Israeli technology sought in war on drugs

By The Sunday Morning News Desk

The Government is looking to purchase state-of-the-art technology solutions worth millions of dollars from Israel to tackle illicit drug smuggling, trafficking, and distribution on an emergency basis.

A cabinet memorandum related to the purchase was presented to the Cabinet by President Maithripala Sirisena in his capacity as the Defense Minister, The Sunday Morning learnt.

The equipment which would cost around USD 38.9 million, would be procured without following the normal Government procurement procedures due to the sensitive nature of the project.

The memo noted that owing to the need for secrecy and confidentiality and the urgent requirement, the details of the type of technology and equipment, and information about the company would not be disclosed.

The President has sought Cabinet approval to appoint a Cabinet-Appointed Technical Evaluation Committee (CATEC) to evaluate the proposal received for the solutions and Cabinet-Appointed Negotiations Committee (CANC) for negotiations and signing of the contract for the procurement of the solutions.

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene confirmed to The Sunday Morning that Cabinet approval had been granted to appoint the two committees. He also noted that the cabinet paper has not yet been put forward to procure the items.

The proposal had already been approved by the Preliminary Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) appointed by the Defence Secretary and headed by the Ministry of Defence Additional Secretary (Technical). The preliminary TEC comprises of the Defense Ministry Additional Secretary (police), STF Commandant, Head of Police Narcotic Range, Chief Financial Officer of Ministry of Defense, Technical Consultant (communications) of the Ministry of Defense.

Following discussions held with an Israeli company, the preliminary TEC prepared their report and have approved the procurement of the required equipment from the Israeli company. The Israeli company would provide the technology within 12 months from purchase.

The TEC recommended procuring a priority one solution which costs around $ 2.034 billion and priority two and three solutions recommended by the TEC, after “priority one solutions” are implemented and after an approximate period of six months. The cost of priority two and three would be around $ 1.856 billion.

The decision to propose purchasing the latest technology to Sri Lanka was taken during the National Security Council (NSC) meeting held on 19 February.

The Sunday Leader learnt that the STF commandant had analysed and made a request to the Defence Ministry on the latest Communications Interception Technology (CIT) and other resources required to penetrate the transnational drug trafficking groups and gather intelligence.

In his cabinet memo, President Sirisena stated that the application of intelligence-led policing became a key strategic planning resource in the fight against transnational organised crime and thereby the law enforcement agencies would be able to cause maximum disruption to criminal activities.

Without taking this step immediately, Sri Lanka would not be able to combat the growth in illicit drug trafficking and distribution, he has further stated in the memo.