Dealers resort to devious tactics | Sunday Observer
Battle against narcotic drugs

Dealers resort to devious tactics

6 September, 2020
Drug smuggling cat
Drug smuggling cat

When he was in his early 20s, Kumara was a drug addict. He saw his life crumble as a result of his addiction with little power to control it. Now in his 40s, Kumara is rehabilitated and is helping his friends to battle addiction.

Dealers are finding new methods to distribute illicit drugs to their customers. Police Media Spokesman SSP Jaliya Senaratne told the media that one of the tactics these dealers are using now is concealing drugs in devices.

Recently, the police busted a business where drugs were trafficked in inhalers. The dealers targeted schoolchildren and operated in the Colombo city and its suburbs.

On Thursday, the police arrested a couple in Galle, with 500 grams of heroin concealed in coconuts. According to the police, the couple was part of a larger operation that is controlled by a man who is in prison for similar offences.

Air Force intelligence operatives and Police Special Task Force raided eight cannabis cultivation sites in the Udawalawe Forest Reserve on August 20. Two Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters - a Bell 212 and an MI-17 – were used to infiltrate the sites by the air. Police STF troops were airlifted and dropped at the locations during the raid.

In early August, the nabbing of the ‘drug smuggling cat’ made international headlines. The cat was caught in the Welikada prison premises with a packet containing illicit drugs tied around its neck. The cat was caught just after authorities seized an eagle that was also allegedly used to distribute illicit drugs.

“Addiction to dangerous drugs has increased remarkably over the last couple of years. Earlier, we found addicts mostly in urban areas, but now it has spread to villages too,” National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) Chairman Dr. Laknath Welagedara said.

“Drugs are sold to schoolchildren now,” he said, adding that this was a worrying situation and needs to be treated as a national issue. According to statistics by the NDDCB’s research unit, nearly three million of the country’s population consumes alcohol, while 2.4 million consume tobacco. About 300,000 are cannabis users, 92,000 use heroin, 24,000 are addicted to pharmaceutical drugs and 115,000 to other forms of illicit drugs. This makes up to 2.5 percent of the population.

“About 60 percent of the addicts are in the Western Province,” Dr. Welagedara said.

Central, North Western and Southern provinces are other areas where drug addiction is most prevalent. Attorney General’s coordinating officer Nishara Jayaratne told the media on Thursday that the department has concluded 2480 drug-related cases in the past 15 months and the state prosecutor has filed cases on 2,000 serious drug related incidents with the high court reducing the backlog of pending cases to 235 at the narcotics division.

According to NDDCB sources, around 52,000 people were arrested on drug offences from January to June this year. The people who are drug-dependent are rehabilitated in rehabilitation centres. Four of which are managed by the NDDCB and 13 others are private institutions.

About 10,000 receive treatment at the Kandakadu Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre. “About 12,000 are receiving treatment at the rehabilitation centres which are already overcrowded,” Dr. Welagedara of the NDDCB said.

As part of its program to battle against the drug menace in the country, the NDDCB will launch the country’s first Digital Suggestion Box tomorrow. People can give a tip-off to authorities on drug related incidents using the Digital Suggestion Box.

One of the Directors at the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC), Sampath De Seram, said the most worrying development is the attempts by certain politicians, lecturers, monks and artistes to legalise cannabis.

“We see many Facebook accounts that are promoting the cannabis use. They publish lies saying that cannabis is good for health and the economy. When we speak against this we are attacked with foul language,” Seram said.

He added that Sri Lanka is in a better place in controlling drug addiction than most of the other countries.

The increase in drug cases, he said, is because more cases are reported now than in the past.

He said that the country has to focus on delaying initiation. When people use drugs later in life they are less likely to get addicted.

The National Dangerous Drugs Control Board can be contacted on 1927.