By Darshana Sanjeewa Balasuriya
While 2020 would be best remembered for a global pandemic, Sri Lankans would also remember this year for a spate of drug related arrests. Drug raids and arrests have steadily climbed during the past year, since the government declared a crackdown on crime and illicit drug use following the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2019.
Total amount of narcotics taken into custody
This year alone police have arrested over 48,000 suspects over drug related offences while over 12 tonnes of narcotics have been taken into custody by the Police, in the period between the January 1 to August 20, 2020. The Sri Lanka Navy meanwhile have recovered a total of 279.5 kg of heroin and 1,132kg of cannabis thus far. The seized narcotics include heroin, cannabis and various other synthetic drugs, heroin being the most widely circulated and consumed drug in the island.
According to official statistics, the police have arrested a total of 25,157 suspects in 25,125 incidents. This means 1,065 kilograms of heroin were taken into custody as well. A further 21,866 suspect in 21,979 cases have been arrested with a total of 10,252 kg cannabis. These arrests were made through the collective efforts and raids carried out by the Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB), Police Special Task Force (STF), Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) and CID officers in addition to the raids by the officers at island-wide police stations.
High-profile raids of 2020
The detection of nearly 100kg of heroin in a freight container seized at Kochchikade in Negombo in March this year and a large haul of 118 kg of crystal methamphetamine and heroin worth Rs.1,180 million rupees detected by the Navy and Police Narcotic Bureau officials in the seas off Galle were among few significant raids.
Meanwhile, a total of 797 kg of synthetic drugs such as ‘Ice’ and ‘Mandy’ have been seized in Sri Lanka of which 648 kg were recovered by the Navy. The Police seized 149 kg of synthetic drugs in 1168 cases. In total 1,169 suspects were taken into the custody by the Police along with the drugs, while 7,894 capsules and 34,507 tablets were also among those seized drugs.
The recent detection of synthetic drug known as 'Mandy' was carried out in Mount Lavinia where a suspect was arrested in Ambalangoda with 12 kgs of synthetic drug worth Rs. 200 million recovered.
In 2019, Sri Lanka Police arrested a total of 14,890 persons in possession of narcotics including 533 kg of heroin and 1,309 kg of cannabis. In comparison the number of suspects arrested thus far has almost tripled by August this year, while the amount of narcotics seized have also multiplied.