20 May, 2024


Re-Visiting The Narcotics Issue 

By Upatissa  Pethiyagoda

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

The arrests in Dubai of many celebrants, presumably Sri Lankans, in a joint operation by our Law Enforcement officials and the Dubai officials, has brought into focus many interesting issues.

1. Almost all the detainees have tested positive for narcotics and are to be brought before their Courts in Dubai.

2. Considering the UAE’s attitude towards, even alcohol and the heavy penalties that are imposed, it is probable that these arrestees may even invite execution.

3. This incident seems to have spurred our own authorities, (a Domino Effect?) with a catch of many local drug related operators. The links and operational details of how these kinds of criminal networks have functioned should be of obvious interest. How is it that the super-charged effort now had to await the Dubai operation? 

4. Will the pursuit of the local Drug Lords lead to more “juicy” disclosures?

5. What are the legal factors that will determine whether the prosecutions will take place in Dubai or Sri Lanka?

The unbelievably massive quantities of Heroin and the calculated Street Values of these seizures, is mind boggling. They may even exceed our annual budget! The detections probably represent only a very small fraction of the total amounts entering our country. When the hundreds of Kilograms of Heroin or similar drugs intercepted are converted to the average size of a “fix”, how do they match the number of addicts that we are supposed to harbor? It will most certainly outstrip by far, the amounts locally consumed. This would suggest that our estimate of addicts is abysmally low or that we are a trans-shipment point. Either does nothing to enhance our international reputation. It cannot escape our notice that only the small fry, who are caught peddling milligram amounts of drugs, are netted while the wholesale dealers escape attention.

The nexus between narcotic Drug Lords and politicians is obvious. A haul of some 200 odd Kilograms detected by Customs in containers, saw the office of the then Prime Minister (And Minister of Buddhasasana) intervening to get the Customs to release the suspect containers. There was also the case where a notorious kingpin was trapped by a carefully executed operation, when no less than the President of that time, arriving by helicopter to embrace the criminal, in a clear signal that the exercise be abandoned. In both instances, the public was not informed about ensuing actions – probably because there were none! How can a country so besmirched hope to command respect?    

Our President has recently repeated that the death penalty be imposed on the kingpins of the Drug menace. It is assumed that he will keep to his word, to sign the requisite papers to initiate action. Interestingly, we are reported to have ordered two new nooses because the ones we have perished through disuse. It is decades since the last hangings. Meanwhile, two new hangmen have been recruited (of whom one has resigned because he was bored through inaction). Here a distinction has to be made between derivatives of opium (the opiates that include heroin, morphine and cocaine) and Marijuana (Ganja) which has been de-criminalized in several countries – the latest being Canada. It is confidently expected that many may soon fall in line. There is considerable evidence of many health benefits (although this means that the claims are mostly anecdotal). This has to be so, because proper, rigorous trials could not be conducted as possession or cultivation were illegal.

Canada is well positioned to benefit from exports, to an expanding market as more and more countries lift restrictions. We may do well to go easy on an over-enthusiastic move to destroy plantations and to seize stocks. It is likely that much more liberal attitudes to marijuana – for medicinal and recreational use – will soon be a reality. The opium style narcotics are demonstrably vile and should continue to be pursued with utmost vigour as they are addictive, intoxicating and with many undesirable side effects. Ganja has found use as a meat tenderizer and in Ayurvedic medications. It is claimed that they are non-addictive and that long term use does not lead to progression to the more potent opioids (as an “entry” drug). In fact, the reverse is true (that it functions as an “exit” drug) and may even help in rescuing addicts from the more harmful products). Both these claims are disputed. 

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Latest comments

  • 5

    in srilanka if there is too much brouhaha about something nothing will happen in the end

    • 4

      1. Will Sri Lanka grow and export Cannabis to Canada etc. to feed the consumers of weed there? Is it ethical considering it is illegal here?
      2. The benefits of medical cannabis has been proven beyond doubt. Creso Pharma – based in Australia, is set to export Medical Cannabis to SL via Ceyoka Healthcare . Good news!
      3. Any heroin user knows where to buy his fix within the locality of his home. The Police obviously know this too. Why don’t they eradicate the retailer? Who is stopping them from doing so?
      4. What has the Govt done in respect of providing support/rehab for those people with alcohol and drug addictions? There should be one in every major town?
      5. The Govt. collect billions as revenue from the alcohol and tobacco industries. They must allocate a small amount towards rehab and support for addicts and their families.
      6. Statistics are most important but there is nothing that will help us understand the magnitude of addictions overall. where/How do we start?
      7. The National Dangerous Drugs Control Board says they have counselling services. With a name like that will any user feel comfortable going there for help?

  • 0

    Interesting to find out who the bearded one covering his ears with his hands is . Rumor has it that he is the capo da capo , but has not received the attention of the media for some reason .

  • 3

    “What are the legal factors that will determine whether the prosecutions will take place in Dubai or Sri Lanka?”

    It is best that the prosecutions take place there as they have a more capable and efficient system of administration of justice in Dubai. Their Chief Justice, Attorney General and in fact all their judges and lawyers would carry out their tasks with greater dedication and professionalism than their counterparts here. There will also be no political interference. If those drug peddlers are sent here they will be arrested and remanded with a great show. Then those drug lords will develop medical problems and spend some time in the prison hospital. Then after some time, all of them will be granted bail and thereafter, they will either roam as free men or abscond or emigrate. And then it will be back to business as usual!

  • 3

    Thank you, Dr.Pethiyagoda, for expressing the sentiments of all decent people across our many divides in a make or break issue that plagues the country. Interpol, the UN Agencies and the world surely take note our Prime Ministers, Presidents and other political VIPs – and even those high up in the clerical order – openly intervene on behalf of notorious drug-traffickers here. That being the case, what respect do you think the world may have of our land and society – said to be deeply influenced by religion?

    R. Varathan

  • 3

    As Dr. Pethiyagoda acutely observes, “The nexus between narcotic Drug Lords and politicians is obvious”, and so it is the small fry that are made to pay the penalties for what the politicians are responsible for. This could well be another reason that the decriminalizing or legalizing the use of Cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes will not be considered, as it is the politicians that are making the money from the illegal sale of Cannabis and other narcotic substances.

    Our president is well known for his outdated views on modern society (remember when he wanted to whip people with stingray tails?!!) and his general ignorance on many fronts. And now, in true Sinhala Buddhist spirit, he wants to reintroduce the death penalty to our country! But will he continue the practice of prosecuting the pawns while hobnobbing with the real culprits is the question.

    Yahapalanaya my ass!!

  • 1

    Dear Upe
    Lakto Pethiyagoda was my classmate

  • 0

    Upathissa Hulugalla has become a prolific writer. Can he beat Shyamon Jayasinghe. Only time will tell

  • 3

    I just gave Buzzy a like, and thanks must go to Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda for writing sane articles. (Why has Malani Sudharmika brought Upathissa Hulugalla into this; please check before saying – it’s confusing enough as it is.)
    Yes, we must not get hysterical about all drugs: the problem is that I draw the line for stimulants at tea and coffee, and so will remain ignorant of what is being discussed – like Sirisena, as you say, Buzzy. Yes, I know that I may be taking some marijuana without even knowing it, and I won’t lose sleep over that.
    An immediate problem is indeed that we have a now mad President (I will stubbornly insist that he was reasonably sane when we elected him). However, as Dr Pethiyagoda shows the problem is serious even if we have become only a trans-shipment point. Please, God, if people have to hang may it be the really bad guys – who are probably politicians. We then have to also pray that our people will achieve a little more understanding when voting at all the elections to come.

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