62. Telegram 2330 From the Embassy in Sri Lanka to the Department of State 1 2


  • Narcotics Control Action Plan for Sri Lanka


  • State 160296; Colombo 419

1. Summary: US and GSL narcotics programs focus on identifying extent of problem and developing GSL capability to suppress illegal narcotics traffic. At present Sri Lanka has relatively small narcotics problem and GSL hopes to prevent both growth of local consumption and increase in amount of opium smuggled into and through Sri Lanka. US input to GSL narcotics program—barring intelligence indicating large transshipment of opium through Sri Lanka—will remain moderate through FY 75. End summary.

2. Drug situation:

A. Rough estimates of amount of opium entering Sri Lanka from India range from 5 to 15 tons annually. Earlier estimate of 5 to 6 tons has been raised by GSL police on basis recent large opium seizure in India. Ganja (cannabis) production is widespread in Sri Lanka and certainly exceeds requirements for local usage, including ayurvedic medicine; 150 tons of illicit ganja production is reasonable estimate.

B. Trafficking routes: Opium seizure in northern Sri Lanka and Indian customs’ seizure of 400 pounds of opium destined for Sri Lanka have highlighted possibility of sizable traffic of opium across Palk Straits from India. US and GSL officials are seeking to obtain info on opium routes within Sri Lanka and its ultimate destination. Seizure of one thousand gallons of processed hashish oil in June raised strong suspicion that ganja and ganja products are being exported. Embassy has, however, no specific intelligence indicating systematic re-export of opium or ganja from Sri Lanka.

C. Narcotics control efforts: Establishment of police narcotics division in April was step forward in narcotics control but division has not fully lived up to expectations. With small but enthusiastic staff, headed by energetic superintendent of police, division has not received sufficient budgetary and administrative support from GSL. In addition to handicaps of lack of equipment and funds, administrative location of unit under superintendent of police for crimes in Colombo presents difficulties for extension division’s authority to other parts of country and in dealing with other narcotics-related agencies. Situation may be improved with establishment on Sept 13 of national Narcotics Advisory Board, chaired by Dep Min of Defence and Foreign Affairs, and composed of high-level representatives of police, customs, excise, education, and health departments.

D. US has continued effort to seek information on opium and ganja traffic, to increase awareness of need increased narcotics control efforts on part of senior political and police officials, and to develop working contacts with GSL officials. In future, US will also stress training of GSL officials concerned with narcotics control.

E. International efforts: Drug abuse advisor, Philippine attorney Pio Abarro, assigned to Colombo plan bureau, arrived in Colombo in August. following initial consultations with GSL officials, Abarro indicated he would recommend GSL give first priority to strengthening anti-narcotics laws.

3. Seizures:

Ganja: Largest seizure was 271 four-gallon tins of hashish oil near Ratnapura, south central Ceylon, in June.

Opium: Fourteen pounds were discovered by customs near Velvettiturai, northern Sri Lanka, in August.

4. Restatement of goals: Long range goals remain interdiction of opium traffic and preventing ganja and ganja-based products from entering international traffic. Specifically, Embassy will encourage GSL to undertake these measures:

A. Sign and ratify 1972 protocol amending 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs;

B. Strengthen police narcotics division and newly-established inter-agency National Narcotics Advisory Board;

C. Increase cooperation with Indian Govt and Tamil Nadu officials to curb opium smuggling;

D. Analyze and strengthen 1956 opium and dangerous drugs ordinance to include provisions for heavier fines and prison sentences for drug traffickers;

E. Cooperate with UN INCB.

5. Principal projects undertaken:

A. Ceylonese unilateral actions: GSL has established police narcotics division in Colombo and National Narcotics Advisory Board;

B. Bilateral US-Sri Lanka actions: In addition to Embassy working-level and Ambassadorial-level contacts, New Delhi DEA agent has visited Sri Lanka and opened good working relationships with GSL narcotics police. DEA has provided literature for training aids and narcotics identification kits to police narcotics division. GSL has also provided USG with samples of opium and ganja for testing in DEA laboratories;

C. Multilateral efforts: GSL reportedly will send four more personnel from customs and police to UN narcotics training program in coming months.

6. Embassy evaluation: Progress continues slow, although establishment of police narcotics divison has brought some needed focus to GSL narcotics control efforts. Establishment Sept 13 of National Narcotics Advisory Board should eventually make significant contribution. Ratification of amendments to single convention would be concrete indication of strengthened GSL attitude toward narcotics, but relatively low priority of narcotics control program here suggests that action will not be taken quickly. Having other urgent problems, GSL has been willing to live with narcotics problem in Sri Lanka as it has been perceivied, that is, large amount of traditional usage of ganja, small local consumption of opium, and unknown quantity of opium trans-shipped through Sri Lanka into international traffic. Long-awaited creation of inter-agency coordinating board is, however, sign of growing awareness of need to mobilize all resources in narcotics effort and is hopeful development. If it were definitely established that large quantities of opium were being smuggled through Sri Lanka and routes and names of traffickers were identified, GSL would probably respond with comparative vigor, within limits its resources, to suppress this traffic.

7. Country team recommendation: Intelligence-gathering efforts should continue to seek to determine magnitude and routes of opium smuggling through Sri Lanka. In cooperation with international advisory agencies (including Colombo plan and UN), we should encourage GSL to strengthen narcotics laws. Working-level contacts between Embassy officials, DEA personnel, and GSL police narcotics control officers should be continued. Embassy recommends high GSL police officials be invited to visit United States for narcotics briefings and consultations, and that key officials on narcotics enforcement be given relevant training in United States. As GSL strengthens administrative base for narcotics control efforts and narcotics problem becomes clearer, USG may wish sponsor training programs for greater numbers of GSL narcotics enforcement staff, perhaps in form of visit to DEA training team to Sri Lanka. At that time, USG may also wish to provide GSL with equipment otherwise unobtainable in view critical Sri Lanka foreign exchange position.

8. Table I

Requested previous NCAP

FY 1973: None requested

FY 1974: $6,800 for 2 travel grants to high-level Ceylonese for drug orientation tour in United States. Unknown amount for visit of DEA training team to Sri Lanka. No host govt contribution envisaged in previous NCAP.

New proposals:

FY 1974: USIA: General media programming $1,000

Film purchase $500

DEA: Narcotics training $4,000

DEA: High-level orientation $4,000

AID: OPS training $4,000

Total US Govt $13,500

No host govt contribution

FY 1975: USIA: General media programming $1,000

Film purchase $500

State (CU): STAG visitor $3,000

DEA: Narcotics training $4,000

AID: OPS training $4,000

AID or DEA: Narcotics equipment $6000 to 10,000

Total US Govt $18,500 to 22,500

No host govt contribution

9. Table II Part A: Narrative

FY 1974 and 1975—USIA: USIS planned support for narcotics control action plan includes carrying of stories in USIS publications, placement of articles in local media and showing films on narcotics in support of mission objective of increasing host country’s awareness of problems of drug abuse and necessity for control of illegal narcotics traffic.

FY 1975—State (Cultural Affairs): NCAP plans for one distinguished STAG visitor from United States per year in support of goal of increasing awareness of drug problems on part of GSL officials and Ceylonese public.

FY 1974—Request for DEA training team to visit Sri Lanka: Although police narcotics division has been established, mission believes visit of DEA training team to Sri Lanka should be postponed until GSL, through such means as National Narcotics Advisory Board just set up, develops more coordinated and more forceful narcotics control effort. Present police narcotics staff is too small and too limited in mission for DEA team have effective impact. Mission is unable say at this time whether DEA team visit could occur during FY 1974 or FY 1975.

FY 1974—DEA high-level orientation: We recommend DEA invite Inspector General of police, top GSL police official, to United States for general orientation on internationl aspects of drug abuse and enforcement efforts.

FY 1974 and 1975—DEA narcotics training: To provide GSL officials in responsible positions in narcotics enforcement with training in management and operation of narcotics control activities. We recommend one official attend DEA ten-week police training school each year.

FY 1974 and 1975—AID OPS training: To train middle-level police officers whose duties involve some narcotics control activities. Possible candidates include superintendents of police with jurisdiction over areas or cities with high level of narcotics activity, such as Jaffna or Ratnapura.

FY 1974—Equipment authorization: Sri Lanka narcotics control activities are hampered by severe shortage of equipment available to local police. As GSL hardens attitude toward narcotics problem and further develops anti-narcotics programs, and evidence accumulates on nature of opium traffic across Palk Straits from India, USG may wish to provide moderate amount of equipment which GSL’s hard-pressed foreign currency reserves could not cover. Such equipment would include one or two jeep-type vehicles, portable walkie-talkie fm radion, and surveillance cameras. Estimated cost of total package is $6,000 to $10,000.

10. Table II Part B—(1)

US personnel—None for any fiscal year.

11. Table II Part B—(2) training in United States:


FY 1974 one participant 2-1/2 man-months $4,000

FY 1975 one participant 2-1/2 man-months $4,000

DEA ten week police training school:

FY 1974 one participant 2-1/2 man-months $4,000

FY 1975 one participant 2-1/2 man-months $4,000


FY 1974 or FY 1975—DEA training team to visit Sri Lanka.

Costs not known.

12. Table II Part B—(3) equipment

FY 1974—none

FY 1975 one or two jeep wagons at $4,000 each; total $4,000 or $8,000. Three FM walkie-talkie radios at $500 each; total $1,500.

Camera and surveillance equipment $500

13. All AID and DEA programs would have to be funded from Washington.

Van Hollen
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Confidential; Priority. It was repeated to Islamabad, Kabul, Katmandu, New Delhi, USUN, Geneva, and DEA. For the previous report see telegram 419 from Colombo, February 15 (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, Box 3097, SOC 11–5 Sri Lanka-Sweden)
  2. The Embassy provided for the Department an updated narcotics control plan speculating on the possible export of hashish and opium from Sri Lanka.