"Battling Drug Trafficking: Sri Lanka Punching Above Weight": Sagala tells 'Sri Lanka's Story' At UNODC Event

Project Implementation, Youth Affairs and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayaka said Sri Lanka had been punching above its weight, when it comes to battling​ drug trafficking.

The Minister made this remark while addressing a session of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna ​yesterday (​May 15​)​

During his speech, the Minister outlined the progress  achieved by the Sri Lankan Police, especially the Police Narcotic Bureau, when combating drugs and drug trafficking. 

"The Police Narcotics Bureau with the support of Sri Lanka Customs seized over 1,700kg of Cocaine in major seizures in 2016 and 2017.  This included a seizure of 928kg of Cocaine from an Indian bound merchant vessel, MV Fabiola when it docked at the Colombo Port on 9 December 2016.  This haul is the largest Cocaine seizure recorded in South Asia with an estimated street value of Sri Lankan Rupees 12 billion, around USD 77 million," the Minister said.

He also added that in April 2016, the Police Narcotics Bureau and Sri Lanka Navy in a Joint Maritime Operation seized 101kg of Heroin on a dhow off the Southern coast of Sri Lanka. 

"A further 314kg of Heroin were seized by Drug Law Enforcement Agencies. Cannabis Sativa L, commonly identified as ‘Ganja’, is the only illegal drug cultivated in Sri Lanka.  In 2017, over 4,987kg were detected by all Law Enforcement agencies. The prevalence of New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) is causing new challenges to all Drug Law Enforcement Agencies and in 2017, PNB detected a consignment of 542.60kg of ‘Kart’ in Sri Lanka which originated from Ethiopia," Ratnayaka added. 

"These impressive successes by enforcement agencies are just the tip of the iceberg. They have not deterred drug trafficking networks from using the Indian Ocean as a narcotics highway (or as CMF calls it the Smack Track)," the Minister said.

"It has been observed that Sri Lanka is being targeted by drug traffickers in order to develop onwards routes. These would be plentiful because of the voluminous containerized trade with destinations including the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia Pacific and North America."

Commenting on difficulties faced by the Sri Lankan authorities when it comes to battling drugs and drug related crimes, the Minister said, " One major challenge is the lack of a ‘legal finish’ (such as prosecution) for the majority of drug seizures made within international waters in the Indian Ocean region. Some of the possible avenues towards improved outcomes are taking a more robust approach to asserting follow-on jurisdiction over un-flagged vessels; and better utilization of existing obligations, mechanisms and networks in order to achieve improved interdiction rates over flagged vessels."

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