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Precursor Control Authority:

Era free of illicit drug trafficking

In general terms, Precursor chemicals are defined as the compounds required in synthetic or extraction processes of drug production, and incorporated into drug molecules. Because many legitimate precursor chemicals are also necessary in the processing and synthesis of most illicitly produced drugs such as cocaine and heroin, preventing the diversion of these chemicals from legitimate commerce to illicit drug manufacturing is identified as a major duty of any responsible government.

Often the governments place restrictions on the purchase of large quantities of chemicals that can be used in the production of illicit drugs. Since numerous chemicals listed as illicit drug precursors are manufactured throughout the globe, international cooperation in conjunction with a comprehensive chemical control strategy is essential for chemical control policies to succeed.


Heroin smuggling, a global problem. Picture courtesy: Google

In compliance with the United Nations Convention and the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation Convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, arrangements have been made under the Section 18 of the Act No 01 of 2008 enacted by the Parliament of the democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, to establish the Precursor Control Authority as a subsidiary of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, in order to implement a mechanism to monitor the import and export of the aforesaid chemicals.

Drug control activities

The Precursor Control Authority affiliated to the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, (NDDCB) officially initiated its duties on January 3, 2011. Being a subsidiary of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, which is designated as the focal point for drug control activities in Sri Lanka, the authority joins forces with it by a accomplishing several tasks related to the control of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

In keeping with the mission of the NDDCB, some of the major duties carried out by the Authority include issuing licences for the importers/exporters, dealers and end users of precursor chemicals, issuing licences for the storage premises of precursor chemicals and holding periodical awareness programs for the relevant parties.

The Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board officially holds and chair of this Authority which comprises 17 members appointed as such encompassing a variety of different fields under “the establishment of Precursor Control Authority Regulations, No 1 of 2010.” In addition the Precursor Control Authority is accountable for and functions under the supervision of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board which is designated as the national focal point for the coordination of all drug control activities in Sri Lanka.

Objective behind establishment of Precursor Control Authority

In the Sri Lankan context, Precursor chemicals are widely used in the manufacture of a variety of daily necessities such as chemicals, paints, dyes, perfumes, cosmetics, medicine and explosives apart from their utilization in the manufacturing process of industry based products such as plastic, rubber and even in agriculture.

It has been identified that these precursor chemicals which make an immense contribution towards the economic development is being utilized illegitimately for the production of illicit drugs and this trend appears to be developing at an alarming rate throughout the country and the world as well. Consequently the present government has taken measures to establish an Authority of this sort with the intention of preventing and restricting such illicit activities.

Duties of Precursor Control Authority

The duties of the Authority are cited in the section 19 of the Act No 1 of 2008 and are primarily as follows:

(i) Monitoring to ensure proper transport, distribution, storage, safeguarding and usage of aforementioned chemicals and supervision of the premises where such activities are carried out.

(ii) Registration and issue of licenses for the individuals/institutions and premises where foregoing activities are carried out under proper supervision.

In addition to accomplishing the aforementioned duties, the Authority is intending to carry out the following functions in the near future.

* Analysis of samples of imported chemicals obtained at the point of arrival.

* Analysis of samples obtained at the visits.

* Inspection of storage facilities for the imported chemicals and for the substances manufactured from the Precursor Chemicals.

* Monitoring the synthetic or extraction processes of substances manufactured from the Precursor Chemicals.

* Inspection of the equipment used in the manufacturing process.

* Visiting the premises of the importers and exporters in order to verify that the substances specified in table 1 and table 2 of the first scheduled to the Act, are used only for the legal purposes.

* Analysis of final products and by products for their composition.

* Inspection of the books, documents or other records which contain information about the names/types of chemicals imported or exported, purpose of using those chemicals quantities of chemicals imported/exported/issued from the stocks for manufacturing process/surplus of chemicals/surplus of final products/Returns, etc.

* Obtaining information on input/output ratio (i.e. percentage yield)

* Obtaining information on possible losses/wastages of chemicals and measures taken to prevent or minimize those losses.

* Obtaining information on disposal of by-products and measures adopted to prevent potential hazards caused by chemicals.

* Ascertaining the accuracy of the information provided in the second part of the applications and quarterly returns.

* Refer the samples sent by other Law Enforcement Agencies for analysis and submitting the reports.

The writer is the Chairperson - Precursor Control Authority

To be continued

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