Launching a national war for the eradication of narcotic drugs and the curbing of liquor or tobacco abuse President Maithripala Sirisena declared on Thursday that any politician found to be involved in the narcotics trade must be removed from politics.
The President, speaking at a national ceremony in Ja-ela to mark the National Drugs Eradication Month, said tough action would be taken against any politician found to be involved in the narcotics or illegal liquor trade.
To mark the beginning of this month, all bars and liquor shops were closed yesterday. The President said he wanted a three-day closure but Treasury officials had told him that the government would lose too much tax revenue. The President said he had a plan to remove excise revenue in the national budget from alcohol and tobacco sales by 2020.
He appealed to the Maha Sangha and other religious leaders to co-operate with him in this mission while politicians and public servants would be given the responsibility of setting up drug prevention units in their regions or departments.
Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) told a news conference on Wednesday that alcohol, tobacco and narcotics abuse could be eliminated in the same way as Sri Lanka had eliminated polio. The NATA chief said the best way to address the issue was to educate and work with children, specially those in their teens.
He pointed out that though there was a popular belief that the government derived a large portion of its income from the taxes on alcohol and tobacco, the truth was otherwise. He said the government had to spend much more on treating people afflicted with tobacco and alcohol related diseases.
Presidential Secretary, P. B. Abeykoon told the media the Presidential Secretariat, the Police the Excise Department and the National Dangerous Drug Control Board (NDDCB) were accepting complaints and would carry out regular raids.
According to a research project carried out by the Health Ministry and published in the Journal of the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, the prevalence of alcohol use in 2008 was 26% among males aged between 17and 64. But last year, despite all the political spirit about ‘Mathata Thitha,’ alcohol consumption had increased to 39.6 percent among males and 2.4 percent among females. The report said the most widely used was beer-76.9% followed by spirits 51.5%, wine 25.8%, kasippu 22.2%, palmyrah toddy 16.9% and toddy 16.8%.
The report said preventative activities focusing on vulnerable groups should be implemented at the national and regional levels. At the same time non-drinkers must be routinely addressed to sustain their status. As prevalence is high among males, a targeted cost effective rehabilitation programme should be prioritised. The increasing trend among female drinking indicates the need of primary preventive actions targeted at them.
Last year the Health Ministry said there was an increase in smoking among the country’s women. A study showed that more women, especially those in the estate sector, had taken to smoking. Some women were also addicted to narcotics, intoxicants such as babul and mild tranquilisers. Ministry warned that if pregnant mothers smoked or consumed liquor or dangerous drugs, they would do so at the expense of their unborn babies’ health. Medical experts said.
With the President declaring war on narcotics and mainly heroin smuggling, illicit alcohol and tobacco abuse we hoped that anyone alleged to be involved in these vices would not be nominated for the August General Elections. Even if some parties nominate such persons for dubious purposes the sovereign people must take a strong stand and reject them because heroin smuggling for instance is one of the deadliest forms of terrorism and we do not want it in Sri Lanka.
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