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Saturday May 18th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Drug menace needs a new approach

ECONOMYNEXT- Everyone who has watched the Netflix series Narcos and El Chapo knows the stories of famous drug lords such as Pablo Escobar, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (aka El Chapo), the way they rose up the ranks and how their life of crime evolved with time.

Wagner Moura played the famous role of the Colombian drug lord Escobar in Narcos where he shows the extent he went to be considered as the ‘King of Cocaine” and the seventh-richest man in the world, with an estimated personal fortune of US$25 billion according to Forbes magazine in 1989 until his death in a gunfight with the Colombian authorities in 1993.

Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar with his wife Maria Victoria Henao (Source- The Sun UK)

While in Narcos: Mexico (2018), the Mexican drug lord Félix Gallardo is portrayed by Mexican actor Diego Luna, which shows how Félix Gallardo a Mexican Federal Judicial Police agent became the ‘El Padrino’ or ‘Godfather’ of Mexican cocaine.

Mexican drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (Source- YouTube)

But was it all about money for these individuals to choose to sell drugs or was there any other reasons for them to choose that path?

Speaking to EconomyNext,  Head of the Sociology Department at the University of Peradeniya Dr Kumari Thoradeniya said that people choose to be involved in drug selling or distribution not just for the money in it but it could be also due to their habits,social-cultural patterns, the way they had socialised, various attitudes and many other reasons that are connected with it.

Dr Thoradeniya said that these aspects are described in the concept ‘The Culture of Poverty’ introduced by the Anthropologist Oscar Lewis in 1959.

“So for those who are selling drugs, the matter is not only about money. From one side it is a habit for them to use easy methods to earn a living, The basic concept in the Culture of Poverty is easy living,” she said.

She said that at a young age when they see their parents are earning a living through day labour, they will get into the habit of earning money by doing anything.

Dr Kumari Thoradeniya

When it comes to socialisation, she said that we can find most of the individuals who are in the chain of drug dealers starting from the grass-root level,  had grown up used to an anti-social culture.

“These become push factors to such an individual’s feeling of the need for money,” Dr Thoradeniya said.

The concept ‘The Culture of Poverty was created by Oscar Lewis in his 1959 book, Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty.

The culture of poverty theory states that living in conditions of pervasive poverty will lead to the development of a culture or subculture adapted to those conditions. This culture is characterized by pervasive feelings of helplessness, dependency, marginality, and powerlessness. 

Furthermore, Lewis described individuals living within a culture of poverty as having little or no sense of history and therefore lacking the knowledge to alleviate their own conditions through collective action, instead of focusing solely on their own troubles. 

Thus, for Lewis, the imposition of poverty on a population was the structural cause of the development of a culture of poverty, which then becomes autonomous, as behaviours and attitudes developed within a culture of poverty get passed down to subsequent generations through socialization processes.

In the famous Rolling stone interview by Sean Penn, Mexican drug lord El Chapo spoke about how he started to deal with drugs when he was 15 years old.

“I remember from the time I was six until now, my parents, a very humble family, very poor, I remember how my mom made bread to support the family. I would sell it, I sold oranges, I sold soft drinks, I sold candy. My mom, she was a hard worker, she worked a lot. We grew corn, beans. I took care of my grandmother’s cattle and chopped wood,” El Chapo said about his childhood.

When asked how he got involved in drug selling, he said  “Well, from the time I was 15 and after, where I come from, which is the municipality of Badiraguato, I was raised in a ranch named La Tuna, in that area, and up until today, there are no job opportunities. The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy, marijuana, and at that age, I began to grow it, to cultivate it and to sell it. That is what I can tell you,”

Mexican drug lord Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera aka El Chapo (source- BBC)

Also when he was asked about whether he was aware of the consequences of drugs, he said “Well, it’s a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up there was no other way and there still isn’t a way to survive, no way to work in our economy to be able to make a living,”

In the book Gang Leader for a Day (2008) American Sociologist and Urban Ethnographer.  Sudhir Venkatesh studied the social life of a public housing project in Chicago in America in the late 80s where he discovered that the community sustained itself “off the books” and that it had its own set of rules and behaviour.

The study by Venkatesh debunks the concept that the average drug dealer lives a life of glamour and excess. It speaks about the reality of the average foot soldier who is hustling to make ends meet while trying to stay out of prison. Young men, alienated and susceptible, agree to sell drugs to earn what they see as a decent wage when few other opportunities are open to them.

What should we do to drug sellers?

Dr Thoradeniya said that people who are selling drugs should be directed to a large rehabilitation program.

“We talk about how we can prevent drug users from using drugs again, but we don’t talk about the people who are selling them. We should change their attitudes to make them realise that In order to earn money this is not the method but there are other methods to do so,” she added.

Apart from rehabilitation, she said that they should be directed to compulsory training on various ways they could earn a living and connect them to the market.

“For example, we can direct them to a technical college, there is no point in imprisoning them as criminals because once they come out of prison they will start it again,” she said.

“We should take this debate more into society, as academics when we show these matters it does not reach the society. Even when we present these facts at conferences and write papers about it only a handful of people will look at them, it hardly goes to the policy-making level of government,” she added.

Do schools play their roles in bringing up an ethical Generation?

Dr Thoradeniya said that the education system in Sri Lanka is entirely exam-oriented. “For example, teachers used to teach children how to cross the road but now children don’t know how to do that,” she added.

“When I asked a school teacher a reason for this they said that they don’t have time to do that because they have a syllabus to cover if they fail to do so they face problems,” she said.

She said this should be changed not only for the drug problem but for other social issues. “So I think the school should directly be responsible for these because the school can do a lot here,”

In order to address the issue of usage or selling of narcotics she said that the government does not need to introduce a separate subject for it, it is enough if the religions are taught in a manner properly applying to society.

“All the subjects are prepared to target answering questions at the exams, Countries like Sweden and Denmark have completely changed their education system, they go hand in hand with society but we have lost that. The children study and do exams but there are other aspects of education that deal with societal functions,” she said.

Drug Rehabilitation Programme in Sri Lanka

The Drug Dependent Persons (treatment and rehabilitation) Act has implemented compulsory treatment facilities in Sri Lanka for drug-related offenders.

However, only drug users who are addicts are directed to the rehabilitation centres maintained by the National Dangerous Drug Control Board (NDDCB) and other NGOs upon court order or voluntary action.

According to the statistics from the NDDCB, 1253 individuals were admitted for treatment in the rehabilitation centres between January to September 2020 while only 23 out of them who are addicts and as well as sellers were admitted while in 2019 out of 3613, only 88 sellers/addicts were admitted.

The statistics of the NDDCB showed that  95,496 individuals have been arrested for drug-related offences in 2020. 

Among them, there were 50,378 (52.8%) persons for heroin-related arrests and 40732 (42.7%) persons for cannabis-related crimes. In addition, 2040 persons for methamphetamine, 361 persons for psychotropic substances, 71 persons for hashish and 31 persons were arrested for cocaine dealing.

According to the government policy statement, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’  the government will institute a National Drug Rehabilitation Programme to ensure that all those addicted to drugs are rehabilitated. Medical assistance will be provided to help overcome their addiction. “For this, we will establish four rehabilitation centres island-wide, with modern treatment methods and prevention strategies,” the policy statement said.

In 2019, Former President Maithripala Sirisena signed death sentences for four convicts of drug-related offences which never took place due to dozen petitions filed in the Supreme Court challenging the decision.

The High Point Drug Market Intervention is a good example of a programme that was created to deal with drug dealers in America, it was first created to address drug-laden areas of High Point, North Carolina in the United States in 2003, the new strategy did more than simply arrest drug dealers and put them in prison. 

High Point Intervention starts with creating a bond between law enforcement and members of the community that are willing to help the neighbourhood turn around. Violent drug dealers are identified and arrested, but non-violent drug dealers are given a second chance. Not just let go, but rather, given the support and help needed to start a new life apart from drugs. (Colombo/Mar17/2021)

Edited by Arjuna Ranawana


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Sri Lanka suffers over $138mn foreign outflow from govt bonds in 2024 after rate cuts

ECONOMYNEXT – Foreign investors have dumped 41.6 billion-rupee ($138.6 million) worth of Sri Lanka government securities in the first 20 weeks of 2024, the central bank data showed, after reduction in the key policy interest rates.

The foreign holding in Sri Lanka’s treasury bills and treasury bonds fell to 75.9 billion rupees on the week ended on Friday (17), May 2024, from 117.4 billion rupees on the week ended on December 29.

The central bank rate has reduced the key policy rates by 50 basis points so far in 2024, extending the rates cut by 700 basis points since June last year.

The rupee appreciated 9.1 percent in the first four months, but the gain failed to attract foreign investors amid a dragged debt restructuring negotiation with external private creditors.

Currency dealers said lackluster demand for dollars due to dampened imports with heavy controls, boom in both tourism revenue and remittances have helped to increase the dollar liquidity in the market, leading to the appreciation of the local currency.

The dealers said foreign investors can earn capital gain if they had bought government securities before the appreciation and now the offshore investors might be selling their bonds.

“They are also discouraged by policy rate cut because that will reduce their returns from the rupee bond investments,” a currency dealer said.

The yield in 12-month T-bills has fallen 336 basis points in the first four months of this year, the central bank data showed.

The central bank also reduced the Statutory Reserve Ratio (SRR) of commercial banks by 200 basis points in August last year to boost liquidity in the market with an aim to reduce market interest rates.

Under tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions for its $3 billion loan program, the central bank raised key monetary policy rates in 2022 and last year to bring down inflation which hit over 70 percent in 2022. The inflation has fallen to the lower single digit now.

The rupee has appreciated to around 300 against the US dollar this week from around 330 level early in November. The local currency was at 365 rupees against the US dollar in early 2022. Depreciation causes capital loss for foreign investors. (Colombo/May 18/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourist fair seeks to involve universities

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ tourism fair kicked off this week to promote interaction between industry stakeholders and relevant Government bodies, including the Tourist Police, and also universities.

“Several universities, including Colombo, Uva Wellasa, Kelaniya, Sabaragamuwa and Rajarata were given free stalls to facilitate student interaction with industry professionals,” Chairman of the Sancharaka Udawa Organising Committee, Charith De De Alwis said in a statement.

The event takes place today (18) at the BMICH and houses stalls for hoteliers, tour and transport services, with a goal of attracting 10,000 visitors.

Organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), the 11th edition of Sancharaka Udawa offers a platform for both B2B and B2C sectors.

“Sancharaka Udawa houses over 170 exhibitors and a footfall of more than 10,000 visitors,” De Alwis said.

This year’s edition will include participants from outbound tourism sectors to facilitate capacity building. The event provides networking opportunities for industry newcomers and veterans.

“The networking platform offers opportunity for small and medium-sized service providers integrating them into the broader tourism landscape. The anticipated outcome is a substantial increase in bookings particularly for regional small-scale tourism service providers.” (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s CEB sells LTL shares to West Coast IPP for Rs26bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has sold shares of an affiliate to West Coast Power Company Limited, an independent power producer giving profits of 25.9 billion rupees in the March 2024 quarter, interim accounts showed.

The sale has been carried out as a transfer.

“Twenty-eight percent (28-pct) of share ownership of CEB within LTL Holding’s equity capital has been transferred to West Coast Power Company Ltd for a total consideration of Rs 26 billion as part of a partial settlement of outstanding dues…” the March interim accounts said.

“This transaction resulted in a net gain of Rs25.9 billion rupees which has been recognized and reflected in the ‘Gain from Share Disposal’ in the individual financial statement in CEB.”

LTL Holdings is a former transformer making unit of the CEB set up with ABB where the foreign holding was sold to its management.

The firm has since set up several IPPs.

West Coast Power operates a 300MW combined cycle IPP in Kerawalapitiya promoted by LTL group liked firms in which both the Treasury and Employees Provident Fund also have shares.

Its operational and maintenance contract is with Lakdhanavi, another private IPP. The firm has been paying dividends.

The capital gain from the transfer of shares helped the CEB post profits to 84 billion rupees for the March 2024 quarter.

CEB reported gross profits of 62.7 billion rupees from energy sales and 30.6 billion rupees in other income and gains in the March 2024 quarter. Other income was only 3.1 billion rupees in last year. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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