As long as the system exists drug menace too would exist
Deputy Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran, who was in hot water in July last year for praising the one-time administration by the LTTE before it was militarily decimated, told a few days ago that it was the southern politicians, who spread liquor and various drugs in the North after the end of the war, in order to demoralize the Tamil youth.
Nobody contested her claim this time but comments made by many southern politicians have vindicated her stand that politicians were behind the spread of drugs.
Even Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, during the inauguration of a housing project in Maligawatte, Colombo on Tuesday said that many Police officers had complained to him that politicians interfered in their drug-related investigations.
Some years ago, the controversial monk, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera had been going around the country claiming that there were 11 big-time drug traffickers in the country out of whom nine were Muslims and they all were protected by politicians.
Referring to the arrest of Sri Lankan drug kingpin Makandure Madush in Dubai, the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila also said on Monday that there is a political leader behind every underworld leader.
But, unfortunately, nobody seems to be prepared to divulge the names of the politicians whom they allege to be behind the drug cartel.
Especially the Prime Minister could have and should have asked the police officers who complained about political interference in drug-related investigations to name the politicians who poked fingers into the probes and taken action against them. Ultimately, it has now become just a fashion to blame the politicians, despite those allegations having a strong possibility to be true.
The Prime Minister during his above speech implied that the raid in Dubai was possible after he stopped political interferences in police investigations, in response to the complaints made by the police officers.
Two days before that President Maithripala Sirisena who is in charge of the Police Department-after the reinstitution of Ranil Wickremesinghe Government in December-told a gathering in his hometown, Polonnaruwa that many people attempted to lay claim to the Dubai raid, implying that those claims were unfounded.
He seemed to mean that only he could lay claim to the credit for the raid.
Whatever the reason may be, apart from a large number of small amounts of drugs, large caches of drugs running into hundreds of kilos have been detected recently in Kollupitiya, Dehiwala and Beruwala and various other places.
"Many politicians claim the same but refuse to divulge the names"
And the President has been expressing a firm stand against the drug rackets in the country since lately.
Last September, many an eyebrow was raised when he said in Parliament that he was prepared to end the 42-year moratorium on capital punishment on drug traffickers, who were running their rackets from inside the prisons.
President Sirisena visited the Philippines last month and from there he opened a can of worms among the Human Rights activists world over by praising Filipino President Duterte’s war against drugs, which is said to have claimed more than 2,000 lives.
The President brushed off all criticisms against his anti-drug resolve and re-emphasized his commitment to implement the death sentence on drug-related offenders last week as well.
He told Parliament on February 6, one day after Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha alias Makandure Madush and more than thirty others were arrested at a luxury hotel in Dubai that the moratorium on the death penalty would end in two months.
Sri Lankan courts impose the death penalty against those found guilty of murders and some drug-related offences, but those court rulings have to be endorsed by the President before the punishment is implemented.
No President had done so after 1976 and hence the death sentences imposed on convicts were automatically commuted to life imprisonment.
There had been public outcries demanding the implementation of the death penalty in the wake of brutal crimes such as the rape and killing of five-year-old Seya Sadevmi of Kotadeniyawa and 18-year-old student Vidya of Punkuduthivu in Jaffna in 2015, but only to fade away within weeks.
Here, the President is going to implement capital punishment on drug traffickers without such a public outcry as well as without any opposition, from the ordinary people.
Madush and his accomplices are said to be responsible for so many murders apart from drug trafficking. They have become such a dreaded gang that they had even attacked a prison vehicle to kill a leader of a rival gang and ambushed a police team after giving them false information on criminals.
No doubt, they should be punished according to the law of the land.
The most pertinent question is whether even the death penalty can eradicate the drug menace, in the light of the factors that help drug cartels to thrive.
Some of these factors find fodder for drug trafficking while others protect the traffickers.
The death penalty had brought crimes to a minimal level under the Prabhakaran’s administration as Ms Maheswaran said.
But he had not changed the system that produced criminals. And therefore once his grip was loosened, all hell broke loose and now Ms Maheswaran accuses the South, where the situation is no different.
It is very clear that leaders of the country are not genuinely committed to eradicating crimes and frauds.
Not only are they not committed but criminals and fraudsters get their backing and blessings as well.
There were reports that a local politician in the South had celebrated his hundredth rape in a hotel during the last regime and even Prince Charles had to intervene to arrest another southern local politician, who had killed a British national and raped his fiancée in a tourist hotel.
And there had been occasions, where the President of the country rushed to the residence of a provincial politician and hugged him in public when the latter’s house was raided by the Special Tasks Force (STF).
Similarly, the anti-corruption drive of the current Government has been an utter farce.
It was not long ago that Dilrukshi Wikramasinghe stepped down as the Director General of the Bribery Commission when the President berated the Bribery Commission along with the CID and the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) after three top former military officials were questioned over a fraud.
When the Central Bank bond scam surfaced some of the UNP leaders wrote books defending the culprits and tried to water-down the COPE Report on the matter by adding footnotes to the report.
"Police say that politicians interfered in their drug-related investigations"
And the Government, including the President, failed to prevent Arjuna Mahendran, the main accused of the bond fiasco from escaping to Singapore comfortably.
On the other hand, there is a fertile ground for the drug business among the ordinary people owing to the economic factors.
We have almost a stagnant economy which does not address the changing needs of the people and society. And also we have an education system that is not compatible with such an economy.
Hundreds of thousands of students drop out of schools and are left stranded after sitting the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations annually.
Only a few of them are being absorbed by the organised mainstream economy. Others are left to themselves and the majority of them are engaged in odd jobs, which are also called self-employment.
Some of them ultimately become fodder for drug businessmen and criminals.
So long as these factors exist, the drug menace too would.