Take positive and result-oriented action
“Kudu Karayos” and “Kudu Viyaparayos” have been the popular phrases used by politicians during the past few months. The question is are these utterances merely for public consumption or is there a genuine desire on the part of the politicians and the law enforcement agencies to eradicate the ever-increasing drug abuse and drug trafficking in our country?
Demand and supply
The number of detections of large quantities of Heroin, whilst being smuggled into this country, is a clear indication of the increasing demand for the use of Heroin and increased smuggling activities of the suppliers of narcotics. So long as there is a demand, there will always be a supply. It is for the Government and the law enforcement agencies to cut off the supply of narcotic drugs and also to reduce the demand for such drugs.
There is a misconception that stringent laws and heightened detection of persons involved in the narcotic trade will put an end to the supply of narcotic drugs. Whilst agreeing that both stringent laws and continuous interdiction of drugs and arrest of drug dealers would definitely bring a degree of reduction of supply, law enforcement alone will not reduce the supply and demand of drugs. Ignorant of the fact that there is legal provision for the “Death Penalty” for anyone convicted by High Court for the possession of 15 grams of Heroin, debates still go on for bringing in laws to enforce the Death Penalty. This law has been there for more than 30 years or so. However, this fear of the Death Penalty has not deterred drug traffickers and drug users from trafficking in drugs.
Prevention of supply of drugs and prevention of demand by the vast majority of people, especially the youngsters who have not been lured into the habit of using drugs, should be a priority of the Government and the law enforcement officers. It is heartening to note that the present government has been campaigning against drug dealers and drug barons in their exhortations through public utterances which have been given wide publicity in both the print and electronic media. The immediate and urgent task of the Government and the law enforcement officers should be to work out a master plan to conduct vigorous, sustainable and continuous prevention, educational programmes and campaigns through the print and electronic media, targeting all the schools to conduct seminars, lectures and drug prevention educational programmes for the students. The Education Department should play a vital role in establishing anti-drugs and anti-smoking associations or units in every school so that the schoolchildren will be spared of peer pressure from outsiders, elders or their own school mates. “Prevention is definitely better than cure”.
The role of the mass media
The Managing Director of a well known advertising Agency helped the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) to formulate some eye-catching artwork for anti-drugs advertisements, free of charge. A senior retired police officer who was an executive of a State-owned newspaper publishing house at that time, helped the PNB to publish these anti-drugs advertisements in the newspapers, free of charge. Similarly, one of the Directors of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation agreed to play some anti-drug jingles over Radio Ceylon regularly. Here too a well known female artiste composed the anti-drugs jingles. Both the SLBC and the female artiste rendered their support free of charge.
It is heartening to note that a private television organisation is spearheading an anti-drugs campaign on a regular basis, which I hope will be continued throughout as a national responsibility and not as a campaign to bolster their channel. There are more than 10 or 15 TV channels, the majority of which are managed by the government. These channels too should be brought in to conduct and continue a vigorous anti-drugs campaign to prevent any potential or vulnerable youngsters from falling into the traps of drug traffickers. Relentless and continuous anti-drugs campaigns and educational programmes must be undertaken by the mass media.
Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB)
This is the only specialized unit established by the Police Department to spearhead the law enforcement activities, preventive educational programmes, collect intelligence on international smuggling groups and also to liaise with foreign drug law enforcement agencies to apprehend the local drug smugglers who have links with the international drug smugglers. This unit has been in existence for the last 35 years or so and has earned accolades for their pursuit in tracking down drug smugglers as well as detection of large quantities of drugs. The personnel in the PNB have been trained and directed by many directors who have been at the helm of the PNB. The Government and the Police Department must strengthen the personnel as well as the logistical requirements of the PNB. By selecting capable and honest police officers, posting them, and providing the PNB with the necessary vehicles, equipment etc., one could be assured of a better performance of the PNB. The PNB should spearhead the preventive educational programmes in schools, work places, temples etc., in collaboration with the Education Department so that the younger generation is well educated about the dangers of consuming narcotic drugs.
Combined Task Force
There are three law enforcement agencies, the Police Department, Customs Department and the Excise Department who are empowered by the Law to act under the Poison and Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. There are officers in all these three agencies who are specially trained to engage in drug law enforcement. A combined task force of all these three agencies, ably supported by the Navy, to prevent drug smuggling activities in the well known coastal areas, assisted by STF personnel should be established under the aegis of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) to cut off the supply of narcotic drugs and to prevent the youths demanding for narcotic drugs. The NDDCB should take a pro-active role in co-ordinating the activities of the law enforcement agencies in the spheres of both preventive educational programmes and detection of narcotic drugs.
Let it not be said that, “too little has been done too late”.