The public have every right to enquire and find out more information, considering the mind-boggling quantities interdicted, particularly in view of the burgeoning, astronomical market value involved. This has been a perennial question posed repeatedly over the years, and answered smugly by the concerned authorities with the exasperatingly, peremptory and unconvincing reply - ‘destroyed!’ Destroyed, at what stage, how, where and under whose close supervision and certification; are the nagging questions that arise in the public mind.
Proposal to destroy the drug detected, on the spot - ‘in situ’
When this writer functioned as an ex-officio member of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) some years ago, the matter was taken up at a Board meeting as there had been cases reported, where it was revealed that a quantity of heroin kept as evidence to be produced in Court, had ‘magically’ transformed itself into talcum powder.
After a quantity of a drug is nabbed and taken into custody by the Police, it is routinely handed over to the Government Analyst (GA) to check and report on its quality and purity. It is thereafter handed back to the Police for safekeeping and produced in Court when the particular case is called.
Suspicions of adulteration and the spiriting away of quantities of the drug, invariably led to the never-ending blame game where the two State authorities concerned refused to take responsibility for any alleged adulteration.
The writer on his own initiative recommended the NDDCB that the best safeguard to prevent the drug leaking back into the market would be to have it destroyed at the point of interdiction. To satisfy court, it was recommended that immediately an illicit consignment was nabbed, the magistrate of the division, the GA or his representative and the SSP of the division be summoned to the spot for the haul to be examined by them, with the GA duly weighing and testing the drug to ascertain its purity.
The drug was to be destroyed thereafter ‘in situ,’ in the presence of the three officials referred to. A certificate was to be signed by the three parties testifying to the correctness of the weight and the purity of the drug. It was also recommended that an amendment be brought in to the relevant law enabling court to accept the veracity of the certificate so issued.
A Board resolution was passed unanimously endorsing my proposal. Consequently another Board member and I were assigned the task of meeting the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and placing the resolution of the NDDCB before them.
Accordingly, I met certain members of the JSC with the other nominated Board member and discussed the problem and the proposals we had submitted to ensure the quantities detected were destroyed under the supervision of the three State officials referred to.
The JSC officials, whilst lauding the safeguards, proposed to ensure that nothing of the nabbed drug leaked back into the market, and added that the implementation of the proposals would require certain amendments to existing legislation on which some of the proposals impinged.
They also agreed to take the matter up with the Justice Ministry and other concerned law enforcement authorities. I left the NDDCB soon afterwards and lost track of the follow-up action taken (if any), on the matter, thereafter. I do hope the matter was pursued by the concerned authorities with a view to ensuring that the required safeguards were properly formulated to prevent adulteration and the possibility of the drug being leaked back into the market. In view of the increasing frequency of detections made, the substantial hauls interdicted and the massive amount of money involved, it may be best for the authorities to make public the precautionary measures that are in place, to effectively prevent adulteration and the drug being clandestinely taken out and sold in the market.
Further, it may also assuage the public to know the manner in which the drugs are kept in safe custody and most importantly, the strict procedures laid down for the final destruction of these drugs. This is of critical importance as it concerns vitally the health and well-being of the younger generation as well as the short and long term national well-being of the country as a whole.
One feels strongly that it is about time Sri Lankans woke up to the stark reality that if the illicit dangerous drugs problem not confronted purposefully and effective measures to curb its spread island-wide were not taken urgently, this little island of ours is bound to face the grave danger of the problem turning into a veritable national disaster enervating the vital energies of our youth while concurrently undermining the social, political and economic stability of the island.
As the problem of drug addiction has assumed epidemic proportions, it is imperative to take urgent action to curb it. As pointed out by this writer earlier in some explicitly spelt out articles on the subject published recently in the Daily Mirror, the back of this lucrative illicit trade could be broken only by - 1) breaking up the ‘unholy’ nexus between certain unscrupulous politicians who profit by the trade and underworld characters and their accomplices who smuggle in the drugs and organise their distribution through island-wide networks; 2) by eliminating laws delays and facilitating the expeditious disposal of illicit drug cases; 3) by the imposition of the severest punishments on those convicted viz, the death penalty, confiscation of their assets etc (the death penalty if not implemented, poses no deterrent) and 4) by conducting carefully formulated prevention programmes in schools and workplaces.
In the final analysis, what is of crucial importance is the unswerving political will and the deep and abiding commitment of the powers that be to save this land of this diabolical menace.
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