By Sugeeswara Senadhira
While President Maithripala Sirisena reiterated very sternly that he would carry out the death penalty for major convicted drug offences who continue the illicit drug trade while in the death cell. He declared that he had entrusted the Armed Forces, Police and the Civil Defence Force with the task of eradicating the narcotics menace the way they had destroyed the LTTE.
While the President’s decision to carry out the fight against drugs on a war footing did not face any adverse response, some human rights activists expressed alarm about his references to the strong arm tactics adopted successfully by President Duterte of the Philippines.
Furthermore, the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) came out with a most surprising statement that they would take legal action if there was a move to arbitrarily execute persons convicted of drug related offences, who are found repeating such offences during imprisonment. However, CPRP Chairman Senaka Perera’s argument against execution falls flat by his own logic that the prisoners should be given a chance to correct their criminal ways. “rehabilitation where the wrongdoers are afforded an opportunity to rectify themselves is the solution. This shows respect for human rights,” Perera asserted.
The CPRP seems to have forgotten the fact that President Sirisena’s proposal is to carry out execution for the drug offenders who continue their criminal drug trading while in prison. If these criminals carry out drug smuggling while in prison, it is very clear that these criminals do not have any desire to rectify their errant ways and become good citizens.
“Students are the main target of narcotic dealers and therefore we conduct awareness programmes in schools,” President Sirisena said adding that when the National drug Eradication Week was announced a student had questioned whether the drug menace could be eradicated within one week.”
Schoolchildren are the main target of drug traffickers and the Presidential Task Force carried out dangerous drug awareness campaigns in 51 schools in Matara district this week. The President, who attended an awareness programme at the Ruhuna University, presented certificates of appreciation to the best contributors to the drug eradication campaign. The University of Ruhuna received a cash award for establishing a research unit for eradicating narcotics.
CPRP Secretary blamed Parliamentarians and drug barons for importing drugs into the country and charged that, “President Sirisena, despite being the first citizen of a democracy, which has human rights obligations as per international conventions, entered into a war in favour of the inhumane hangman’s noose”.
The CPRP cannot be ignorant that those who continue drug trade behind prison walls are drug barons who were caught with hundreds of kilos of narcotic drugs worth millions of rupees. President Sirisena said very clearly that his intention is to execute few large scale drug dealers who continue drug smuggling from their death cells. In other words one or two drug barons will face hangman’s noose and not minor offenders. If any Parliamentarians are involved in drug smuggling – there very well could be few judging by the anti-social tendencies display by few MPs – it is for the police to investigate and bring the offenders to book. The learned CPRP office-bearers should understand that President Sirisena cannot be expected to hang MPs without a conviction by the court.
President Sirisena referred to those who ridicule the national programmes for drug eradication. Without mincing words he said that whatever said and done, he strongly believe that those who are trying to deplore these activities have some connection with drug trafficking. Whatever the guise they use, it is clear that the people who try to ridicule the drug eradication programmes are under the control of narcotics drug dealers. The drug barons have unlimited funds to buy people and they are even powerful enough to topple governments.
The President said while continuing the programmes that are being implemented to control and eradicate illicit drugs, new set of programmes will also be launched within the next few months aiming at the schoolchildren and public servants to further strengthen the fight against drugs.
He added that the fight against drugs will be carried out on a war footing, similar to the war to defeat LTTE terrorism.
The President said that he is determined to carry out capital punishment for repeated drug offenders. Pointing out that certain forces with an agenda carry out campaigns against the Theravada Buddhist Philosophy, the President said that the illicit drugs are also a part of a major coup of certain organised groups to destroy the country. Under these circumstances, it is essential to take stern decisions and it is the duty of everybody to join hands in the campaign to eradicate drugs, the President emphasized.
This 13th programme in Matara is the district meetings of the “Mathin Nidahas Ratak” conducted under the instructions of President Maithripala Sirisena and operated under the Presidential Task Force Drugs Prevention. A broad set of programmes were held centering Matara district in the late October. Under that, all the districts were covered and 650 rural programmes were held at Grama Sevaka division level and the officers and the public were made aware of the programme. An awareness programme was conducted covering 51 schools of five regions in collaboration of the Navy and Air Force.