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Drug Trafficking and the need to enact tough legislation

It is indeed tragic that despite the corrosive and devastating social effects of illicit drugs, successive administrations have not had the required political resolve and the firm commitment (with all the solemn pledges and hard resolutions made), to launch a sustained frontal onslaught on the organized purveyors of these illicit substances whose horrific impact is increasingly felt on the physical as well as the economic well being of the people of this country. Everyday, news papers carry reports of traffickers of heroin being nabbed and charged. The punishment laid down in the law for such offenders is death! One often wonders what happens to the innumerable small time drug peddlers who are charged in Court for being in possession of heroin! Are they being kept in remand prison over extended periods till their cases are finalized? About five years ago around 45 per cent of the inmates in remand prison were being held for drug related offences. By now, if all the nabbed offenders have been incarcerated, the remand prisons must be overflowing with such offenders awaiting trial, knowing the laws notoriety for inordinate delays!

The notorious drug kingpin Wele Sudha is said to have revealed the names of 34 politicians having dealings with the drug trafficking. The Chairman of the NDDCB Dr. Samarasinghe too claimed that he had a list of politicians who were active in the drug trafficking with the surreptitiously extended patronage and protection given by them to drug dealers. The initial excitement generated by these revelations quickly died down in the absence of any follow up action (for whatever reasons), on these claims!



The nexus between some unscrupulous politicians and the underworld
It is common knowledge that there has been a lot of soft-peddling of the problem on the part of the powers that be, due often to certain top politicos being obliged to underworld racketeers and drug traffickers for numerous favours granted and services rendered to them at various stages of their political careers.

As it is wryly said, there is nothing called a free lunch! To wheeler dealers, thugs and racketeers, giving material assistance to politicians to accelerate their upward levitation to Parliament and high ministerial position, is indeed a promising investment with prospects of future rewards in ample measure! Our present day political culture has become so warped that thuggery and ill- gotten money seem to be necessary prerequisites for political advancement! This is indeed a depressing reflection of the current societal mores that seem to pervade society, across the board. When politicians protect and harbour criminals from the operation of the laws of the land, what is the example they hold out to the law enforcement authorities themselves? This latter category is bound to take the cue from their political masters and work out arrangements with errant members of the public, to their own private advantage. They are indeed quick to come to terms with what they perceive as ground realities and seek simultaneously to skilfully manoueuvre things to suit their private ends! In dealing with politicians they would seek to enhance their prospects of promotion within the Service as well as acquire a degree of immunity when they themselves transgress the law! This is sad but inexorable logic in the present day scheme of things! Despite the law clearly laying down the death penalty to drug traffickers, those caught and indicted in Court, often got away lightly. Certain drug traffickers, realizing that their covert pressures were not having the desired effect, had the temerity, a few years ago to brazenly commit the killing of a respected Judge who was coming down hard on their illegal activities. The public are happy to note that the members of the Judiciary have since faced up to these terror tactics courageously by not being cowed down by them in meting out justice to such criminal elements.



Laws delays and the need to modernize investigative techniques
Laws delays constitute a major stumbling block to the expeditious dispensation of justice which latter is the mainstay of the confidence reposed by people in the judicial process and the criminal justice system. Modern social problems have to contend with an antiquated system of court procedures. The in- built inefficiencies of the Criminal Justice System are indeed starkly reflected in the tragically low rate of convictions recorded!

With the rapid deterioration of law and order in the country, even eminent and highly respected religious dignitaries who are appalled by the heinous crimes perpetrated, seem now to be in favour of the restitution and the implementation of the death penalty. However, with the mounting public agitation following the recent wave of crimes relating to child abuse and gruesome killings, it is indeed heartening to note that the President himself has agreed to place before Parliament, the implementation of the death penalty imposed by Court on convicted criminals

It is certainly not surprising that criminals have scant regard for the law in the knowledge that even if they are caught and indicted, the chances of conviction are minimal.

The statistical probability of a criminal getting convicted, even if charged in court, is a shocking 4%! This is, if anything, only a sad reflection of an inefficacious Criminal Justice System that obtains in the country today. 

It is common knowledge that the Prisons in the country, far from being reformatory institutions of delinquents and criminals ,are now little more than the breeding grounds of hardened criminals! It is only too well known that criminal activities including drug trafficking, contractual killings, heists etc. are hatched and orchestrated by mafia bosses from within the confines of prison walls, using the handy cellphone!

Drug seizures can be compensated by traffickers by hiking the price of the drug as an interim measure and simultaneously increasing shipments. 
It is observed that a very effective way of demotivating those engaged in illicit trafficking is the confiscation of their assets and property which would seriously undermine their capacity to finance, organize and maintain their clandestine networks.

The present Government which has declared its total commitment to eradicate the scourges should be unreservedly supported by all citizens in its efforts to root out the menace once and for all.

The writer is former Additional Secretary to the President, Ambassador to France and Senior advisor to the President.
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