Have top officials protected drug lords?

BY Kavindya Chris Thomas

National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) Chairman Prof. Ravindra Fernando yesterday accused his predecessor Dr. Chamira Nilanga Sumathipala of not leaving behind documentary or other evidence of a controversial list of narco-traffickers, which he has claimed to have compiled during his tenure in office. The lack of this information is seriously impeding our investigations, Professor Fernando said.

He said at a media briefing yesterday that even without the controversial list of names and other identification details, the NDDCB and the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) are doing their best to crack down on underworld narcotics dealers. During his tenure, Dr. Sumathipala has gone on record as having said that he was prepared to provide information about drug dealers to any political party and that he had a list of persons accused of illicit drug related offences.

“Unfortunately, the former Chairman had not entrusted the list of names of known drug traffickers in the country to anyone else in the organization. We checked our computer systems but found no such records. However, the PNB knows who these persons are and that is why they are able to arrest some of them on and off. Unfortunately, there are other factors which prevent them from making more arrests. Payments on narcotics purchases are not made in person by buyer to seller and this is a factor we are trying to identify. All we know is that payments are made via a complex banking mechanism. That is why it takes a lot of time to make an arrest,” he said.
He added that in today’s narcotics scenario payments are usually made by remittances to foreign accounts from a temporary local account. After the money is transferred to such an account , it is once again transferred electronically to another account while the original accounts are closed to pre-empt tracing.
Prof. Fernando said the International Narcotics Control Board has officially called Sri Lanka a central hub for international drug trafficking, which was proved by the recent large cocaine and heroin hauls in Colombo. According to him, large amounts of narcotics are shipped to Sri Lanka via sea and are then flown or shipped to Pakistan and Afghanistan and on to Europe. The NDDCB is holding discussions with the government to construct an International Drug Control Centre in collaboration with several Asian countries to expands the scope of action against the expansion of the narcotics trade.