One month before the gruesome rape and murder of a Poonkuduthivu schoolgirl, Jaffna’s District Secretary in a report had urged the police to act fast to check the rising incidence of sexual abuse, exploitation and illicit sale of liquor and drugs in the district. Describing schoolchildren’s new found addiction to drugs and banned substances as a “well-planned strategy”
aimed at disrupting the social fabric of the north, the report sent to Jaffna’s Deputy Inspector General highlights the alarming rate at which crime is rising in the peninsula. The report is the outcome of a discussion held by the District Child Development Committee headed by the DS. Drawing the attention of the police to illegal liquor sales that “continue unabated” in many areas in the district, the report notes that schoolchildren under the influence of drugs and alcohol turn violent and are involved in crimes.
It also says that child abuse is rampant in the district with children being molested by sex predators while children from areas outside the district are seen begging on the streets of Jaffna. District Secretary N. Vedanayagam told the Sunday Times his secretariat had sent the report to the Police, urging immediate action and a constant vigilance.
The report names schools, locations and villages vulnerable to the drug menace. Four of the schools named are leading schools in Jaffna. The post-war Northern Province has become a hub for the illicit drug trade. The popular drugs in the area are the Kerala ganja and the cannabis-mixed arecanuts, according to civil society activists. They say most of the drugs come through the Mathagal area.
They say the drug dealers carry out their business at eating houses near schools. The Sunday Times learns that the transaction takes place through various facilities offered by mobile phone companies. Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the All Island Teachers’ Association, blamed the failure by the police for the worsening crime situation in the peninsula.
“Recently at a village level meeting, several women organisations and Pradeshiya Sabha representatives identified areas that had become vulnerable to anti-social activities. They brought this to the notice of the police but little or no effective was action taken,” he said.Thambirasa Kurukularasa, the Northern Province Minister in charge of Education, Cultural Affairs, Sports and Youth Affairs, said he had instructed schools to carry out awareness campaigns to educate the children on the harmful effects of drugs.
An angry vice principal of a leading school which was named in the District Secretary’s report said the school would seek an explanation from the Secretariat on what basis the school was named. ”They should have informed us first if they had found any illegal activities or our students were involved in drugs,” he said.
A senior police official in the north confirmed that they had received a report from the District Secretary and they had taken countermeasures to eliminate the drug menace in the district.
He said the police were to send a detailed response to the District Secretary’s report by May 20, but due to the recent unrest over the rape and murder of the schoolgirl they could not send it. They would send it by next week. “We have deployed surveillance teams in the identified areas to collect intelligence on this. The situation will be under control soon,” he assured.