Even as the Government, in its bid to eradicate the narcotics drug menace, moved ahead with plans to introduce a draft bill giving police powers to the armed forces and to implement the death penalty in specified cases, the quantity of drugs being seized in the country continued to increase throughout this week. On Tuesday, [...]


Govt. intensifies war on drugs: Police powers for armed forces, convicts to be hanged

Narcotics drug detections on the rise; PNB seizes the biggest ever haul

Even as the Government, in its bid to eradicate the narcotics drug menace, moved ahead with plans to introduce a draft bill giving police powers to the armed forces and to implement the death penalty in specified cases, the quantity of drugs being seized in the country continued to increase throughout this week.

A recent hashish haul seized by BIA Customs officials

On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved a proposal to draft a Special Provisions Bill that would empower the armed forces to undertake anti-narcotics operations for a given period. The joint memorandum was submitted by President Maithripala Sirisena in his capacity as Defence Minister, and Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara.

The minister said that apart from the Bill, which would be ready soon, police, especially the Special Task Force (STF) had also intensified their anti-narcotics operations.

“The armed forces can be given police powers only under Emergency regulations. Since a state of emergency is not in force, we need to enact legislation to deploy the forces on anti-narcotic operations,” he said, adding that he believed the people would support the move.

The minister said more detections were being made and anti-narcotics operations were bringing results because “unlike under the previous regime, there’s no political interference now.”

The minister claimed that the rise in narcotic drug seizures in recent weeks and months had created a shortage. Prices had shot up due to the inability of the suppliers to meet the demand, he said.

Last week also saw President Sirisena and the Government stating that the death penalty would be implemented for those who had been sentenced to death on drug-related offences. The details of how and when this would be done are still sketchy.

Minister Madduma Bandara said the Government “was extremely serious” about the matter, but did not elaborate.

As new measures to curb drug trafficking were being considered, the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), seized the biggest consignment of heroin ever found on land. The consignment, weighing nearly 104 kilograms, was found after police raided an alleged ‘safe house’ used by drug traffickers in Battaramulla last Sunday. The estimated street value of the heroin is a staggering Rs. 1,248 million, according to police.

Two suspects were arrested in the raid. Police identified them as Mohammed Mahir and Chathura Jayashantha. PNB investigators believe the masterminded behind this massive drug business is Dharmaraja Susendran, alias Soosai, who is said to be operating from prison. He is currently on death row after being convicted ofnarcotics offences, said Deputy Inspector General Sajeewa Medawatte.

The DIG, who is attached to the PNB, said they suspect that the drugs had been smuggled in to Sri Lanka via sea routes from either Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Department of Prisons has requested the Inspector General of Police (IGP) for details regarding the claims that Susendran directed drug trafficking from prison.

Prisons Department Spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya told the Sunday Times that if Soosai, while being in prison, had run the drug operation in violation of the Prisons Ordinance, a Prisons Tribunal could be convened to try him and, if found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Speaking at a function in Pelmadulla on Friday, Justice and Prison Reforms Minister Thalatha Atukorale said that, as the subject minister, she was disturbed that those who were serving death sentences at the Welikada Prison were seemingly directing drug trafficking operations.

Meanwhile, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detectives arrested two suspects along with 9.9 kilograms of heroin at Seruwavila on Wednesday. The heroin was concealed in 22 parcels and found inside sacks at a rice mill in Mavadichchena. Police estimated the value of the seized heroin at Rs.118 million. The arrested suspects, Magendran Koneswaran (34) and Nawalingam Sureshkumar (41), were area residents.

On Friday, Sampur Police recovered 21 parcels containing 5.5 kilograms of heroin floating in the sea off Erakkanda. The value of this consignment was put at Rs.66 million. Police believe this stock of heroin is linked to the consignment found in Seruwavila.

In yet another detection, a Pakistani national was arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) by PNB officers on Monday, while trying to smuggle in 4.18 kilograms of heroin hidden in his baggage. The estimated value of the seized contraband was around Rs.50 million, police said.

Meanwhile, Customs officials attached to the Airmail Parcel Section of the Central Mail Exchange detected a parcel containing 227 grams of heroin which had been mailed from Mumbai to a resident in Minuwangoda. Two suspects, aged 45 and 26 years, were arrested during the preliminary stages of the investigation. Customs put the value of the heroin at Rs.3 million.

Statistics released by Sri Lanka Customs also reveal that 22.86 kilograms of cocaine (street value – Rs.10.68 million), 9.42 kilograms of hashish (street value – Rs.9.4 million) and 754 grams and 500 tablets of Methamphetamines (street value – Rs.11 million) are among the narcotics seized by Customs officials from January 1 to June 30, this year.

4 members of one family arrested

Four members of the same family were among five arrested while they were allegedly sorting heroin into packets after police raided a house last morning at Weera Mawatha in Maharagama.

The suspects included three women and two men. Police identified them as 27-year-old Dilrukshi Perera, 57-year-old Aluthgedara Ariyadasa alias ‘Maddu Aiya’ (father of 1st suspect), 45-year-old Kalubowilage Nilmini (mother of 1st suspect), 17-year-old Malki Shanika (sister of 1st suspect) and 24-year-old Nuwan Chamara Fernando (boyfriend of 1st suspect). All five suspects are residents of Mt. Lavinia.

Police said investigations have revealed that the suspects had been paying Rs.28, 000 a month to rent the house in Maharagama from where they were arrested.

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