February 25, 2020
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    March 09, 2019

    The Tri-Forces yesterday announced their readiness for a massive drug eradication campaign targeting peddlers, distributors and their operations with the assistance of law enforcement authorities in a similar manner as to how they finished off LTTE terrorism 10 years ago.Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratna said the majority of the drugs enter the country by sea and in this regard, the Navy has a pivotal role to play in preventing drugs from entering the country.

    The Sri Lankan maritime boundary is around 12 nautical miles from land. Drugs originate from Afghanistan and mainly it is brought to the country through Iran and Pakistan. The majority of the drugs go to Africa. He said although the Combined Maritime Force located in Bahrain was established to counter piracy, it plays a pivotal role in countering the drug smuggling operations.

    “When drugs are detected, these packets of drugs usually carry a number and when such detections are made we can compare the numbers with the references we have and we can point out from where these drugs originated. We then exchange intelligence information with other agencies and we draw out the routs to monitor and apprehend these ships carrying the drugs. The main route is the Southern route.

    There are over 3200 multi-day fishing trawlers that go out to sea daily from 17 fishing harbours. These trawlers are used to transfer drugs at mid-sea and transport them back to the country,”Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne said. Although there have been claims made that Sri Lanka is a transhipment hub for narcotic drugs, there is no evidence to support such a theory. Although many shipments of illegal drugs have been caught while being brought in to the country (inward shipments) so far no detections have been made in terms of these drugs being sent out of the country, the Chief of Defence Staff said.

    The media briefing held in Colombo on the current operations launched under the directives of the President to curb the drug menace affecting the country, was jointly held by the Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Piyal de Silva and the Air Force Commander Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy.According to Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, the drug issue has become a big in the country and 22% of the health expenditure in the country is on those affected by drugs, cigarettes and alcohol related illnesses.

    “Our main focus is on preventing the use of drugs and we are currently conducting education programmes countrywide especially targeting school children. We are rendering our assistance to the police and the drug enforcement authorities within our scope to curb the drug menace in the country. A main area that the Army is involved is in rehabilitating those addicted to drugs. There are two drug rehabilitation centres located in Senapura and Kandakadu where those addicted to drugs are sent for rehabilitation by the courts. The military intelligence units also render great support to the police and other law enforcement units, providing vital information to facilitate the arrest of those engaged in drug rafficking. Even within the army which has the country’s largest human resource, we educate our own military personnel on drugs and on the various types of drugs so that they are better informed to make such detections. This is a national endeavour and the army will give their utmost assistance in eradicating dugs from this country.”

    Meanwhile, the Navy Commander Vice Admiral Piyal de Silva said that the Navy is focussing on drug prevention, especially targeting school children. He said stopping the demand for the drugs should be done simultaneously with the preventing of these drugs entering the country. He said if there is no demand from the country, there will be no supply of drugs. If we can stop the demand there won’t be a market for these drugs. “Just a small amount would cost about Rs. 500 and it is estimated that there are around 450,000 drug users in the country. This value multiplied by the amount of drugs that was apprehended last year, adds to around two billion. Over 2097 kgs of Kerala Cannabis was apprehended by the Navy alone last year. The Police would have apprehended more on land. Usually they make two to three doses from 1 gram. It is a known factor that only around 10% of the drugs are generally caught and even in countries with the best policing 90% of it goes undetected.”

    “Over 1,000kg of heroin was detected over the past five months and in 2017, 168 arrests were made, in 2018 88 arrests were made and this year so far 28 arrests have been made. In 2018, the Navy detected 2,113 kg of Kerala Cannabis on 41 occasions, so far this year 684 kg has been detected and seized. On the pretext of fishing, these drug smugglers are carrying out this illegal business. We have to continue the sea operations even if it a hindrance to the legitimate fishermen,” Vice Admiral de Silva said.

    Similarly, the Air Force too plays a vital role in providing surveillance and detecting the drug operations from above, especially in areas with limited accessibility. “Under the drug prevention drive initiated by the President, the Air Force has first and foremost, taken measures to prevent our personnel from using drugs. The Air Force has also deployed 120 Air Force personnel countrywide for drug prevention operations and for the education drive. We mainly use Air Force aircraft to carry out surveillance to detect cannabis cultivations and we notify the ground troops who then go to the location and destroy these illegal plantations. Beach crafts, Y 12 and Bell 212 air craft are deployed for these reconnaissance missions,” he said.

    When asked about plans for the Navy and Air Force to launch a combined effort to detect suspicious ships at sea, the Navy Commander said as the Navy cannot cover the entire sea area around the country, measures are underway to use Air Force surveillance aircraft to assist the Navy by being their eyes in the sky.

    The Air Force Commander too noted that while these joint operations are already being carried out, further assistance would be given if required.The Tri Forces Commanders added that while the Police is in charge of law and order in the country and the military’s role in such activities are limited by law, the legal measures required to engage the military in the drug eradication drive is underway, which would enable them to assist the police in eradicating drugs from the country without any legal obstacles

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