470,206 persons arrested over narcotics crimes between January/September: Chamal

Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that law enforcement agencies had arrested 470,206 people from 2015 until September 18, this year, on charges of selling and using illicit drugs.

He said 73,444 persons were arrested in 2015, 75,304 persons in 2016, 81,156 persons in 2017, 96,489 persons in 2018, 89,308 persons in 2019, and 54,505 persons from January 1 to September 18, this year, on charges of selling and using illicit drugs.

Responding to questions raised by SJB Badulla District MP Chaminda Wijesiri and SJB Ratnapura District MP Hesha Withanage, the Minister said that a joint task force comprising personnel from the police, Tri-Forces, Special Task Force, State Intelligence Service, Prisons, Excise Department, and Customs has been set up to expedite the government’s anti-narcotic operations.

He said, “During the period from January 1, 2015 to September 18, this year, police had seized 40,851.903 kilograms of narcotics and 1,540,000 of narcotic pills, while Customs had seized 197.254 kilograms of narcotics and 328,745 pills. The Navy had seized 5,107.709 kilograms of narcotics and 17 pills during that same period, while prisons had seized 279 kilograms of narcotics and 24 pills. The Excise Department had seized 10 kilograms of narcotics and the Army had seized 775 kilograms of narcotics during that same timeline.”

MP Withanage said the most amount of drugs had been apprehended during the past five years. However, he said that there is public belief that there is a close connection between law enforcement heads and drug lords. Therefore, he suggested that as a way to deter such connections, it would be advisable to “rotate” these officials from time-to-time. In this manner, they would not remain in a single place to learn the loopholes of the system.

Minister Rajapaksa responded, “So, your proposal is not to allow officials of these institutions to remain in one place for extended time periods and to change them periodically. This is a good idea and we appreciate it. If you have more suggestions, you can forward them to us so that we could make our campaign more efficient and effective.”

Responding to MP Wijesiri, the minister said that law enforcement had conducted a total of 475,985 raids between January 1, 2015 and September 18, this year; 46,824 kilograms of narcotics had been seized during that period.

The minister said that there were reports saying that illicit drugs seized in raids had been handed back to drug smugglers through the Police Narcotics Bureau. Following those reports, 18 PNB personnel, one STF officer, and six civilians had been taken into custody; 13 PNB members are currently in remand custody, while the other 12 persons are being interrogated under detention orders, he added.

During the raids on PNB officials, police had found two T56 automatic rifles, five magazines containing 81 live rounds of ammunition, three pistols, 40 rounds of 9mm bullets, 11 grams of heroin, two electronic scales, Rs.34,017,130 in cash, 32 counterfeit notes of Rs.5,000 denomination, and 380 milligrams cocaine. Action had been taken to confiscate vehicles and property to the tune of Rs.190 million earned through the narcotics trade by PNB officers.

SJB MP Tissa Attanayake asked Minister Rajapaksa whether the contraband seized from the offenders would be destroyed without delay. The minister said that destroying the contraband would have to be delayed until the cases are done.

COVID-19 Second Wave: Pavithra rebuffs Kiriella’s claims that government let its guard down

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniaarachchi yesterday requested the Opposition not to waste the time of the House by selectively quoting her statements regarding the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Wanniaarachchi pointed out that she did not make any irresponsible statements and asked the Opposition to listen to her entire statement without listening to it partially. Wanniaarachchi also said that Sri Lanka has not yet hit the fourth stage of the pandemic, where randomly selected persons test positive for the virus.

Minister Wanniaarachchi made these observations when SJB MPs yesterday alleged that the government is letting its guard down and is ignoring COVID-19 precautions, resulting in the public losing its fear of the virus and the pandemic spreading at a faster rate in its second wave.

“None other than the Health Minister made statements that COVID-19 was eradicated from society. She boasted that Sri Lanka was the world’s first country that removed the coronavirus from its territory. Such statements resulted in people losing their fear and letting their guard down. That is the reason for the second wave of COVID-19 that is prevailing right now,” Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said.

Kiriella tabled two statements made by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi: one on September 3, that the virus had successfully been eradicated; another on April 22, stating that Sri Lanka was the first country in the world that eradicated the virus from its public.

“In her second statement, Wanniarachchi, in the capacity of Minister of Health, assured the public that there was no way for the coronavirus to spread among people in this country, and people trusted those statements; that was the reason they did not adhere to the guidelines. There had been warnings from the Government Medical Officers' Association and the Medical Research Institute that the threat was still there, and that another breakout of the virus was possible; but the minister went on assuring that they won the battle against the virus and asked people not to fear. We want the minister to admit that she made those statements.”

In reply, Health Minister Wanniaarachchi said, “I would kindly request Opposition MPs to go through my statements in full. You have listened only to a section of the statement that I made. They take a section out of context and try to create the wrong impression. In every one of my statements, I have clearly specified that as a country, we had curtailed the pandemic situation. However, I also said that concerning the nature of the virus, we were not fully recovered from it.

“I specifically mentioned that there are different stages of the pandemic and highlighted where Sri Lanka was in that spectrum.”

“During elections, you and the leader of the Opposition campaigned without wearing facemasks. That was one reasons people thought that there was no threat from COVID-19. My statements emphasised that we could win the battle against the virus if people supported the government’s initiatives,” Wanniaarachchi added.


 COVID-19 situation in Gampaha District: Discussions under way on providing facilities to Grade 5 Scholarship Examination candidates

Discussions are under way between the Education Ministry, Health Ministry, Transport Ministry, and the police to provide the necessary facilities to Grade 5 students from the Gampaha District who are studying in Colombo to sit for the Scholarship Examination, Education Reforms, Open Universities, and Distance Learning Promotion State Minister Susil Premajayantha said in Parliament, yesterday.

He made this observation in response to a query made by Samagi Jana Balawegaya Parliamentarian Lakshman Kiriella, who asked whether the government would provide facilities to Grade 5 students in Gampaha who are currently studying at Colombo schools to sit for the Scholarship Examination in the Gampaha District, itself, tomorrow. He added that due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the principals of those schools have indirectly told those students not to attend their schools for the examination. Minister Premajayantha said only students in the Gampaha District face such a situation, and that there are 800 such students in Gampaha who are studying in Colombo. The Education Ministry Secretary currently holding discussions with health, transport, and police officers to provide facilities to those students, he added.


Indigenous Medicine Ministry to introduce drugs for COVID-19: Sisira

Indigenous Medicine Ministry experts have developed several drugs for those who have contracted COVID-19, as well as those who are at risk of contracting it, Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurvedic Hospitals Development, and Community Health State Minister Sisira Jayakody said yesterday. The medicine would be presented to Parliament staff to be introduced to the MPs on October 12, he added.

Minister Jayakody, speaking to the media after presenting samples of medicine to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that the Department of Ayurveda and the Ayurvedic Drugs Corporation have jointly introduced an “immunizing drink” and a powder for those infected with COVID-19.

He added that all these medicines are manufactured using 100% local herbs and have been named as ‘’Sadanga Panaya’’ and ‘’Suwadharani Immunizing Drink’’.

The minister said that Western medicine has not yet been able to find a cure for the COVID-19 virus, and therefore, developed countries have suffered a serious setback today.

However, he said that the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine has the ability to produce drugs that can overcome this challenge.


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