All’s not well in the North
Academics and experts explain why:
Recent incidents in the North have given rise to allegations of
increasing anti-social activity, increased alcohol consumption and drug
addiction in the the post-war era, especially among the younger
generation. Sunday Observer spoke to a cross-section of people to
ascertain the veracity of such allegations and the possible reasons for
the emerging problems.
Psychiatrists, principals, journalists, a senior administrative
officer, an academic, a civil society activist and security forces
personnel expressed their views. There were mixed reactions where some
blamed the state mechanism of the previous regime, while others denied
it. Psychiatrists gave a clear cut explanation of the psychological
aspects of the changing dynamics in the post-conflict period.
Jaffna Central College Principal, K.Elilvendan: Consumption of
alcohol and addiction to drugs and other intoxicants among Northern
society, even among school children, has increased many folds. I have
had to deal with some students of the College on such complaints in the
recent months. There are stalls in the vicinity of the College where
intoxicating substance in the form of splintered arecanuts are sold near
the College, according to my information.
The Northern society is now emerging as a multi-cultural society,
especially in the post conflict period, after continued displacement in
the past, overseas expatriation and new ways of livelihood combined with
the much-improved transport facilities, easy access to places and
unrestricted availability of such intoxicating stuff.
We cannot hold anyone responsible but there may be instances where
the law enforcement authorities may be turning a blind eye for monetary
benefits. I think civil society and political leaderships should focus
on arresting the trend and conduct awareness programs regarding the
long-term ill effects these contacts.
Government Agent for Mannar, M.Y.S. Deshapriya: The Mannar Government
Secretariat has not come across cases of drug addiction or drugs such as
heroin being sold or smuggled into these areas. But there have been
instances of the local brew of illicit arrack being freely available and
I have held discussions with the relevant authorities on tackling this
It has also been reported that there were several transit points for
smuggling ‘ganja’ or ‘marijuana’ along the coastal areas of the district
and the District Secretariat is taking action in coordination with the
law enforcement authorities. I do not know whether or not such illegal
activities are conducted with the support of the security forces or the
police, but I am aware that the security forces have been devotedly
involved in social welfare activities in recent times. They conducted
Tamil/Sinhala New Year functions on a grand scale and organise sports
competitions among local sports clubs. This time around they held Poson
dansals and other such activities.
A freelance journalist, who wished to remain anonymous and operating
from Kilinochchi: It is true that the use of alcohol, mainly arrack and
toddy, has increased in the post-conflict period. ‘Ganja’ and an
intoxicating substance known as ‘Mawa’ consisting of splintered arecanut
are freely available in the Jaffna district and other Northern
districts. But I am not aware of heroin or substances of that nature
being clandestinely sold or being available in Jaffna.
Even school-going children in the 15 -18 age group were consuming
these intoxicants and many were addicted to them. This is basically due
to the fear psychosis of the people during the three-decade conflict.
Civil societies should counsel and initiate awareness programs to change
Dr. S. Sivathas, psychiatrist attached to the Vavuniya Government
hospital: I treat an increasing number of patients for alcohol and drug
addiction and want to be rehabilitated. The 30-year-war and the trauma
caused by it has affected their mental status, consequently, it has had
its impact on the social fabric leading to vulnerability to alcohol,
that is freely available, and narcotic drugs that are being
Although the percentage of increase is not available, it certainly
has increased. This situation is also reflected in family disputes,
separations and violence against women.
A psychiatrist, attached to the Kilinochchi Government hospital, on
conditions of anonymity confirmed the views held by Dr. Sivathasan.
Chief Editor of the Asian Tribune K. P. Rajasingham, said that there
is no truth in the accusations that security forces personnel promoted
drug peddling in the Northern province.
Until the military defeat in May 2009, the LTTE was peddling drugs
but they avoided the Northern Province.
They targeted the South. It is an open secret that local politicians
of popular Tamil political parties of the North were now involved in
drug peddling. Many of them are owners of wine stores and toddy taverns.
They must be held responsible for the current social deterioration.
A retired government servant, living in Jaffna also spoke on
conditions of anonymity: It is true that the LTTE was involved in drug
peddling on a large scale, but they only had international dealings. In
the post-conflict period drugs have been going to the Northern Province
with the blessings of the government security forces which, in turn, has
contributed to anti-social activities.
Jaffna Hindu College Principal, I. Dayanandaraja: While it is true
that certain intoxicants are being sold within close proximity to the
school, I have not received any complaints that students of my school
were involved in these nefarious activities. Police have arrested many
dealers. Unscrupulous traders should be held responsible.
S. Sooriyakumary, Director of Offer Ceylon, a civil society
organisation mainly dealing with Northern repatriates in Tamil Nadu: It
is wrong to conclude that everything that happens in the post-conflict
period should be blamed on the security forces and the police. It is the
unscrupulous traders belonging to all communities who should be held
responsible for this social deterioration.
This is a common phenomenon in the North and the South. Incidents
where students of some popular schools in Colombo are found the worse
for liquor in public places have been reported over and over again.
There are wine stores and toddy taverns in Jaffna - one tavern for every
I know instances when the Government gave Rs.50,000 to repair houses,
the head of the family spent almost half of that amount consuming
liquor. It is the social responsibility of all responsible citizens and
organisations to take meaningful and effective steps to correct the
Chief Advisor to the Ceylon Tamil Teachers’ Union and Director on
International Affairs T. Mahasivam: Even the Northern PC Chief Minister,
V. Wigneswaran has pointed out that the security forces and the police
should be held responsible for the social deterioration due to drug use
in the Northern Province. Certain politicians of the South in
coordination with the Army and the police promoted it.
It should be noted that consequent to the Pungudutivu incident where
a schoolgirl was gang raped and murdered, the Jaffna Magistrate has
ordered the police to take strong steps to prevent such incidents.
Meanwhile, Security Forces Commander for Jaffna, Maj. Gen. Nandana
Udawatte speaking to the media on Wednesday said the Army had maintained
discipline and was there to protect the people in the post-conflict
period. Allegations that the Army had promoted drug peddling in the
North and its use was baseless.
The Army was engaged in operations to counter the drug menace in the
peninsula as well as in the Northern Province, he was quoted as saying
at the media conference.