Mar 08, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Tri Forces make an immense contribution to the fight to eradicate illicit drugs from the country supporting the President's "A country free of drugs" program, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) said today.
With the support of tri forces, President Maithripala Sirisena's drug eradication program has seen desirable results with law enforcement agencies confiscating large quantities of drugs and arresting many involved in the illegal activity, according to the MOD.
The Tri Forces have extended their full support and are actively working in close corporation with the Presidential Task Force, Police, Special Task Force, Excise Department and other relevant agencies in the national effort, the MOD said at a special press briefing held today at the Ministry of Defense Media Centre in Colombo.
The meeting presided by the Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne was held to educate the media on the military involvement in the fight against illegal drugs and drug eradication in the country.
Army Commander, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva and Air Force Commander, Air Marshal Kapila Jayampathy were present at the occasion to elaborate on the role played by their respective forces in this regard. Military Spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu was also associated with the press briefing.
The Army, as the "Defenders of the country" has rendered active assistance upon request to carry out drug related operations to the Police and other related agencies, according to the Army Commander. The Army has assisted to strengthen the drug eradication program by exchanging intelligence gathered from its vast network with other line agencies
The Army also conducts educative awareness programs and assists to recruit volunteers to drug prevention committees at village and regional levels. It has also extended willingness to assist to rehabilitate drug addicts at its Kandalkadu and Senapura rehabilitation centers.
Operations launched by the Navy to stop the influx of drugs into the country by sea has seen a large amount of such dangerous substance being confiscated in recent years. Last year alone Navy has confiscated more than 2100 kg of Kerala Cannabis (KG) during 41 operations and managed to recover over 680 kg of KG since the beginning of this year.
A large amount of drugs finds their way into the country in an organized manner often in the guise of involving in fishing activities, according to the Navy.
Naval patrols over the maritime domain of the country has been successful in apprehending large quantities of dangerous drugs and persons involved in this activity. In 2017 alone 168 persons were arrested by the Navy while transporting drugs while 88 were arrested last year. So far 29 persons have been arrested by the Navy in the current year.
Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne said the route of the drugs brought from Afghanistan trough Iran to Sri Lanka has been accurately detected by the Sri Lanka Navy.
He said the heroin produced in Afghanistan is brought to Iran coast and from there the drugs are transported by large ships. These drugs come to Sri Lanka through the southern seas. According to Admiral Wijegunaratne it is important to maintain exchange of intelligence information with the countries used in the drug route.
The Sri Lanka Navy also conducts awareness programs at schools and places of religious worship with the intention of curbing the demand for drugs. Navy's special ten-day training program in tackling drug operations has shown good results. Many countries have also shown interest in acquiring this training. The assistance of the Combined Task Force based in Bahrain which plays an important role in curbing drug trafficking in the "Southern Route" on the regional seas is also forthcoming to the country.
The Air Force in its part, assist law enforcement personnel with Information collected through air reconnaissance flights to penetrate dense jungles and destroy large areas of Cannabis cultivations.
Such operations which commenced in 2015 utilize Y-12, Beechcraft and Bell 212 helicopters to survey large areas of land and sea for tracking suspected movements, Cannabis plantations and other such illegal activities. The Air Force also use drones in its operations. During the past three years, the Air Force has made over 750 flying hours of reconnaissance flights. And this year already 100 flying hours have been spent on such operations. During the last two years Air Force has been able to find 199 Cannabis plantations. And it has already found 40 plantations this year.
The combined efforts of the Tri Forces, Police, STF, Excise Department, Customs Department and other state agencies in the anti-drug war have brought about good results, the Ministry of Defense said.