The Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention claims that around 1300 children in the city of Colombo alone who were not attending school are involved in some form of abuse, especially drug dealing and smuggling.
Recently, Minister of Labour John Seneviratne had also stated that they had received reports pertaining to children between the ages of 15 and 17 being used for drug smuggling.
Director of the Task Force, Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi said that the Task Force along with Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Patali Champika Ranawaka and the Department of Social Services had identified the issue one and a half years back and were seeking to make the exploited children go back to school.
In Colombo’s slums in the Greater Colombo area, children are peddling cannabis (ganja) and even heroin according Kithalawaarachchi.
However, only a few of the children were drug users or drug addicts. Some don’t have parents or have been left behind or neglected by their parents forcing them to fend for themselves and fall prey.
“There has been a survey conducted in this regard. The children are 15 years old and above. Recently, there have been several incidents where mothers hide drugs inside the bags of their children attending pre-school. In other cases, entire families living in slums have been involved in the drug trade. Even though the figure is negligible, the matter must be dealt with seriously,” Kithalawaarachchi explained.
Elsewhere, he said that village youth in Trincomalee had spoken to Excise Department officials in the area about liquor companies promoting their brands through propaganda material such as cutouts outside bars in the area (illegal according to the Excise Ordinance), which had resulted in the Excise Department ordering it to be taken down.
The liquor companies had subsequently complained to Minister of Finance, Ravi Karunanayake and the matter had blown up and even gone up to the level of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“The youth have opposed liquor advertisements in the area. This doesn’t affect tourism in any way,” Dr. Kithalawaarachchi said.
Commissioner of the Women and Children’s Affairs Division of the Department of Labour, P. Mahadewa was not available for a comment.