Rajapaksa seeks Pakistan’s help in drug problem

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, right, shakes hands with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a meeting in Colombo on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Rajapaksa seeks Pakistan’s help in drug problem

  • Efforts should be made for growth in trade, investments, Lankan president says

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has sought Pakistan’s help in its fight against drug trafficking and addiction, which was discussed in a meeting between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday.

“Drug trafficking and addiction is a grave evil that my country is confronted with. We wish to seek Pakistan’s assistance to eradicate this menace,” Rajapaksa told Qureshi.

Qureshi, who is on a two-day visit to the island nation — following his maiden trip to New Delhi — extended an invitation on behalf of President Arif Alvi for Rajapaksa to visit Pakistan. Data provided by Sri Lanka’s Dangerous Drugs Control Board (DDCB) shows that more than 250,000 of the country’s youth are addicted to drugs.

DDCB Chairman Ravindra Fernando said that nearly 50,000 youngsters are addicted to heroin alone, while nearly 2,500 undergo rehabilitation every year.

On Monday, Sri Lanka destroyed $108 million worth of cocaine, seized by authorities in the port of Colombo, which is increasingly becoming a transit hub favored by drug smugglers in Asia.

Authorities also destroyed 928 kg of the drug, the largest cocaine haul in Asia, which was found in a container on a Colombian ship bound for India in December 2016, part of the more than 1,700 kg of drugs seized over the past three years.

Rajapaksa also asked Pakistan to help Sri Lanka fight extremism, adding that instead of financial aid, efforts should be made to ensure enhanced growth in trade and investments on a mutually beneficial basis.  The president expressed an interest in exporting the widely grown betel leaf, which is popularly known as “paan” in Pakistan and India.

Qureshi said that Pakistan was keen on strengthening bilateral relations with Sri Lanka, especially in the areas of economic development, trade, security and regional cooperation.

HIGHLIGHT

Data provided by Sri Lanka’s Dangerous Drugs Control Board (DDCB) shows that more than 250,000 of the country’s youth are addicted to drugs.

“We already have very close, friendly and warm relations with Sri Lanka. Pakistan hopes to further develop them, widening the scope of cooperation,” Qureshi said, adding that he is fortunate to be the “first foreign minister to have visited Colombo since the election of the new government.”

He added that the government was looking forward to working with Sri Lanka to conserve and develop Buddhist heritage sites found across Pakistan.

“We are eagerly waiting for your visit to Pakistan at your earliest,” he told Rajapaksa.

Qureshi was accompanied by Dr. Mohammad Faisal, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Tanvir Ahmad, acting high commissioner in Colombo, at the meeting.

Earlier, he had briefed his Sri Lankan counterpart, Dinesh Gunawardena, on the human rights’ crisis in Indian-administered Kashmir, adding that the lockdown since Aug. 5 remained a “cause of serious concern” for the international community.  During the meeting, the two ministers also discussed trade, investment and tourism.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Qureshi described his meeting with the Sri Lankan foreign minister as “excellent” and extended an invitation to Gunawardena to visit Islamabad.

“There is a lot we can do to promote our mutual interest,” he said.

Following Rajapaksa’s victory, Pakistan Premier Imran Khan telephoned the president and invited him to visit Islamabad at the earliest opportunity.

Speaking to Arab News, N.M. Shaheid, Sri Lanka’s high commissioner based in Islamabad, said: “Pakistan has always honored Sri Lankan leadership devoid of color and party. President Maithripala Sirisena was invited as the chief guest in 2018 for Pakistan’s National Day celebrations. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is no stranger to Pakistan. He has received military training in Pakistan and many in top positions in the army are well acquainted with him. The Pakistan-Sri Lanka relationship will get to greater heights under the Rajapaksa regime.”


China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

Updated 49 min 56 sec ago

China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

  • Raising transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden until the epidemic is over
  • The virus has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections

BEIJING: China on Sunday ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals as the country struggles to contain a deadly virus believed to have been spawned in a market that sold wild animals as food.
Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” said a government directive.
The ban was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The lethal virus, which has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections in China, and spread to about a dozen countries, is believed to have originated in a market in the central city of Wuhan, where a range of wildlife was reportedly sold.
Conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a shadowy trade in exotic animals for food or as ingredients in traditional medicines, including highly endangered species such as the pangolin or tiger.
Health experts say the trade poses a significant and growing public health risk as potentially dangerous animal-borne pathogens that people would normal not be exposed to make the jump to humans.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 also has been traced to wild animals, with scientists saying it likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.
Civets, a cat-like creature, were among dozens of species listed on an exhaustive price list for one of the animal-trading businesses at the Wuhan market that emerged online last week.
Other items included various rats, snakes, giant salamanders and even live wolf pups.
Sunday’s announcement said all businesses, markets, food and beverage outlets and e-commerce platforms are “strictly prohibited from trading in wild animals in any form.”
It added that “consumers must fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, avoid wild game, and eat healthy.”
The so-called bushmeat trade, along with broader human encroachment on wild habitats, is bringing humans into ever-closer contact with animal viruses that can spread rapidly in today’s connected world, scientists say.
A study by the Global Virome Project, a worldwide effort to increase preparedness for pandemics, estimated that there are nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in the animal kingdom, nearly half of which could be harmful to humans.
Peter Daszak, a virology expert with the project, told AFP its research also indicated that we can expect around five new animal-borne pathogens to infect humanity each year.
China has launched previous crackdowns on the wildlife trade, including after SARS, but conservationists say the trade typically resumes over time.