Death threats against NDDCB Chairman
Why is the government reluctant to provide security?- NDDCB Chairman
Politicians of all hues and other powerful figures in society have
been rattled by the innovative approach to narcotics control adopted by
the Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB), Dr.
Chamira Nilanga Samarasinghe, so much so that he now faces a grave risk
to his life. However, an undaunted Samarasinghe says he is committed to
combat the drug menace. He is the first government officer who bravely
came forward to fight drug trafficking. In an interview with the Sunday
Observer, Dr. Samarasinghe said that he tries to follow the late Prof.
Senaka Bibile but doesn’t want to sacrifice his life at this stage as he
has many things to finish off.
The NDDCB Chief said even though he has a record of politicians
engaged in narcotic trade, he can’t give exact figures and names as he
is still receiving information on a daily basis. He disclosed that some
politicians who have links to drug trafficking have also been
accommodated in the Nomination Lists to contest the upcoming General
Q: Didn’t you think it is suicidal to make public that you
have a list of 25 MPs engaged in the narcotic trade. Could you explain?
A: Yes, it is suicidal. The figure of 25 MPs engaged in the
narcotic trade was not what I made. It was media speculation. I have a
record of politicians engaged in drug trafficking. They are facilitators
and not direct drug importers. They transport drugs from airports and
harbours to safe houses and distribute it in the country. If a drug
dealer is caught, these politicians give state protection to them.
If you engage in the narcotic trade, you should be ready to accept
‘Gold’ or ‘Browns’. ‘Gold’ refers to gifts and bribes from narcotic
dealers. If you work honestly to combat drugs, one has to accept
‘Browns’ which refers to bullets. This is the first time a government
official openly working against narcotic dealers has faced death
Q: Except for the UNP, no other political party responded to
clear names about MPs involved in the narcotic trade, is it unfair for
the people not to vote for such parties?
A: We gave a fair opportunity to all the major parties to
respond. Some minor parties such as J. Sri Ranga’s Citizen’s Front, A.
Thondaman’s CWC and Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera by himself only
The other political parties didn’t want a clarification about their
nominees. I couldn’t give the list because their agenda was not to get
clearance but to used it against political opponents as well as
candidates in their same party. I won’t permit my institution to be used
as a’weapon’ for politicians to realise their narrow political
The people are frustrated not knowing to whom they should vote.
However the UNP got that opportunity and can now say their candidates
are free of allegations regarding drugs.
Q: Does the law have no teeth to prosecute these MPs who have
been thriving on this illicit trade? What prevents the Police from
A: The Police file a case in court to win it. They need hard
evidence to prove the case. Unfortunately, the Police then say that they
don’t have sufficient evidence to prove the case. However, the public
are aware of the people who engage in drug trafficking.
The Police does not take this into account and back out saying they
don’t have sufficient information to go to courts. If they work on the
information given by the public, they should be smart enough to do the
necessary surveillance before the prosecution. But the police wants
everything on a platter to fight a case. If they have a good
intelligence unit, this should not be an issue.
Q: Even though you exposed the names of some MPs and courted
death threats, bureaucratic red tape is slow in providing you with
adequate security. Why is this?
A: I too am wondering as to why the Government is reluctant to
provide security. Drug dealers are no threat to me. If my security is
ensured, I can expedite my work. President, Maithripala Sirisena, Prime
Minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe, the IGP and the nation wants to get rid
of the drug menace in this country.
With regard to my security, only the people and the media are on my
side. I think politicians and the state want to drag this slogan until
the next election. If they finish off this task right now, they can’t
take it up in 2020. They are not concerned about the younger generation,
parents or society who have been affected by this social menace. They
just want to enjoy power. They are not concerned about the people. If it
is a lasting solution that the state is looking for, I am ready to give
of my services.
Q: You will perhaps end up leaving the country fearing for
your life, as has happened to most professionals who did their duty by
the country. How would you fare in this situation?
A: When I was in Qatar, they identified my capacity. They were
interested when I made a presentation and work plan against drugs during
the first global anti-narcotic forum held there. They bought my
Except for the Gulf countries, I was the only outside presenter in
that forum. If my country doesn’t need my services, I am ready to give
of my services to who ever who wants it.
Today, it appears the country means only politicians. I am still
reluctant to leave the country as the people require my services. I
know, after the end of all these problems, only my family will suffer.
If I am killed, the people will forget me in one or two weeks. This
is the nature of this country. But I was brought to this position by the
people. I rose to this position because of free education and free
health, so I owe it to this country.
I am an old Anandian and brought up in a Sinhala Buddhist culture.
That is why I want to serve my country.
Otherwise as a medical practitioner, I have many opportunities in
Q: The narcotic trade has spread its tentacles. Don’t you
think our prosecution procedures, law and punishment methods need a
complete overhaul to eliminate this scourge?
A: I had a good training in China and studied the entire
system on narcotics. If we can implement the same methodology in Sri
Lanka, we can eliminate this problem. If we can safeguard the seashore,
harbour and the airport, that is enough.
Other countries have huge problems from neighbouring countries as
well. But in our case, our neighbours too want to combat the drug
In these countries the entire machinery of government officials,
politicians and law enforcement authorities work together to eliminate
drug trafficking. We can also do a lot by implementing such a mechanism.
In our country, the method of extracting information is till primitive.
In other countries such as the USA, they have sophisticated technology
and can identify if a person who gives evidence is lying or not. We lack
this type of technology.
Q: The post independence era up to about 1970 produced
Parliamentarians with unblemished characters who sacrificed to develop
the country. How did the rot set in to destroy politics?
A: The biggest damage was done by late Dr. Colvin R de Silva,
because he is responsible for destroying the career of independent
government officers. The 1972 Constitution weakened the power of
After 1977, a culture emerged where decisions taken by government
officials had to be sanctioned by politicians. There are 17 government
officers to look after a single household including Samurdhi officer,
Grama Niladari, Social Service Officer and a Public Health officer. If
this structure works properly, this country will be heaven. Today, all
government officers await orders from politicians.
Government officials should go to the village level and decide on the
people’s requirements and then submit proposals to politicians for
approval. Today this is happening other way around. This is the biggest
problem in the country.
However, in my institution, we make policies and plans and then
discuss with the Minister. I am happy because Minister John Amaratunga
never interferes with what we have to do. Even Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe wants to make this institution independent and
responsible to Parliament.
The Premier has instructed me to eradicate heroin and ‘tablets’ which
have become one of the biggest problems in the country. After that steps
could be taken to eradicate the use of cannabis, liquor and cigarettes.
Q: Sprats are caught while the sharks thrive in the narcotics
trade. Do you have any proposals to contain this social cancer?
A: At present many ‘sprats’ are in jail and most of the sharks
are in other countries and it is difficult to apprehend them. They
cannot be identified as drug traffickers because there is a huge gap
between the street level trafficker and the kingpin.
Tracing the centre is out of the question. The people who smuggle
drugs to the country are unknown. Drug traffickers change their
strategies. We can find only the street vendors with minor quantities of
If we trace a drug addict, he gives the information about the street
But the street vendor doesn’t know anything about the kingpin. The
trade is so advanced the deal is done using advanced satellite
technology. We don’t have a proper system to trace how the money changes
hands. That technology must come from countries that are successful in
drug control. We should have immediate, intermediate and long term plans