Yesterday this newspaper reported of a Rs 80 million heroin haul off the Marawila beach in the Puttalam District (See also yesterday’s Mawbima edition). According to the authorities the stash comprised eight kilograms and 528 grams of heroin. It’s suspected that the narcotic was smuggled in by boat from India. Such detections have been common in Sri Lanka. They are not something new.
As has been reported in this newspaper, Wele Suda, an alleged drug kingpin, whom this government made a big hue and cry after his recent arrest, seemingly due to his connections with the previous government, has been cleared of being involved in this drug peddling racket.
This (i.e. yesterday’s detection) is another ring, Police Spokesman, ASP Ruwan Gunasekera is reported to have had told the media, divorced from Wele Suda. He had also said that the main suspect has been identified and is expected to be arrested soon.
Meanwhile, our sister paper Mawbima reported that two suspects have already been taken in to custody in this connection. It further said that in the calendar year to date the authorities have seized Rs 200 million worth of heroin (20 kg.) and had taken in to custody 9,185 persons in this connection.
It was also reported that despite villagers informing the local police about such drug smuggling incidents, like the recent incident at Marawila, no action had however been taken by them to investigate such claims. The Marawila detection was made by the Police Narcotics Bureau which is headquartered in Colombo and not by the local police.
Police are to investigate as to why such follow-up action had not taken place despite villagers’ complaints it was further reported by Mawbima.
“‘Set a thief to catch a thief!'” with apologies to the police. (See below)
Nevertheless, the continuous heroin inflows into the country despite so called high profile arrests raise five questions. 1. Considering the alleged inaction by the local police in respect of the Marawila incident, does it mean that sections of the police are also involved in this racket? 2. If that’s so, isn’t it better that such investigations of alleged police complicity/negligence or apathy, should be carried by an independent board, which need not necessarily comprise policemen, as then would arise questions of conflict of interest? 3.
Why is it that, despite such large scale arrests, nearly 10,000 to date, allegedly involved in heroin peddling, by boat from India or otherwise, still such inflows continue, virtually unabated to Sri Lanka? And that, despite so called high profile arrests like Wele Suda? 4. Considering ‘3’, is it that the authorities are catching only the sprats, like Wele Suda (!?) for instance, but allowing the sharks to escape? 5. If ‘4’ is correct, why is that so? And 6. Is the island the final destination for such heroin? Or, is it a drugs hub in the region?
Perhaps, the arrest of the main suspect, involved in the recent Marawila incident, which, according to Gunasekera would be made soon, would shed more light?
The police come under IGP N. K. Illangakoon, whilst the Department per se comes under the Public Order Ministry, which in turn has as its subject Minister John Amaratunga (MP). All these institutions and individuals in authority are maintained by the taxpayer. Even those nearly 10,000 suspected heroin peddlers taken in to custody by the police this year are also sustained by the taxpayer.
The sum of taxpayer money involved in maintaining such, may be mind boggling to say the least.Therefore, it’s up to those in authority to address the aforesaid six issues and perhaps get the assistance of Interpol if necessary.
But the problem here is that the Sri Lankan public system, whether it be the police or any other similar institution, is not accountable to the taxpayer. Streams of accountability need to be in place which may be a spur to bring forth the desired result, thereby justifying to the taxpayer that his/her tax money is well spent.
If there is no accountability, taxpayers’ money would go down the drain.
The recently passed 19th Amendment (19A), which makes it law in respect of the establishment of independent commissions, such as that which would oversee the activities of the police, may be first step in that direction.
Nevertheless, though it’s now weeks since the passing of 19A, those independent commissions are yet to see the light of day. The form is there, but no substance, akin to Admiral Horthy without a ship.
Perhaps, the ‘Achilles’ Heel’ is that it’s a minority government in power?
But does that satisfy the taxpayer? The voter/taxpayer was instrumental in forming the present government by electing President Maithripala Sirisena four months ago not only to have the form of 19A in place, but also its related substance as well.
Treat the cause, not the symptoms, which is the root cause of Sri Lanka’s narcotics inflows, even if persons of authority are involved. Otherwise, the voter may well have been taken for a ride by believing in the promise of the establishment of Yaha Palanaya.