By Mudliyar

Lankan drug lords' police connection
The first detection of heroin in Sri Lanka was made in 1981. Today, it is believed tens of thousands of Sri Lankans, mostly youth, are addicted to heroin.

Most of the convictions in heroin-related cases are for possessing minute quantities of heroin. Such convicts are often sentenced to jail and confined with other addicts. Heroin is freely available in prisons. The convict comes out of jail as a hard-core heroin addict or a dealer. He obtains information from other prisoners about suppliers and thus becomes a grave danger to society.

According to the police, there are 21 godfathers who smuggle in heroin. They live in palatial houses, mostly in Colombo 7. The biggest dealer lives in Ward Place in a palace with swimming pool and dozens of luxury vehicles. Neither he nor the other 20 druglords have ever been arrested or charged in a court of Law. They are patronized by politicians, senior police officers and are members of many charities. The clergy often frequent their abodes. No one would ever dare to arrest them.

There are 20 odd rehabilitation centres around the country. There are touts hanging around schools to accost children to hideouts where heroin is sold. The first few sniffs or puffs are given to children free. They keep a record of the children who are brought. A few more shots are given till they become drug dependent. Then there are other children who have become addicts and are given free dosage of heroin provided by their friends. We have one of the highest percentage of murder and we consume more alcohol than people in most developed countries - coming a close second to Russia.

From the Jaffna peninsula, we seldom hear of reports on heroin addiction. In one rare case, a man who sold few packets of heroin in the Jaffna town, was abducted. What happened to him, nobody knows. It is alleged that the LTTE earns a lucrative income through running a worldwide drug smuggling network. But not a grain is found or sold in Jaffna. Hail Prabahakaran!

The only kingpin who was arrested was Mohammed Noor alias Kudu Noor. What happened behind the close doors of Police at weekly Intelligence Conferences shows how helpless the police big wigs are and how powerful the drug barons are.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike by a letter dated March 5, 2001 appointed DIG Sirisena Herath, who had been unfairly transferred by the President herself at the behest of the then minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, as the head of a team to eradicate underworld crimes. In paragraph 1 of the letter, the President ordered the setting up of a special unit to follow up criminal cases without delay and a senior official of the AG's department was to serve in this unit. She also directed a new action plan for combating underworld crime. One of the most important recommendations was to transfer those who have completed three years in the Police Narcotics Bureau. She also ordered that the Panadura vice-squad be brought under Mr. Herath who was the then DIG/Crimes and in charge of the newly-formed Terrorist Investigation Division.

This letter created such uproar within the Police Department that even the Presidential directions were ignored. The Narcotics Bureau never came under the Mr. Herath.

Then came a period which spelt disaster to the heroin trade. There was intense rivalry between the Narcotics Bureau and the newly formed TID. In April 2001, the newly formed unit (TID)headed by Inspector Nimal Fernando detected the largest consignment of heroin ever detected in a single operation. The consignment, 34 kilos of heroin, was detected in Chilaw, one of the infamous entry points of heroin to Sri Lanka.

During this period, the Police detected 2 kilos, the Narcotics Bureau 42 kilos, the TID 40 kilos and the Customs 17 kilos, totalling nearly 100 kilos. The addicts were seriously affected without heroin in the open market. Some wept; some took alternate drugs and others committed suicide. The withdrawal symptoms had devastating effect on the addicts.

When Inspector Fernando detected this consignment of heroin, he had to get information from informants who were associated with the drug barons. The informants are people involved in the drug trade. They know the time and the place of arrival of boats from India. Often the detectives will have to hire boats and go deep into Indian Ocean to bust drug smuggling operations in the high seas. There are plants of the drug barons who give false information to the detectives to mislead them.

The informants will not give information for the love of the motherland; they have to be coaxed and cajoled to part with information on the promise of a reward which is more than the share of profit they would get from the drug baron. Some times they request a part of the contraband.

It is an accepted principle that the police in order to crack down a bigger crime often have to become accessory to a smaller crime. The civil society will frown upon such methods. But criminals and detectives are like partners in a joint venture. If one analyses the CIA or any other reputed intelligence agency, he would soon realize that thousands have been murdered by the agents of these agencies to protect democracy or their interests.

IP Fernando took into custody the men and their cellular phones. These phones like in the case of crickter Mohammed Azhar-uddin and the bookies showed the close nexus the dealers had with some officers of another law enforcement agency. They have been in constant contact with at least one officer of this agency. No one had been able to transfer him from his post.

What happened after was like a Hollywood movie where the bad guys are the supposedly good guys. Every single informant of IP Fernando was arrested by this agency and remanded. IP Fernando himself was subjected to an investigation for bribery. The Barons had the final laugh. Every day more than 100 persons become addicts. But let's not forget there is no heroin or drugs in the land of Prabahakaran. (Next week the arrest and the release of Kudu Noor).

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