In a recent meeting with a former Indian diplomat, leaders of fishermen from Jaffna raised the issue of the easy availability of drugs in the region, and sought India’s help to tackle the problem.
Attributing the availability of illicit substances to the growing instances of crime, Jaffna District Fishermen’s Federation’s president Naganathy Ponnambalam said drug trafficking, especially the smuggling of “Kerala ganja”, a prohibited substance, had gone up in recent times. “Not just some, the entire quantity of banned substances comes from India.”
The Jaffna youth, many of whom are now unemployed, have became “easy victims” of the drugs which are available in plenty, he said. Alcoholism too is rampant.
The meeting was indented to be a back channel communication effort between India and leaders of fishermen societies in the Northern Province. Residents of Vavuniya, another important town in the North, complained that ganja is being sold even in micro retail shops and minor children are engaged in selling such substance.
If the problem has to be tackled effectively, the cooperation of the Indian government is a must. “This was what I conveyed to the former diplomat G. Parthasarathy,” said Mr. Ponnambalam, seeking a joint patrolling by the two countries’ Navies or Coast Guards.
Mr. Ponnambalam acknowledged that the former diplomat’s visit was in his private capacity even though Mr. Parthasarathy, also a director of the India-Sri Lanka Foundation, told him and others that he would try to convey their problems to the Indian authorities.
Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray has also emphasised the need for enlisting the support of the Indian government.
Explaining reasons for the trend, Mr. Cooray said that apart from the livelihood dimension, another factor was that the youth can get money easily as many of them are dependent on inward remittances.
Mr. Cooray is also of the view that after Maithripala Sirisena became President in January last year, “freedom, democracy and openness, all of which are in full flow”, are enabling various social issues of the North to get highlighted in the media.
However, Noor Mohamed Alam, president of the Mannar District Fishermen’s Cooperative Society Union, says India alone is not to be blamed. “The primary responsibility lies on us,” he feels.