The Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention informed that members of communities involved in implementing community based drug eradication programmes at the grass root level requested judges to impose on offenders the maximum fines and lengthy periods of remand custody. The village level drug eradication programmes took another step this week with the establishment of divisional drug eradication committees in 694 grama niladhari divisions in Anuradhapura, in the presence of senior Police officers including Officers-inCharge and community Police officers, officers of the Department of Excise, those from the Rajarata University and technical officers from 22 divisional secretariats. Weaknesses in the programmes which have been operative for over two years now were discussed with all the stakeholders. Director of the Task Force, Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi said that what the community members had raised concerns over was the lenient nature of judges (including magistrates) when it came to imposing fines and placing suspects in remand custody for longer periods (one to two months). Previously, when producing offenders before Courts, the Police failed to present evidence of prior wrongdoing including convictions on the part of the suspects, yet now the Police do. “It is after much effort and after going through a strenuous process that the community members are able to catch the offenders including those who make moonshine, with the help of the Police and then hands them over to the Police who then file the cases. When the suspects are bailed the following day and fines less than the amounts prescribed in the law are imposed, they feel that their efforts are akin to chopping logs into the river. Also, these suspects are the ones who are not only difficult to catch but also those have not been reformed despite community based campaigns and many efforts to provide them with alternate vocations and thereby clean sources of income acceptable to the community,” he added.