Death threats against NDDCB Chairman:
I will ensure he is given adequate protection - Minister John
Minister of Public Order, Disaster Management and Christian Affairs,
John Amaratunga's illustrious political career spans over 37 as a Member
of Parliament who has held several key ministerial portfolios.
Due to his competence in handling his portfolio, especially Public
Security, the UNP Government has given him the Interior Ministry
portfolio which included the Police Department and the National
Dangerous Drugs Control Board. In an interview with the Sunday Observer,
the Minister said the UNP government that assumed office in 2002 was
responsible for taking steps to eradicate the scourge of drugs in the
All successive governments that came to power after 2004 turned a
blind eye to these drug barons who ran a network of operations
islandwide. Minister Amaratunga said the government would take serious
note of death threats faced by the Chairman of the National Dangerous
Drugs Control Board, (NDDCB) Dr. Chamira Nilanga Samarasinghe, as they
have already launched a huge drive against drug traffickers.
Q: The Police have arrested three soldiers in civils carrying
weapons. What is the authority they have to carry such a weapon? Who
authorised them to carry the weapon and for what purpose were they being
A: Anybody who carries an unauthorised weapon will be remanded
and no bail will be given. The Act is very clear that bail can be given
to such people only after filing an application in the High Court. The
case is now under investigation. I can't tell you exactly who is behind
this and what their intention was or what they have been deployed for.
Definitely this white van concept was orchestrated by the previous
government. I think this is also a part of that operation. Now we are
looking for more white vans. This is the sort of concept the previous
regime believed in - to harass people and stop them from supporting
their political opponents.
Q: The white van phenomenon may have been a marked feature of
the previous regime. How is it that in this incident too, military
personnel in civil attire travelled in a white van carrying arms?
A: The investigations on the assassination of TNA MP Raviraj
has proved that some Navy personnel were responsible for the shooting
and that they also operated in a white van. Obviously, this is a pattern
which was initiated by the previous government so this would have also
originated from the same source.
Q: It seems like the incumbent government is also adopting the
dirty tactics practised by some dictatorial regimes. Is there some
sinister force operating outside the government? Could not this other
force be the remnant of the previous regime?
A: I would assure you that under good governance, this
behaviour would not be tolerated by the present government. These are
the remnants of the previous government. We have to eradicate and mete
out severe punishment to anybody trying to resort to such tactics.
Q: Could this be a ploy or a set up by political enemies to
embarrass the government?
A: I think so. Because the intention behind these tactics is
to create a fear psychosis among government MPs, Ministers and
organisations. They followed the same tactic during the previous regime
as well. Now they are trying to repeat that culture once again.
Q: The Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board
(NDDCB), Dr. Chamira Nilanga Samarasinghe is under death threat for
doing his job. Has your Ministry investigated and identified from where
the threat is originating?
A: When the NDDCB Chairman makes a complaint regarding a death
threat against him, he should give us the telephone numbers of the
persons who made these threats. But there are no such telephone numbers.
The Chairman with the help of the Telecom should find out from where
these calls have originated. Then only we can proceed with
We are also trying to provide security to safeguard his life. I don't
know to what extent these threats are genuine. But we have to take
serious note because we are conducting a huge drive against drug
trafficking. Obviously, a lot of money is circulating, so those
concerned will try to destroy anybody attempting to disrupt their
Q: The government has made many claims about powerful forces
being involved in the illegal narcotic trade. However, to date no drug
kingpin has been either arrested or charged. Could it be that the Head
of the NDDCB and that whole agency are now paralysed due to these death
A: That is not the reason. There are a number of foreigners in
our remand custody. Among them, Pakistanis, Afghans and locals who have
been identified as drug traffickers. Action has been taken against them
and investigations are pending. The main task of the NDDCB is to
identify the sources and inform the Police. There are special units in
the Police and a DIG is designated for that.
They are taking prompt action against drug traffickers. The main task
of the NDDCB is to rehabilitate drug addicts and they are doing it
effectively. At the same time, the NDDCB would educate principals,
teachers and students on the danger of these drugs.
Q: Will your Ministry provide protection to enable the NDDCB
Chairman and the Board to keep the voting public informed of candidates
with criminal records?
A: We have informed the NDDCB to come up with information on
candidates who are involved in drug trafficking.
One UPFA candidate in the Gampaha list has a record of importing and
distributing drugs. He was under cover by the previous regime. He has a
free hand to import and distribute drugs, not only in Sri Lanka but also
to India, the Middle East and other far Eastern countries.
Q: If the NDDCB cannot fulfill its duties, isn't there a risk
that once again underworld elements could return to Parliament?
A: Of course. During the previous regime, such underworld
elements won most of those elections by throwing their illegal money to
provide goods and services to low income groups to secure their votes.
A few days ago, the Indian government had also raised concerns about
drug trafficking taking place in Sri Lanka. They are to appoint a
special Police team to investigate from which part of Sri Lanka these
drugs come to their coast.
Q: What is the protection you are providing the NDDCB Chairman
at the moment? What about the other staff? Shouldn't they also be given
A: I have written to the IGP that the NDDCB Chairman's life
should be safeguarded and to provide him adequate security.
I hope, he would have provided security by now. Because of the
election campaign, I didn't have time to personally check. But I will
ensure that he will be given all protection as he is doing an honest
job. He is a qualified doctor and a competent person in eradicating the
drug menace from Sri Lanka.
Q: What problems are there to prosecute the 25 MPs said to be
in the narcotic trade when the government has declared an all out war on
A: We can't bring a person to book or take him to court
without sufficient evidence. There should be witnesses and documents to
That is why the investigations are going on to obtain such documents
and evidence and file a B report to produce them in courts. That has
been done in several cases and some people are now in remand custody.
Q: Party Leaders hold the voters responsible for electing
rogue candidates to Parliament. Should it not be the Party Leaders' sole
responsibility not to give nomination to such people?
A: Absolutely. As an example, in the UPFA's Gampaha list,
there is a candidate who is convicted of several crimes and declared as
IRC number 89917. The Western Province Chief Minister who is contesting
from Gampaha district has been allegedly charged for bribery.
A Western Provincial Council Minister who has charges on drug dealing
is also contesting from the UPFA's Gampaha district. I don't know if the
Secretaries or the Leaders of those parties are so bankrupt to give
nominations to such corrupt elements and call upon the people to vote
for them. The UPFA will lose the Gampaha district while the UNP will
have a massive victory.
Q: As this is election time, why don't you tell the voters
that if elected to power, your government will make public the names of
these 25 MPs and prosecute them in courts?
A: We always talk about good governance. It means allegation
should be made against a person if there is sufficient evidence to prove
Mere hearsay evidence is not enough. Now the investigations are
There is also talk about the ethanol issue and a Secretary of the
former Prime Minister had issued a letter to release a container of
drugs. But these investigations have not been concluded.
We are talking of democratic governance, where a person has a right
to go to court and defend. Finally it is up to the judiciary to decide
and give them adequate punishment.