News

The battle against narcotics

President Maithripala Sirisena has once again declared war on the narcotics trade and has issued specific instructions to the police to eradicate the deadly menace root and branch from the country. The President has declared that he was willing to implement the death sentence against those convicted for drug offences who continue to engage in the trade from behind the prison walls. There were arguments for and against the proposal with the President receiving support even from an unlikely source - His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, of course due to the ruin this will cause the country’s future generation, though the Buddhist clergy was somewhat neutral on this score. There were also international Human Rights Organizations raising a huge outcry, with the EU even threatening to suspend the GSP Plus facility were the proposal to be implemented.

The matter, however, was not broached again by the President. But meeting with the Police top brass on Monday- the first by the President in his capacity as the Law and Order Minister following the change of Government- President Sirisena prevailed on them the need to accord top priority in busting the narcotics networks that has spread tentacles far and wide. He urged them to provide him with a detailed monthly report on their progress in the anti-narcotic operations and also measures taken to combat the underworld.

The President’s concern is justified when one considers the rising rate of drugs related crime in the country that is having its impact on society at large. Now that he is in charge of Law and Order, with the entire law enforcement at his command, one can be certain that President Sirisena would not brook any interference in the police operations to apprehend drug kingpins and bust their networks which, as is all too well known, had earlier met with resistance due to the nexus between politicians and the drug underworld. It is this connection which right along thwarted all serious attempts to combat the drug menace in this country. The link even extended to include law enforcement officers. There was the famous instance of a former IGP, no less, gracing a lavish birthday party thrown by a notorious drug lord at a Colombo Five Star hotel, not to mention a former Government Minister paying his respects to the mortal remains of a drug baron, slain in a turf war.

The President also spoke of the need to revamp and upgrade the police service to meet with the present day challenges. While commending the men of all ranks for the dedicated service to the public the President also impressed upon them the need to be people-friendly and suggested certain reforms that would make the service function at its optimum. Above all he emphasized on them the need for having a police service that would execute duties in a free and fair manner to win the confidence of the public.

True, police-public relations had taken a beating, somewhat, in recent times, with instances of police brutality and custodial deaths bringing a blackmark to the police service. It is also equally true, that during the war years, as with the Tri-Forces, recruitment to the police service was carried out with hardly any screening due to the urgent manpower requirements. As a result, some bad eggs found their way into the police service. Such men are still in service although it is nearly a decade since the end of the war. Perhaps, it is these elements that are responsible for the bad name acquired by the Police in recent times.

It is incumbent, therefore, on the IGP to identify such elements and get them rehabilitated. No doubt, the war years brutalized and dehumanized combatants but also the society in general and the scars that still remain would manifest in various forms.

Be that as it may, what is needed today is a police service that fits into the role of a purely civilian law enforcement unit. It should strive to get closer to the public and make amends for the mistakes of the past. It should devote more time and personnel to tackling crime. Time was when the khaki uniform was looked on with respect and awe and was truly a symbol of authority. There were many big names in the service in the past who could have matched their counterparts in any part of the world for their skills. They were largely men of genteel stock. These were largely men who came from the right social background and the right schools, who needed little or no vetting. Alas, we did not have this luxury during the height of the Eelam war and all ground rules were dispensed with.

Like the President said, the Police service will need a shake up and be equipped to meet the new challenges which have taken on a new dimension on a scale that could never have been imagined in the days and times gone by. Policing must keep pace with the latest global developments in the sphere in order to ensure law and order.

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