Midnight drama in ganja plantation
Hambegamuwa and Thanamalwila located in the Uva province have been a
safe haven for Ganja (Cannabis Sativa) growers for several decades due
to its jungle terrain infested with wild elephants, buffaloes and
wildboar. The area borders the Southern province. Only a handful of
farmers till the land in the state forest reserves illicitly to grow
cannabis that bring them a substantial profit than any other crop. But
in recent years, wealthy businessmen from the deep south have shown a
keen interest in cannabis cultivation as it has brought them enormous
Ganja is a drug much sought after by addicts more than heroin as it
is readily available in provincial towns and in the Western province.
Owing to its soaring demand, wealthy businessmen have began providing
financing to farmers to cultivate ganja in vast swaths of land in state
forest reserves not accessible to law enforcement officers. However, it
is the businessmen who take the lion's share of the profits once the
plantations are harvested. According to police sources, half the share
of profit is taken away by the businessmen while the balance is
distributed among farmers. Businessmen spend nearly Rs five lakhs to
cultivate five acres with ganja but post harvest profits exceed more
than Rs 60 lakhs. Enormous profits from the sale of ganja have motivated
businessmen from the South to engage in the unlawful trade, police said.
Setting a ganja plantation ablaze
A fortnight ago, OIC of the Walana Vice Squad at Panadura, Inspector
Duminda Balasuriya received a tip-off from an informant that a
businessman of Hambegamuwa was making preparations to sell a large
stockpile of dried ganja leaves following a bumper harvest at
Thanamalwila. The informant said he too had been contacted by the
businessman to work in the ganja plantation. However when the
information was conveyed to Director, Walana Vice Squad, SP Palitha
Fernando he referred it to DIG Staff at Police Headquarters Mahesh
Samaradivakara seeking approval for a raid.
Following the approval by the IGP, N.K. Ilangakoon, OIC Walana Vice
Squad detailed two squads comprising 22 policemen for a raid on the
Hambegamuwa ganja plantation. Two teams headed by the OIC Walana Vice
Squad along with two Sub Inspectors left Panadura on June 15 night for
Hambegamuwa, Thanamalwila. The raiding party was provided with accurate
information by the informant on the exact location of the Hambegamuwa
The informant said ten people were involved in packing up dried ganja
leaves while others were engaged in up rooting plants in the adjacent
plantation. However, he cautioned the policemen that two men armed with
shot guns were seen lurking around the ganja plantation to prevent any
intruders. He further told the OIC that the armed men had been deployed
by a wealthy businessman from Embilipitiya to prevent any intrusions
into the land.
But the most daunting task the police faced was to avoid the risk of
confronting wild beasts such as buffaloes, bears, leopards, wildboar and
elephants that roam in the jungle. The policemen had to trudge through
the Udawalwe National Park in the dead of night to arrive at the ganja
plantation at Hambegamua -Thanamalvila. The second hurdle the policemen
faced was to avoid trap guns set up in the plantation to kill and maim
intruders. They were locally manufactured muzzle loading shot guns. The
third and the most difficult risk factor was to disarm and overpower the
armed men and to seize their weapons.
Despite the impending risks, the policemen ventured into the jungle
in the dead of night to avoid being spotted by farmers who worked in the
plantation. “The moment they spot strangers in the forest reserve they
communicate with each other via mobile phones to indicate the police
presence in the jungle.
However, by 1 a.m. on June 16, twenty-two police officers from the
Walana Vice Squad led by Inspector Duminda Balasuriya entered the
Udawalawe National Park without any hassle with the help of the
informant to swoop on the ganja plantation. Strict instructions were
given to policemen not to flash their torches as it would signal their
presence. Instead only one policeman was permitted to do so in an
emergency. “The slightest disturbance in the jungle would alarm the
farmers to flee from the area or to attack the intruders,” police said.
While traversing through the Aldol Forest Reserve the informant told
policemen that a number of cattle in the jungle have been deprived of
water and are struggling for survival. It was because the farmers have
diverted water to the ganja plantations. Policemen finally reached the
Hambegamuwa plantation before dawn. At the break of dawn they split into
several groups to cover the entire plantation to apprehend the suspects.
When the policemen stealthily slipped into the plantation in search of
farmers they came across lush ganja plantation in a two acre block. The
police also came across eight suspects hiding in a hut. Two suspects had
in their possession two locally made shotguns with cartridges. One
suspect escaped by fleeing into the jungle after dropping his mobile
phone on the ground. The next morning police searched the plantation and
took into custody dried ganja leaves weighing 250 kilograms. The
policemen destroyed the ganja plants in the two acre plot. They also
found a stockpile of dry rations adequate for more than two months.”
Police learnt that the man who escaped was a close friend of the wealthy
businessman who financed the ganja cultivation.
The businessman owns a fleet of buses and is the proprietor of a
tourist hotel in the Embilipitiya area. He also owns a luxury Prado
vehicle for his private use.
"There are several cases pending against him before courts,” a senior
police officer said. Walana Vice Squad is making an efort to arrest the
businessman and the man who fled from the scene.
The five suspects were produced at Hanbegamuwa Police. The total
value of the seized ganja haul has been estimated at Rs 1 million. The
Police have arrested five suspects and are on the look out for the
businessman and the suspect who fled the scene.
When the case was taken up before the Wellawaya Magistrate/District
Judge M.A.A. Anawaratne on June 28, OIC, Inspector Duminda Balasuriya of
the Walana Vice Squad filed a further report requesting court to order
the mobile company to furnish a detailed report regarding the telephone
numbers left behind by the suspect who escaped while the raid was in
The court while ordering the mobile company to furnish details of
telephone numbers ordered the Vice Squad to arrest the suspect who
escaped and also to investigate the involvement of the millionaire
The case will be taken up again on July 12.