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Sri Lanka making more arrests to contain ice (crystal meth) menace: Minister

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ECONOMYNEXT – In under a month since Sri Lanka’s parliament passed a Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act, authorities have apprehended a “large number” of users, distributors and importers of harmful drugs including ice (crystal methamphetamine), according to Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said.

Speaking to reporters at an event held in Kandy on Sunday December 18, Rajapakshe said the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act saw the inclusion of ice or crystal meth, the possession of over five grammes of which now carries either a life sentence or the death penalty.

The authorities are also taking measures under provisions of the Act to destroy ice and other dangerous drugs taken into custody under judicial supervision in order to prevent their re-entry to the market, the minister said.

Government ministers have been emphatic that an emerging “drug menace” has to be stopped in its tracks lest it cause untold harm to the country’s children and youth. Some government members and other commentators have claimed that the abuse of ice in particular has reached epidemic levels.

Critics of the government, however, contend that the looming threat of an ice epidemic is largely a manufactured one to present a new bogeyman to the people in the face of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government’s eroded popularity.

According to the government information department, in a Navy operation on December 14 in the seas about 424 kilometres off  Sri Lanka’s southern tip of Dondra led to the interception of two local fishing trawlers transporting a haul of illegal drugs including over 128 kilogrammes of ice and over 106 kilos of heroin.

Ice addiction among school children has also been a point of discussion in recent weeks in Sri Lanka, with the Minister of Education himself proposing a mindfulness training programme for school children aimed at stress reduction and the prevention of illegal activity including drug use.

Ice and some pills were found in a school canteen in the Western district of Gampaha earlier in December and search operations have been launched in schools in different parts of the country to detect any drugs that may find their way to the school premises.

Civil society groups and human rights activists say that while containing the drug problem should indeed be a priority, users and addicts must be dealt with in a humane way with a focus on treatment rather than punitive action while the authorities go after the politically connected drug barons who bring harmful substance into the country. (Colombo/Dec19/2022)

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