The government of Sri Lanka has announced that an extensive 50-day anti-drug operation in the country resulted in the arrest of over 50,000 individuals involved in criminal activities and the confiscation of narcotics valued at millions of rupees.
Conceptualised by Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles and overseen by acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Deshabandu Tennakoon, the controversial Operation ‘Yukthiya’ (the Sinhala term for ‘justice’) was launched on December 17 with a June 30 deadline to end the drug menace plaguing the country and arrest all the drug dealers.
Despite its purported anti-narcotic aims, it has regularly received criticism from various corners.
Sri Lanka police have been issuing daily detailed statements related to the operation. It has also set up a hotline for the public to provide information concerning the ongoing anti-drug operation.
“It’s been 50 days since the Yukthiya operation was launched. A total of 56,541 criminals throughout the island were arrested. Of them, 49,558 were drug abuse arrests while 6,958 more were those in the crime suspect lists,” a release from the Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday (6).
The Ministry said that investigations into the ownership of illicit assets have been initiated for 234 of the arrested suspects, while 3,083 individuals listed by the Police Narcotics Bureau and Police Special Bureau were also arrested.
“The seized drugs have an estimated market value close to Rs 7,733 million, while the confiscated property is valued at nearly Rs 726 million,” NewsFirst.lk said quoting the Ministry’s statement.
The operation continued despite condemnation from the UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk, the local human rights commission, the Lawyers’ Collective which describes itself as a congregation of members of the legal fraternity that transcend politics irrespective of individual political affiliations, and numerous other rights groups.
Alles has rejected all such condemnations and vowed to continue with it.
Earlier on January 12, a statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said, “We are very concerned that authorities in Sri Lanka are adopting a heavily security-based response to the country’s drugs problem, instead of public health policies grounded in human rights. A staggering 29,000 people have reportedly been arrested on drug-related matters since December 17, with allegations that some have been subjected to ill-treatment and torture.”
The UN rights chief said the rights body was very concerned that authorities in Sri Lanka are adopting a heavily security-based response to the country’s drug problem.
Security forces have reportedly conducted raids without search warrants, detaining suspected drug sellers and users, with hundreds sent to military-run rehabilitation centres, he said.
Last week, The Lawyers’ Collective, in a letter addressed to Alles, said that the manner in which the Minister was exercising his powers in Operation Yukthiya, the Anti-Drug Campaign, was “a matter of grave public concern.”
The group also insisted that “the campaign must conform to the Rule of Law. It cannot be a passionate, personal, initiative that you (Alles) seek to implement outside the law, a report in Island.lk said, and added that the letter also criticised the manner in which the minister has been conducting this campaign and making public statements in the media.