Drug Commission Report: What happens next?

Editorial

Every concerned citizen, especially the victims of the drug scourge and their suffering families, must be wishing that the pledge of the government to get them out of this hell will truly materialize

Not a single day passes without some incident connected with the drug business – for, by all accounts that’s what it is: BIG BUSINESS! – being reported in the media. Whether it is a drug haul by ADSU somewhere, the nabbing of some drug trafficker(s), the discovery followed by uprooting of cannabis plants, the absolutely enormous amount of money that confiscated drugs represent, etc.

Amongst others, on Tuesday 17 July, drugs were found at the door of the prison at Grand River North West, tucked in a cigarette packet; 2379 cannabis plants were uprooted in an abandoned plot of land in Black River, in a joint operation carried out by ADSU and the police helicopter service; a certain amount of cannabis was found in the possession of a South African man at the airport, ostensibly meant for personal consumption.

In his reply in Parliament last Tuesday to a query, the Minister Mentor Sir Anerood Jugnauth stated that he had not been satisfied with the explanations given by Police Commissioner Mario Nobin about a shortfall of some 16 kg in the amount of drugs in a drug catch of 135 kg in March 2017, and this was the reason that he decided that an inquiry should be initiated and to be presided by a former judge of the Supreme Court to delve into this particular problem thoroughly.

It will be recalled that it was under his mandate when he was Prime Minister for the second time that SAJ set up the first Commission of Enquiry into drug trafficking, which was presided by Judge Maurice Rault, following the infamous ‘Amsterdam Boys’ incident which put both the credibility and viability of his government at stake. But SAJ survived and went on to win the general elections of 1987 (together with the Labour Party and the PMSD) due in good part to the determination and resolve he then demonstrated to combat the scourge head-on. Several incriminated officials were suspended/terminated, sanctions codified and enforced and a series of robust measures implemented, all of which gave some respite from the drug menace for a number of years.

SAJ’s son, the current Prime Minister, has stated in as many words that he is going to tackle the issue head-on and get rid once for all of this evil which is rotting our country. Between the two of them, therefore, they would hopefully be on the same page as regards the strategy to be crafted so as to achieve that goal – although the approach of either may differ in light of the political objectives being pursued by the new incumbent.

However, every concerned citizen, especially the victims and their suffering families, must be wishing and hoping against hope that the pledge of the government to get them out of this hell will truly materialize. This must not be made an issue to gain political capital from. As patriots we must give full support to whatever concrete move the government sincerely makes to get rid of this scourge that is devastating our society.

And this is where we come to the question of what will happen to the Drug Commission Report once it is submitted – shortly – to the Ag. President of the Republic.

After all, with a short time left to go before the next general election, and doubts being thrown about the Mauritian jurisdiction’s capacity or willingness to curb anti-money laundering activities which are also presumed to be related to drugs (and terrorism), it is definitely in the government’s interest to ensure that its commitment to put an end to this sordid business is carried through to its logical conclusion. This can only happen if, after taking cognizance of the Report, it applies in all seriousness all the actionable measures that the Report will surely contain, and which in their wisdom the Chairman of the Commission and his assessors would have thought through in depth before proposing.

Many citizens feel that the Ag. President must discuss with the Prime Minister when he eventually hands over the Report to him, to seriously consider the possibility of making it available to the public. This is especially important for at least two reasons: firstly, there have been allegations of the VIP lounge being used to facilitate doubtful transactions, and when the Commission was sitting several public personalities were called to depone revealing in the process the nexuses that might exist between politicians, drug traffickers, the law enforcement agents and others in the chain who are found in high places.

In this regard, it is also the government’s duty to send the right signal to the population by walking the talk. For example, by not appointing persons to a high post when there are suspicions of the latter persons having dealings with drug convicts in or outside prisons – even if these contacts were of an allegedly professional nature and the persons are presumed innocent until a court of law determines otherwise. Such inconsistencies and contradictions between what is announced and what is done sap the people’s confidence and trust in government, and must at all costs be avoided and if they have happened, rectification done promptly to avoid further erosion of credibility.

In the same vein, given the porosity of the airport as a vulnerable and potential point of illicit entry and the several citizen complaints that keep being made, an even stronger signal can be sent by government to show its real willingness to set things right: to make it mandatory for every arriving passenger to go through the customs – with the leaders of the country themselves giving the right example for a start: if need be for the sake of convenience put up a customs counter at the VIP/VVIP lounge why not? This simple measure will surely make any potential defaulter think more than twice before s/he tries to play about with the law of the country.

Secondly, if the report is not made available to the public, they will naturally be in the dark about who all are involved, and may well come to the conclusion that there is an attempt by the authorities to protect wrong-doings and wrong-doers. Such a perception will go against the authorities, something which they can ill afford at this stage of their mandate in particular. And the Opposition will surely pick on this to foment even more adverse criticisms of government action – or inaction. One should not forget that, as The Guardian (an English newspaper) columnist George Monbiot puts it, democracy is meaningless without transparency.

On the other hand, the drug problem has so pervaded Mauritian society that it has now become the concern and the problem of every single citizen. Everybody wants our society to be cleaned of this scourge, but does not know where to start or how to go about it. As the authorities themselves have said so many times, it is a fight which we must all face together so as to protect our families, and our children whose youth is being destroyed.

It is therefore imperative that citizens at all levels of society be made aware of all the ramifications and implications of the drug problem, and that the authorities together with civil society work out on the basis of the Report what would be their respective roles and contributions in this common struggle. Without a thorough examination of the Report by all stakeholders it will not be possible to identify the range of options required to deal with this problem. The measures will obviously be of several types, and the government should indicate to the citizen in which aspect of this battle he will be able to supplement the national effort according to his capacity.

We must hope therefore that genuinely once and for all the way will be shown on how to clean the dirty stables – in a more sustainable way than the few years of pause that followed the Rault Commission Report.

 


* Published in print edition on 20 July 2018

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