President Maithripala Sirisena voiced his concerns over the rising rates of women drug addicts in Sri Lanka, during the Western Province ceremony of the National Drug Prevention Week, at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, on 1 July.
A National Drug Eradication Week was declared from 22 June to 1 July, on the instruction of President Sirisena, in an attempt to further strengthen the national programmes in place, to eradicate drugs.
“When we talk about the drug issues in Sri Lanka, one of the biggest challenges we are facing now is how women have got into using drugs. The Government recently brought down the price of beer. I was against it, so was the Minister of Health, and we have always fought against it. When you consider all these things, what women consume the most is beer. They have also got into cigarettes and cannabis. The very ﬁrst step to taking very damaging drugs such as heroin, ice, marijuana is beer or cigarettes. Most people take beer or cigarettes to see how it feels,” the President said.
50,000 drug offenders jailed annually
The President also claimed a staggering 50,000 people are being apprehended annually, over various involvements, in connection with drugs.
“In our country, over 50,000 people are arrested due to drug offences every year, and most of them are women. At present, drugs worth Rs 50 billion are being distributed in Sri Lanka annually.
Moreover, these drug smugglers now hand schoolchildren drugs free of charge, in an attempt to get them addicted. I know even in some of the universities, there are drug addicts, how did that all start? Because they were given drugs free of charge, and see what has happened today?” the President added.
Rehabilitation is also such an important part of Sri Lanka’s battle against narcotics, but it was revealed by the Dangerous Drugs Control Board (DDCB), the lack of rehabilitation centres across the country, is proving to be a problem, with the number of people waiting for the process of rehabilitation crossing 100,000.
The former Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, retired DIG Sirisena Herath claimed that the authorities are making the best use of the resources available at the moment.
“What we have understood is that it takes a lot of time to build new centres, but what we are planning to do is to get the best out of the resources we already have. At the moment, we have identiﬁed
about ﬁve closed schools, where we could carry out rehabilitation for drugs addicts. We have selected ﬁve districts, including Anuradhapura for our programmes, because it is very important to take this into cities away from Colombo. It requires to be done urgently as well, because at the moment we have over 100,000 people who are in need of this, and the President is very keen on helping them out. “I think we need to understand that after all the addicts are also human beings, and we have seen that young people from areas like Grandpass and Mattakkuliya are vulnerable to drugs, because they don’t have much knowledge about the effects of drugs. So, what we generally do, is we
take addicts to centres and help them out with meditation, counselling, music therapy and many other programmes,” he said in an interview.
Capital punishment for drug smuggling is a matter that has been discussed for so many years now. While rehabilitation is one possible way of helping people get back their lives, it is very important that people understand that there is zero-tolerance for drug smuggling.
President Sirisena made it clear that the decision to carry out capital punishment against drug trafﬁckers, who are continuing to engage in drug smuggling operations, is a key step in making Sri Lanka a drug-free country.
“After so much of work over drug eradication, there is good progress, and we have discussed the death penalty. Since we considered the death penalty, many people tell me ‘now people are scared to commit drug crimes.’ In fact, I must also say that this decision is made by the Judges, and I only eventually sign,” the President stated.