Drug menace Nipping it in the bud

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By 2017-08-11

ELMO GOONERATNE

Abductions, rape, drugs, and murders seem to be the order of the day. Not a day passes without a report of an abduction of a teenager. Civic minded people in this country wonder who will be the next victim. The biggest menace in the country is the scourge of drugs.

Whenever a drug related crime is reported in the media, politicians and civic organization make a hue and cry to apprehend the culprits. However, their cry lasts only for a week. Meanwhile, if a supporter of a politician is apprehended no action will be taken to punish the offender.

The people of Sri Lanka are more involved in strikes, protests and demonstrations. It has now become a part of their lives. However, no one seems to benefit from such campaigns. The protesters and strikers leave their homes immediately after their children go to school.

Some people even know for certain as to why they are involved in such activities. Have they benefited from such strikes and demonstrations? One can see how strikers and demonstrators shouts till their voices get hoarse. The Police and government officials issue a statement when a strike or demonstration starts. However, strikers and demonstrators burn tyres on roads blocking traffic movement and polluting the environment. We can see even village folks protesting on roads and clashing with law enforcement authorities.

Demonstrations

A few decades ago there were no strikes and demonstrations. People settled their problems through negotiations. There were voluntary organization and dedicated people to help solve people's problems. Community centres, Rural Development Centres and other similar organizations were there to look after the problems of pregnant women ordinary people. From the time D.S. Senanayake there was a senior Cabinet Minister in-charge of Rural Development. With the advent of socialism and Marxism all that has disappeared. Today innocent villagers are helpless without village leaders.

Today the most powerful man in the village is involved in all kinds of vice, including drug peddling, prostitution, manufacture and distribution of illicit hooch. As he enjoys the backing of powerful politicians, law enforcement authorities are helpless in curbing illicit activities. Many years ago politicians were highly respected by the people. However, present day politicians are not respected by the people as they are involved in nefarious activities.

Today there are many organizations dedicated to look after the welfare of women, children and animals. Some of them receive generous funds from foreign countries. With all such organizations we see more and more strikes and demonstrations. Sometimes we wonder whether there is any use of such organizations if they cannot solve any of our problems. For instance, children are not safe in their own homes. Sometimes grandfathers, fathers and close relatives rape young girls. According to media reports, children are sold to paedophiles. These incidents are being reported in the media regularly. In a recent incident some of the children had been raped by the husband of a woman who was in charge of an orphanage. In the past there was a Social Services Minister who was expected to look after the welfare of orphans. Today there are several ministries and an army of officials to look after orphans. The only job they seem to be doing is going abroad for seminars and having a nice time.

Today there seems to be no one to look after the welfare of orphans although Sri Lanka is a centre for Theravada Buddhism. It was reported that there were 1, 500 case of child abuse annually.

On the other hand, over 500 children live in remand prisons and rehabilitation centres. Dr. Deepthi Attygalle, of the College of Community Physicians citing the child activity survey 2008-2010 said nearly 100, 000 children are engaged in child labour while 63,000 are engaged in hazardous occupations.

They receive very low wages. Though these figures come from the Police and Labour Departments, the actual numbers could be much higher than indicated in their reports.

Mortality rate

According to Dr. Attygalle, the mortality rate of children under the age of five is as low as 12 per cent for 10,000 at birth.Immunisation coverage is nearly 100 per cent while social and education support is fairly high. Ninety two per cent are enrolled at preschools while 94 per cent are enrolled in primary schools, she said.

Dr. Attygalle further said there are certain problems that exist among the child population in the country. For instance, 60 per cent of babies are born with low birth weight each year, 23 per cent of children are underweight and among preschoolers one fourth of children live below the poverty line. Can you believe that 15,000 children live on the streets? Ten per cent of under 16 children die due to injuries and 23 per cent suffer from disabilities. Her observations should be studied and action taken for the sake of children.

According to Police records, a large number of children die in road accidents. Most of them are schoolchildren. Very often children get run over by vehicles on zebra crossings.

Most of the times, the offenders are private bus drivers. Courts levy fines on them, but they get back to the driving seat to kill more children! Private bus owners are a powerful lot and they look after the offending drivers.

Private bus drivers

It is a well-known fact that most private bus drivers drive under the influence of liquor or drugs. According to a survey, private bus drivers and conductors are rich people. When a child is run over by a reckless driver, people demand the highest punishment, but it does not happen. At the end of the trial, they pay the fine and return home.

Sometimes children are sexually assaulted and killed by drug addicts and sex maniacs. The United Nations has declared 26 June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The UN wishes to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.

Today the drug menace has spread all over the country. The real danger is not the spread of drugs in the country, but the danger it has on schoolchildren.

Drugs lead to rape of innocent children. Today it happens all over the country. Life especially in rural areas is fast becoming a nightmare. Little girls even before going to school have been raped by drug addicts and sex maniacs. It happens not only in the Southern rural area, but in the North too where schoolgirls have been brutally raped.

Brilliant students

School teachers say some girls who had been raped were been brilliant students heading for a bright future. In many instances the killer had been addicted to different types of drugs. Some of the drugs are smuggled into the country mainly from Pakistan. Recently, a hotel in Ja-Ela held a party for teenagers.

The revellers became such a nuisance that the people had rung the Police. The police found teenagers, both boys and girls, in a state of intoxication. Apparently they had not taken liquor, but certain pills imported to the country. The organizer is reported to be busy organizing similar parties for teenagers.

Angry people in the area had chased the teenagers away. It was later found that most of teenagers had been attending private tuition classes. There is no check on such mushroom tutories. Tutors with doubtful qualifications very often dupe the teenagers and rape female students. Some of the tutors introduce drugs to unsuspecting teenagers.

According to the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Childcare, the main reason for the increase in child abuse and rape cases is the low standard in education.

The ministry has given other reasons such as insecurity, use of mobile phones, emergence of mentally imbalanced teenagers due to the use of drugs and alcohol. All these lead to sexual misbehaviour which has become a sub culture.

According to child protection specialist of UNCEF Sri Lanka, Dr. Hemal Jayawardene even one case of child abuse is one too many.

"Violence, abuse and exploitation of children destroy the innocence of childhood and their physical and mental health impairing their ability to learn and hampering their future development."

Founding Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority, Prof. Harendra Silva says the authorities should focus more on the sexual abuse by members of the immediate or extended family which is more prevalent. The abuse of children by strangers including foreigners, according to him, is the biggest challenge the country is facing today.

According to Dr. Jayawardena, studies reveal that 10 per cent of the male population in Sri Lanka have had sex with children.

Therefore, we need to adopt a national strategy that goes beyond child abuse and ensure the protection of all the children.

These are the views of Dr. Harendra Silva and Dr. Hemal Jayawardena on child abuse. Dr. Jayawardena wants a plan even to protect children from injury. Somebody in this country should go to the Philippines and see what has been done for the country.

People became millionaires in the Philippines by peddling drugs. President Rodrigo Duterte came to power promising the people that he would get rid of the drug menace. He fulfilled his promise by eliminating more than 1,000 drug lords.

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