Colombo cardinal champions fight to curb drug use among students

Archdiocese is organizing an anti-drug protest with participants from 39 parishes
Colombo cardinal champions fight to curb drug use among students

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Auxiliary Bishop Maxwell Silva and Father Neville Bernard, the principal of Basilica Vidyalaya School at a July 13 press conference on measures to end drug use among schoolchildren. (Photo by Niranjani Roland)

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has called on the public to do their utmost to eradicate the sale of intoxicants and drugs to Sri Lankan schoolchildren.

"A principal in the Catholic school in Ragama area has found that some students have been consuming heroin and marijuana," said Cardinal Ranjith at a press conference in Colombo on July 13.

"After finding out their activities, the principal received threatening phone calls. Many schools face similar problems," he said.

"We should raise our voice against drug dealers selling near schools and the law should be tightened," said the cardinal.

"The proposed Customs Ordinance Amendment Bill contains loopholes that allow drugs to enter the country," he said. Critics to the proposed law say that the government in a bid to overhaul revenue collection and boost dwindling income, allows for the law to contain provisions to ease punishment against illicit importers and drug dealers. 

Cardinal Ranjith also urged religious leaders, police, educators and politicians to fulfill their responsibilities.

The media have highlighted that some politicians are behind drug trafficking and some of them are Catholics. "But we can't take action against them without proof," said Cardinal Ranjith.

Father Neville Bernard, principal of Basilica Vidyalaya School in Ragama, said  15 of his students have been caught taking drugs and are undergoing rehabilitation. "I have found students hiding drugs in their shoes and socks," he said.

"We have taught an awareness program at the school with the help of police but drug consumption has not stopped," said the priest.

According to the National Dangerous Drugs and Devices Control Board there are an estimated 45,000 heroin users and around 200,000 cannabis users in the country. Each year about 1,000-2,000 people become addicted to drugs for the first time. Anti-narcotic organizations say Sri Lanka is a transit point for drug trafficking.

Auxiliary Bishop Maxwell Silva of Colombo said they would organize a protest march on July 30 with participants from 39 parishes. He added that more marches would follow.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he is committed to eradicating drug use in the country, at the National Program on Drug Prevention on July 11.

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