The commander of Sri Lanka’s army warned the military will be launching a war on drugs that will be “identical to how we finished off LTTE terrorism”, in an ominous announcement in Colombo this month.
“Once legal provisions would give coverage to us as envisaged, the Army is ready to apprehend peddlers of narcotics, distributors and addicts, launching operations with other law enforcement authorities, identical to how we finished off LTTE terrorism ten years ago,” declared Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake.
Sri Lanka’s military offensive at the time killed tens of thousands of Tamils, and has been the subject of several UN reports and resolutions.
Senanayake’s announcement was even more stark as he was seated next to Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, who was arrested last year over the cover up of the disappearance and murder of 11 Tamil youths. Wijegunaratne is accused of helping the main suspect accused of conducting the disappearances evade arrest and at the time of his remanding, his associates reportedly attempted to abduct a key witness who had previously testified against him. Members of Wijegunaratne’s security personnel, also proceeded to attack journalists during his hearing.
“As Defenders of the country (Rata Rakina Jathiya), we are supposed to join hands with all other stakeholders to do everything possible to curb this national threat,” Senanayake told the press conference earlier this month. “Once legal frameworks to launch these operations empower us, we will certainly nab those who bring narcotics, sell narcotics and use those harmful drugs.”
The commander also announced that the drive against narcotics was being led by a Buddhist monk who was being supported by Sri Lankan soldiers. “The mechanism for drug eradication, now in motion under the leadership of Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thero has been given support by about 100 of our troops who have been trained,” he stated.
Wijegunaratne claimed that the Sri Lankan military was “closely… working with international stakeholders for the same cause and exchange of vital information”.
See more from the official Sri Lankan military website here.
The call from the military commander echoes that of Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena, who called on the island to wage a war on drugs in a “similar manner” to the massive military offensive a decade ago that saw large scale violations of international law. Sirisena earlier this year visited the Philippines, where he praised the much criticised campaign against drugs led by the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte. On his return Sirisena pledged that his stance on implementing the death penalty for those guilty of drug smuggling had not changed. Speaking after Sirisena’s visit, the president of the Philippines boasted that his Sri Lankan counterpart told him he would follow his lead in conducting a brutal crackdown on drug use and “kill the bastards”.