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Defence Secretary assures to eradicate drug menace in Sri Lanka

June 26, 2020

  •   Says need to identify and confirm the enemy within the system to eradicate drug menace.
  •   Stresses the need of bringing all the notorious drug kingpins to book to do justice for the future generation.

Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne reiterated that punitive actions would be initiated without delay against prison, law enforcement and other officials, who are found abusing official powers vested through corrupt practices, abetting and collaborating with underworld criminals and drug traffickers.

He said the law enforcement authorities had already taken all measures to identify those uniformed men who were abusing powers vested with them to get involved in corrupt practices.

“When we were in the military academy, we were taught that the most dangerous enemy is the enemy within. We now need to identify and confirm the enemy within us to eradicate drug menace. Otherwise it will be a futile effort”, the Defence Secretary said.

Addressing a gathering at the foundation laying ceremony held to build a new rehabilitation centre at the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB), at Nittambuwa, this morning (June 26), he assured to take all necessary measures to eradicate drug menace in Sri Lanka, soon.

Maj.Gen. Gunaratne said those who were addicted to drugs needed sympathy, support and assistance to get rehabilitated and reintegrated  into the society to lead productive lives.

The fully-fledged rehabilitation centre, which is targeted to rehabilitate nearly 1,000 drug addicts, will be constructed with the assistance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The event was also held to mark the ‘International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’, which falls today.

While stating that the underworld and drug dealers should be ashamed of feeding their families from the money earned by abetting wrongdoings, the Defence Secretary said eliminating drug menace was a mammoth task and needed to bring all the notorious drug kingpins to book to do justice to the future generation.

Maj.Gen.Gunaratne said the first corrective measure should be at rescuing children who had fallen prey, the second was saving our future generations and the third was to identify those who abuse the respective official capacity abetting the wrongdoers.

Chairman NDDCB Dr. Laknath Welagedara said the NDDCB, which had been in operation for 36-years since 1984, was expanding treatments and rehabilitation facilities in order to ‘build a drug free, healthy and secured nation’, first responsive onto the nation’s policy of prosperous country following the vision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

He said the new building, ‘Nawa Diganthaya’ for treatment and rehabilitation centre, would be built in partnership with the Government of Germany and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) while the construction being undertaken by the Sri Lanka Navy.

Deputy Ambassador of Germany Andreas Berg said Germany was supporting the initiative as a part of a much larger project strengthening the capacity of Sri Lanka to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism through effective criminal justice responses.

“The expansion of this rehabilitation centre reflects the fourth pillar of the larger project and this is to strengthening capability and capacity in the prison sector”, he said.

Berg said the expansion of NDDCB’s new facility would support the government’s efforts to decongest prisons, in which a high number of drug users are being currently held.

He further said the project would complement the efforts by the government to tackle the challenges of drug menace in the country and consider treatment not as a method of punishment in addressing the issue.

“We are looking forward to working in partnership with the government, UNODC, civil society, judiciary and prison officials in curbing drug and drug abuse and violent extremism,” he said.  

Head of Global Maritime Crime Program of the UNODC Alan Cole said since the land routes for drug trafficking had been restricted amidst the COVID-19 lockdowns, maritime routes become more attractive for drug traffickers while placing Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) at the forefront in the regional fight against the drug trafficking.

Assuring to provide advice curbing organized crimes in prisons and drug menace Cole hailed the government’s new strategy to take them out of the prison system and initiatives introduced to rehabilitate them.

Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary Ravinatha Ariyasinghe, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva, Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Maj. Gen.(Retd) Darshana Hettiarachchi, Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya, Defence Ministry’s Additional Secretary Malika Sooriyapperuma were also present at the occasion.