News Features  


The drug world entered Lanka with open economy

By Sydney Knight
Thanks to the media, we were given a ball by ball commentary on what happened at Welikada recently.
How did the prisoners get ready to welcome the police in the manner that they did?
Isn’t it true that somebody made them prepare for this search operation?
Before we get to the subject of the menace of drugs in our country, the minister and all those in high places as regards the Welikada Prison must do a search operation of their work as those responsible for the prisoners at Welikada.

For years, Sri Lanka was focussing on the war in the North and East and, therefore, put under the carpet live issues like the prisoners in our country and the menace of drugs. Now that the military part of the war is behind us, we, the people of Sri Lanka must address these issues.
I shall, in this article, leave it to the authorities to handle and manage the matter of our prisons and focus on the menace of drugs in our country.
I for one will blame the 1977 government for the manner in which the problem of drugs has become a menace in our land today.

In 1977, we began the economic policy called the open economy.
I am a product of the University of Peradeniya where we have a plaque which states “more open than usual”.
Sadly, the 1977 government opened the economy in our country “more open than usual”.
What does this mean? Not only did we export and import our needs and our products but also the menace of drugs. Of course, we Sri Lankans are not angels and archangels. Some in our country were used to drugs like ganja.

With the open economy, the drug world entered Sri Lanka. ‘Filthy Lucre’ became the name of the game. Hence, the place of money in our economy and in our lives.
Cash craze
With the interest of making money, the peddlers of drugs did everything possible to reach the untouched in the areas of drugs.
Those of us, who have been trained to handle all these in some way, know that before one becomes addicted to handle drugs one gets used to tobacco and liquor and perhaps ganja.
What is the outcome? The peddlers of drugs are in the vicinity of our schools. They do their utmost to capture innocent students and initiate the bad habit.

It is no secret that our students are getting addicted to drugs.
In our society, some people, who are addicted to drugs become thieves, beggars and borrowers of money.
Many young lives are being destroyed; homes broken and families disrupted.
Some well-dressed young people are on the streets trying to get some money pretending to be somebody and sadly telling us the same story everyday.
I for one am glad that the police are at last fighting this battle of the menace of drugs in our country.
It was only a few years ago that a leading judge in our country was murdered by a rich man who became rich by dealing in the business of drugs.

Sometimes, I wonder where all those who were shouting from the house tops about the menace of Prabhakaran and the LTTE are doing about this live problem in our land. What then is the answer to the problem?
This problem is ours and, therefore, the solution is ours. Of course, the hard drugs come from outside. People and organisations make money as did the LTTE on the sale of drugs.
It is the parent in every home in this land, every place of education in our country and every place of worship that must address this issue.

Broken relationship
All our homes are not happy places.
There are cases of broken relationships and some parents are either not with their spouses and children or away from the home trying to make money. Our schools have ceased to be places of learning and values.
Our places of worship have become places that have forgotten the teaching of their founders.
It is in this context that the work of the police must be stated.
As a person who has been trained to handle this problem, we were taught that when a person addicted to drugs has been helped he/she must get back to a place where he or she will be cared for and looked after. Sadly, all our homes, places of learning and places of worship do not fit this requirement.
Therefore, there has to be a process of self-examination in our homes, places of learning and places of worship.
Linked to the drug menace is the issue of sex workers in our midst.
Poverty is supposed to be the cause for these workers indulging in the world’s oldest profession.
We are sadly a sick society using money to purchase drugs and sex.
We need healing.
This, to my mind, can only come if today’s Sri Lanka will take seriously the teachings of the founders of the four world religions in our midst.
It was Mother Teresa of Calcutta who once said, “If a Buddhist is a better Buddhist, if a Hindu a better Hindu, if a follower of Islam can be a better follower and a follower of Christ a better follower, this world will be a better place”.
Therefore, to my mind, the solution can be learned from the four main religions of our land.
As I write this piece, I am aware that in the midst of this tragedy, where drugs and sex are concerned, there are persons in our land who are addressing this issue.
We need to support them.
Law and order can only help but the deep rooted problem must be focussed and addressed. Over to all Sri Lankans.

Synthetic stimulant drugs ‘growing threat in Asia’

VIENNA (AFP) - Synthetic stimulant drugs are replacing traditional plant-based narcotics such as heroin and opium across Asia, a UN report has warned.
Amphetamine-type stimulants were widely used in East and South-East Asia in 2009 and were being produced in almost every country in the region, the report said -- with methamphetamine, known as meth, especially popular.
The drugs are a “critical emerging threat to the region”, said the report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Myanmar is the region’s main source of methamphetamines, with clandestine laboratories operating in its troubled eastern border regions using materials smuggled from China and Thailand, the report said.
But international organised crime groups have also increased their involvement with the regional drugs trade.
Amphetamine-type drugs (ATS) were manufactured in all but three countries in the region in 2009 and were in the top three drugs of use in every country.
“The increased manufacture and use of ATS is a worrying trend and a growing health challenge for the region,” UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov said.
“While overall development levels in many countries are climbing, and the lives of millions are improving, the spread of ATS use is a sad -- and unnecessary -- situation and one which must be tackled with immediate urgency.”
Also on the rise was the use of ketamine, a drug used in human and veterinary medicine but also used recreationally as a cheaper alternative to drugs such as ecstasy.
In 2009, 6.9 tons of ketamine were seized in east and southeast Asia, up from 6.3 tons the previous year and about 85 percent of the global total, said the report.
In Hong Kong ketamine had now become the primary drug of use.
Drug treatment services in many parts of the region were unable to keep up with the new trend for synthetic drugs, said the agency.
“Most drug treatment services in the region are still aimed at users of heroin, opium and cannabis despite this shift toward ATS use,” said a UNODC statement.
Between 3.4 million and 20.7 million people in the region had used amphetamines in the past year, said the report, out of 14 million to 53 million global users.
International organised crime groups were increasingly involved with the regional drugs trade, the report said, especially those from Iran and West Africa.
Lab-based drugs, distributed as pills, powder or crystals, escaped the traditional constraints of plant-based crops, which are dependent on geography and climate, said UNODC policy analysis director Sandeep Chawla in a statement.
“By being able to produce ATS in their basements and backyards, criminals are presented with new opportunities which must be denied,” she said.
“This means that there is no long trafficking route along which law enforcement can intercept the drugs... ATS thus pose very different challenges for law enforcement.”