Why isn’t Lanka’s ‘War on Drugs’, taking on Drug Barons?

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In December 2023, Public Security Minister, Tiran Alles announced with much fanfare, the launch of ‘Operation Yukthiya’. Within a 22-day spell, authorities apprehended a total of 29,475 suspects. They initially announced the seizure of millions of rupees in cash and the confiscation of assets belonging to drug peddlers/dealers.

Media reports of drug raids continue to regale the public with a plethora of statements issued by the Public Security Minister and the acting IGP on how well the operation is progressing. Daily we hear of hundreds of persons being taken into custody. 
What is concerning however is that the Minister and the Acting IGP seem to be acting outside the law in their efforts to rid the country of the drug menace.

While the media, as responsible organisations, back all steps to save the country’s children from the clutches of drug barons, peddlers and pushers, we cannot but be worried at the fact that some actions of the authorities themselves are beyond the scope of the law. 
While large numbers of persons have been taken into custody, not a single of the big-time drug barons, who ‘by chance’ are politicians, have been touched. Among them are ex-Ministers of State. A well-known drug baron was saved by a powerful politician at the time of his imminent arrest. As yet, none of these personalities have been investigated, nor even their hangers-on been touched.

Even worse, the Public Security Minister is threatening underworld and drug operatives to “surrender or face death by Police…” He also accused lawyers appearing for suspects of being in the pay of drug lords.
These foolish statements of the Minister have once again raised international human rights concerns. We now have Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations calling on the government to rein the programme in. 
In the Philippines, ex-President Durtete waged a murderous ‘war on drugs’ between 2016 and 2018. According to the Time Magazine, more than 6,000 people were killed in his (Durtete’s) campaign to purge the Philippines of illegal drugs and those associated with them.

The victims ­ again according to the ‘Time’- were suspected users and pushers. They did not enjoy due process, and were always killed at night, sometimes inside their own homes. The perpetrators were vigilantes, hired gunmen and likely cops too.
Is it this type of situation that our Minister is trying to foist on this country? Yet, despite all the savagery and mass killings unleashed by Durtete in the Philippines, he was unable to successfully eradicate the drug menace there.

A Xinhua report in January this year disclosed present Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos’ Presidential Communications Office (PCO) saying that the Philippines arrested 56,495 drug-related suspects and confiscated 10.41 billion pesos (over 187 million U.S. dollars) worth of illegal drugs
in 2023. 
Killing and the incarceration of drug users, pushers and peddlers will not solve the drug menace in this country or elsewhere in the world, as long as the political backers and drug lords are allowed to continue reaping the benefits of the trade.

The US – one of the biggest markets for the drug trade – has taken into custody one of the biggest drug dealers – as for example El Chapo. But the drugs trade continues to flourish in the US. Many US law-makers and even members of the judiciary are suspected of providing political backing to big time drug barons.
In like manner unless and until the drug lords and political backers of the narcotic trade in this country are brought to book, there is little chance of ‘our’ war on drugs successfully combating the drug menace in the country.

At present, the local war on drugs programme does little more than temporarily divert people’s attention away from the day-to-day problems which beset them.
But in a land where people can barely afford to feed themselves two full meals a day, such tactics cannot deceive the people over a period of time. Rather than trying to divert people’s attention, our leaders will do well to bring down the cost of living.


dailymirror.lk – editorial

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