Pubdate: Sun, 28 Aug 2016
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2016 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Note: This is a text of the 19th Deshamanya Nandadasa Kodagoda 
Oration delivered by Prof. Ravindra Fernando at the Sri Lanka 
Foundation on August 2


Cannabis is obtained from the plant of the genus Cannabis. Cannabis 
is the only drug that grows in Sri Lanka. It is grown illicitly, 
mostly in the dry zones of the country (in the Eastern and Southern 
provinces). Cannabis causes euphoria, "high" feeling, pleasurable 
state of relaxation, impaired performance, sleepiness, confusion and 


Cocaine, which is obtained from the plant of genus Erythroxylon coca, 
is available as a paste, or "Crack"  hard white rocks or flaky 
material. Cocaine is smoked, sniffed or injected. It causes euphoria 
and alertness and postpones hunger and fatigue.

Hallucinogens (LSD or Lysergic acid diethylamide, certain mushrooms)

Hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline (peyote cactus), psilocybin, a 
mushroom, cause altered state of consciousness and auditory/ visual 
perceptions. My first experience with mushrooms was when a beautiful 
girl's body was found in the Brighton cemetery in England. Her 
boyfriend when arrested confessed that they had a violent argument 
after eating magic mushroom at a restaurant that resulted in her 
violent death. A post-mortem examination confirmed the presence of 
mushroom in her stomach. Early this year chocolates containing 
cocaine were detected in Colombo and Galle.

Khat type

These are derivatives of the plant Catha edulis. In 2014, a Sri 
Lankan arriving from Kenya was arrested at the airport by Customs for 
trying to smuggle in 50 kg of "Khat" plants concealed in two bags. 
Khat is believed to have been brought to be smuggled to Canada. It is 
a plant native to the horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.


Opiates derived from the plant Papaver somniferum have many alkaloids 
including morphine. Heroin is a substance synthesized from morphine. 
Opium is used in the ayurveda (indigenous) medical pharmacopeia and 
the government makes it available to Ayurveda Medical Practitioners. 
Addiction to heroin causes serious withdrawal symptoms when heroin is 
not present in blood.

Volatile solvents

The deliberate inhalation of volatile solvents and aerosols, such as 
lighter fluid is an increasing problem worldwide.

Pharmaceuticals such as benzodiazepines and new psychoactive substances

Pharmaceuticals like diazepam or valium and some new psychoactive 
substances such as piperazines, arylamines, tryptamines and synthetic 
cathinones are addictive.

Tobacco products

All tobacco products are addictive. Opium figures in most 
pharmacopoeias of the East and the West, but its sinister reputation 
as a narcotic has overshadowed its medicinal properties. The earliest 
reference to its medicinal properties is in Yogaratnakara, an 
Ayurvedic book written in Sinhala verse in the sixteenth century. 
During Portuguese occupation in Sri Lanka from 1505, restriction of 
opium availability was considered one way of manipulating the 
country. In 1675 the Dutch issued a proclamation prohibiting public 
trafficking in, among others, salt and opium. In 1815, the British 
East India Company took over the administration of Ceylon, all import 
duties were suspended except those on arrack, and opium.

A bill was passed in 1929 as Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs 
Ordinance No.17 but not proclaimed on anticipating difficulties in 
implementation. In 1935 the Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs 
Ordinance was amended.

In Sri Lanka, major illicit drugs used today are cannabis and heroin. 
Heroin is the second largest and the most commonly consumed opiate in 
Sri Lanka. Heroin has become a major health and social problem in the country.

Pharmaceutical drug abuse has recently gained popularity in Sri Lanka 
and is becoming a major health concern. Controlled pharmaceutical 
drugs abused in Sri Lanka includes narcotics such as opiates, codeine 
containing cough syrups, depressants such as benzodiazepines.

The "United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World 
Drug Problem" held from 19th to 21st April 2016 adopted a new 
framework putting people at the centre of global policies on drug 
control, which the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 
says can help promote the "urgent, united and concerted action we need."

"Putting people first means reaffirming the cornerstone principles of 
the global drug control system, and the emphasis on the health and 
welfare of humankind that is the founding purpose of the 
international drug conventions," the Executive Director of UNODC, 
Yury Fedotov, told delegates.

During the last five years 114 foreigners were arrested in Sri Lanka 
for offences related to drugs. Of them 46% were Pakistanis and 19% 
were Indians.

A Singaporean, ten Iranians, two Pakistanis and one Indian were among 
the 14 foreigners detained in Sri Lanka in April for smuggling over 
110 kgs of heroin worth US$7.5 million seized from an Iranian fishing trawler.

On 20th July, a large consignment of cocaine, 274 kgs, has been 
discovered inside a container of sugar at the container yard in 
Peliyagoda. The police estimate the total value of the seized drugs 
to be over Rs. 4 billion.

The National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB), established in 
1984, is the pioneer Government Institution which discharges its 
functions with an aim to eradicate the drug menace from Sri Lanka. 
Among the other functions, providing treatment to the drug dependents 
and rehabilitation of drug dependents are main roles of the NDDCB. 
Four treatment and rehabilitation centers are being conducted under 
the purview of the Board throughout the country. Counseling service 
and residential treatment facilities are being provided for the drug 
addicts at these treatment centers.

To further enhance the efforts of drug abuse prevention, the 
President established a Presidential Task force on Drug Prevention in 2015.

"The overall goal of the Government of the Democratic Socialist 
Republic of Sri Lanka in relation to the problem of drug abuse is to 
reduce supply and use to the barest minimum while working towards its 
total elimination from the society hopefully by the year 2020."

The fight against drugs is not easy. Even in countries where the 
death penalty is enforced for drug smuggling, drug trafficking 
continues. Sri Lanka does not enforce the death penalty although it 
is in the law.

President Rodrigo Duterte, the new leader of the Philippines, has a 
novel method to curb the demand and supply of drugs. "Kill off drug 
dealers" is his solution. In the weeks following his victory police 
went on a rampage and murdered more than 100 people, mostly drug 
dealers. Thousands surrendered to the police due to fear. In Sri 
Lanka, as a democratic country that values principles of human 
rights, this solution is unacceptable.

I wish to conclude this oration with a statement by Kofi Annan, a 
former UN Secretary-General. He said, "Illicit drugs destroy 
innumerable individual lives and undermine our societies. Confronting 
the illicit trade in drugs and its effects remains a major challenge 
for the international community."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom