Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday that the kingpins of the drug business are in Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs and ‘Buddhist Organizations’ yesterday (14th).
Samaraweera made these revelations at a media conference where he expressed opposition to the death penalty, a subject that has once again aroused interest following President Maithripala Sirisena stating that it should be implemented against drug offenders.
‘I will say one thing, even the big drug dealers who operate from prison are only second level leaders. The big people (drug lords) are in Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs and in Buddhist Organizations,’ he said.
Speaking on the drug menace Samaraweera said that capital punishment will not help catch the key figures running the business.
‘You can’t lump the addicts and the dealers together. What we need are more rehabilitation center for addicts so that young people who due to various reasons have become addicted can be helped.
‘It is good if the death penalty can help catch the drug lords in a country where in certain cases the police officer is the judge, the jury and the murderer…but I must say that I am against the death penalty even in the case of murders. I think that murderers should be held for life and thereby die every moment.’
Samaraweera opined that the best solution would be to implement the law to the letter. He did not however comment on the fact that the death penalty is part of the law. He acknowledged that he stood with a recent cabinet decision to implement the death penalty despite his personal views: ‘I stand with the podu theeranaya (common decision).’
Samaraweera did not name any particular individual, however.
Representatives of Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs or Buddhist organizations are yet to respond to Samaraweera’s charges.
Update: Issuing a statement, Mangala Samaraweera on Monday ( 16th) said:
“In response to a question on the restoration of Capital Punishment for drug dealers at a press conference last week, while reiterating my opposition to Capital Punishment, I said that certain individuals connected to the drug trade try to cover their sins by being benefactors of society, holding high positions in various organizations or as philanthropists in religious organizations. Inadvertently, I also mentioned Rotarians and Lions Clubs, which I deeply regret.
“There may be some individuals in society that join various organizations for such reasons. However, I fully recognize and acknowledge that this does not, in any way, diminish the noble charitable work which has been, and continues to be done by these Organizations throughout the country, especially for the poor, needy, destitute and the vulnerable.
“I understand that my comments would have resulted in causing pain of mind to many. To all of them, I express my sincere apologies.”