The detection of hauls of drugs, from time, has raised many an eyebrow in the society. Recently there was the discovery of a haul of cocaine in a sugar container bound for Lanka Sathosa, a state owned retail chain. The sugar import had originated from Brazil.
Once the legal process that entails such detections concludes, it’s questionable whether the discovered hauls of drugs, be it Cocaine, Opium or Heroin, is destroyed properly without any of it reaching traffickers through the backdoor?
President Maithripala Sirisena was anxious to know about this at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. He asked about the final outcome regarding such hauls of drugs recovered from time to time. According to sources close to the Cabinet, the President was curious to know about this as there is public perception that such drugs finally reach undesirable hands in society, someway or another.
After making his remarks regarding the matter, the President inquired about the kind of mechanism used currently to destroy Heroin or Cocaine once detected and dispensed following a court case. He made his inquiries from Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake.
Ratnayake said the Police, on every occasion, destroyed such hauls after the court process concluded. However, it was found that there was lacuna monitoring in this case. He immediately instructed Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and Science and Technology Minister Susil Premajayantha to work out a piece of legislation outlining modalities for the destruction of hauls of drugs after discovery.
The Cabinet has taken up this matter because the international media has projected Sri Lanka as a transit hub of a drug trafficking mafia.
It got credence after the detection of 150 kilos of Cocaine in a sugar container imported for Lanka Sathosa recently.
It’s an import of sugar made through the government’s tender procedure. Therefore, a series of questions have been raised as to how Cocaine was concealed inside the container to be smuggled into the country? Even some government MPs have sought a proper investigation into the matter
Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, who commented on the drug peddling at the Cabinet meeting, said that there was public perception that such discovered drugs were released to be peddled locally by some unscrupulous elements. As a result, he said it was vital to work out a legal mechanism stipulating criteria for destroying them.
“Otherwise, people believe that they reach local drug cartels,” he said.
The President was also under the impression that such drugs- Opium, Cocaine and Heroin- were released to racketeers through the backdoor.
Minister Rajapakshe told Daily Mirror that he would call for a workshop with the relevant officials and the law enforcement authorities to work out a system to destroy such items.
“There is a system now in place. But, it’s not adequate enough to deal with the current complications,” he said.
One week for Cabinet Ministers to study Hambantota Port Deal
Apart from this aspect, the Cabinet took up for discussion the agreement signed with China Merchants Ports Holding Company to lease out a stake of the Hambantota Port for development. Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe presented it and asked his colleagues to study it in deep.
They were given one whole week for the purpose.
He said it was still open for amendments. The government views the whole transaction as a lucrative investment. It’s expected to get US 1.4 billion for the stake leased out to the Chinese company. So, the government is planning to replenish its foreign reserves, otherwise on a downward spiral.
JO consults legal experts on Port Deal
However, the Joint Opposition, led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is opposed to the agreement. His brother former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa vowed to scrap the agreement if his side assumed power in the future.
Already, the Joint Opposition has assigned a committee of legal luminaries headed by former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva to study the provisions of the agreement in reference to the international law. The Joint Opposition is planning to get the agreement annulled through a judicial process.
Ravi’s fate depends on his response to allegations against him
Revelations made before the Presidential Commission Investigation Bond against Foreign Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake has created an uproar even within the United National Party (UNP) which he represents as its strongman.
It was revealed that Arjun Aloysius, who ran Perpetual Treasuries which is a Primary Dealer in bond transactions, paid the Penthouse rent for Minister Karunanayake.
The revelation made a moral affront to the unity government which gained power on the platform to weed out corruption and irregularities in all their manifestations.
Against the backdrop, it’s learned that a team of UNP MPs made representations to party leader Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and asked him to initiate action against Karunanayake.
However, the Prime Minister is reported to have asked these MPs to wait till Karunanayake responds to the allegations against him.
The Minister was to appear before the Commission yesterday. Whether he will face the axe or not, will depend on how convincingly he responds to the allegations during cross examination. These UNP MPs believe that Karunanayake should resign from his post.
President attempts to discourage SLFPers from leaving Govt
Amidst plans by some MPs of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to quit the government next month, President Maithripala Sirisena has started laying stress on the fact that a new government can’t be formed without his blessing. Also, he said a new government couldn’t be formed until after the parliamentary election in 2020.
However, the SLFP section has given serious thought to part ways with the government after September. Most of these MPs, holding posts in the government as Cabinet, State and Deputy Ministers, have communicated their intention to their constituents.
The President and his close confidantes like Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Duminda Dissanayake, Gamini Vijith Wijeyamuni Zoysa and S. B. Dissanayake, want to continue with the concept of national unity government further. It sounds like the UNP is also for it.
The President’s remarks might have been intended to discourage any defection from the government.
Some SLFPers determined to leave
However, the SLFPers, wanting to leave, say that they are under incessant pressure from their constituents to break ranks with the government. The exact number, planning to leave, is not yet known. Be that as it may, some among them will leave for sure.
They won’t join the Joint Opposition straightway. Instead, they will sit in the opposition as a different group. Finally, they will join hands with the Joint Opposition.
Meanwhile, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main opposition, fears whether any such defection will derail the constitution making process. Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan has stressed this point in public.
A defection can deny the two-thirds support for the government in Parliament. In such an eventuality, any constitutional amendment is impossible and as such the TNA’s fear is reasonable.