One of the main issues raised by the groups that stood for the Opposition’s common candidate Maithripala Sirisena during the last Presidential election campaign was the drug menace and they accused the Rajapaksa regime of allowing big-time drug dealers to operate their businesses freely. Now, five months into the election of the new President and a new government the issue has become one of the forgotten subjects by the authorities concerned.
The leaders of the UNP, and the JVP shouted during the Presidential election campaign at the top of their voice claiming that billions worth drugs are brought into the country with political patronage and they sometimes implicated the names of certain politicians of the past regime with the drug business. They also vowed to bring them to book once the new government is installed. When Wele Suda was arrested the former police spokesman went on record as saying that the drug kingpin had smuggled 1000 kilos of heroin into the country and the street value of one kilo was Rs. 10 million.
Despite the rhetoric of the leaders of the present government and the JVP which occupied a seat in the National Executive Council until last month, none of the drug barons referred to by them has been arrested after the Presidential election, while reports of drug-related incidents are mounting. Interestingly Wele Suda who was said to have smuggled a metric ton of heroin into the country has been prosecuted for handling only a few grams of drugs.This is similar to the failure on the part of the new government in its anti- corruption drive, despite claims by the Pro-Maithri group who shouted about corruption running into billions of rupees. Government leaders have failed to prosecute a single person whom they claimed to have spent billions per kilometre during the construction of highways.
The magnitude of the drug menace is such that JVP Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath stated on Monday that there were around a hundred thousand drug addicts in the country apart from those in prisons detained for drug-related offences. Meanwhile the Northern Province Chief Minister who had taken an extremist stance in many issues since lately has accused the authorities of deliberately pushing the youth in the North towards drugs, in order for them not to turn against the government.
This is not a new allegation. The leftist movement of the past too accused the then governments of pushing the youth towards smoking, alcoholism and other vices of the society in order that they may ignore the social injustice meted out by the ruling class. In spite of the veracity of the allegation by the Northern Chief Minister one has to accept the fact that the drug habit in the North during the time when the LTTE made their influence over the northern people was minimal, if not nil and now it has risen to an alarming proportion.The mother of Vithiya, the Punguduthivu girl who had been gang raped before being killed recently had told a Tamil newspaper that the perpetrators were drug addicts.
The government has a responsibility in general to bring an end to this menace. It has also a duty particularly to keep its promises on this matter. Also it has to be careful of its leaders who might come under the influence of large-scale drug business which involves billions of rupees, putting the lives of millions of youth in danger. If the government fails in this effort the civil society has to come forward to expose the relevant authorities and help eradicate the menace.