Contemporary Nature of the Narcotics Threat

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The drug menace is an apex threat to Sri Lanka. Unlike many other classical threats, it attacks several dimensions including social, health, individual and economics and is detrimental to national security. Being an island nation located between two principal sites (Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle) for opium production and distribution, Sri Lanka is easily discovered to global and regional drug menace. However, the State has achieved great victories in eradicating the war of drugs in the most recent past. Since the sphere of narcotics is becoming more complex and diversified in the present context, Sri Lanka needs to advance its competence and operations to conquer the drug menace. 

The collapse of Afghanistan caused the narcotic threat to spread to a huge extent in the region. Drug traffickers of Afghanistan went out of control and they strengthened their links with traffickers of the other countries of the region. The intention of the traffickers is earning huge profits. To make this a success, they tend to produce and traffic low-cost consignments at laboratories in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The single most significant problem was seen as the trafficking of heroin from India for local consumption.” Since Heroin is an expensive drug to produce and distribute, traffickers have tended to switch to Crystal Meth in flow of trafficking (Ice Drug) as its production and distribution costs are low. “In April 2020, the Sri Lanka Navy seized 605 kilogrammes of Crystal Meth and officially detected that the place of origin of these consignments was Makran Coast in Pakistan.” In addition to Heroin and Crystal Meth, Cannabis, Hashish, Cocaine, and LSD drug are rapidly spread out among the society.

As Sri Lanka is experiencing an ongoing economic crisis and social protests, the Government and law enforcement authorities concentrate to control the prevailing situation. This might cause less focused operations in the drug menace and traffickers may use this opportunity to increase their presence.  Further, dealers have switched to social media applications (WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram) to keep their communications sealed. Since the legal regime does not sufficiently address the threat posed by social media, drug dealers infiltrate the legal regime of the country. These two factors demonstrate that the country is in a vulnerable state in the context of narcotics threat.

When compared to the previous decades, Sri Lanka achieved excellent progress in eradicating the threats from narcotics. “The militarisation of drug control has accelerated since the November 2019 election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose election manifesto prioritised eradication of the drug menace.” Unlike previous times, the armed forces and the Sri Lanka Police discovered massive consignments of Heroin, Hashish, Crystal Meth and many other drugs and eventually confiscated. This proved that the militarisation of drug control has resulted in destroying the operational capabilities of drug producers, traffickers, and dealers. Nonetheless, they are still struggling in detecting new approaches to maintain the drug menace in Sri Lanka. Especially through enhancing their communication competence in cyber and digital platforms. Even though Sri Lanka has achieved excellent progress in drug control, the country has to fulfil further requirements to create a drug-free society.

Sri Lanka has to execute immediate actions in amending necessary provisions of the present law to an extent where all possible gaps and loopholes are removed. Further, it is imperative to develop the competence of Intelligence Officers in cyber and digital platforms to identify the technologically-advanced activities and new approaches in the context. Since youth awareness is nil on drugs and narcotics, education authorities of the country need to include the negative consequences of using drugs in secondary school syllabuses. This will keep adolescents and youth educated on violence, health complications, and economic issues that can occur due to drug usage.  The right awareness on drugs may keep them out of curiosity in testing them and this will have a positive impact in the process of preventing the menace. It is noticed that Sri Lanka is greatly defeating the drug menace, however, the country needs to do many more operations to root out the threat completely.

About the author:

Madushan Senevirathna is a Research Analyst at the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), the premier think tank on National Security established under the Ministry of Defence. The opinion expressed is his own and not necessarily reflective of the institute.

By Madushan Senevirathna