Duval: ‘Le grand absent du budget’

What has happened to the recommendations of the Drug Commission?

By TP Saran

In his intervention on the Budget debates currently taking place in the National Assembly, the Leader of Opposition Xavier Duval has raised an important matter which seems to have been overlooked if not swept under the carpet. He qualified this omission as ‘le grand absent du Budget’, referring to the Drug Enquiry Commission that was chaired by former Judge Paul Lam Shang Leen.

It is public knowledge that this Commission had been going on for nearly two years and that it has already submitted its comprehensive report last year. As Xavier Duval pointed out, the whole exercise has cost millions of rupees, and he queried about what has happened to the recommendations that have been made?

Rightly so of course, not only because so much of taxpayer money has been engulfed but also because the drug scourge has shown no sign of abatement at all. Drug hauls and arrests of dealers and traffickers are happening on a non-stop basis, but as has been said time and over again these represent the tip of the iceberg. Against all odds the networks seem to be alive and kicking.

It will be remembered that there was a parade of legal luminaries that had to answer to the Commission, exposing the nexus between them, the political class, the drug traffickers both within the prison walls and outside. Nothing more has been heard about where their contesting of the charges against them at the Supreme Court has reached and the outcomes thereof.

It will also be recalled that the government, rather than applying promptly the recommendations of the Commission, set up a high-level committee to look into them. As the Leader of the Opposition asked, what has happened to these recommendations? Wasn’t the high-level committee supposed to come up with periodic reports about the status of application of the recommendations?

This call to the government to provide answers is all the more pertinent at a time when, coincidentally, at the second ministerial conference on maritime security that is being held at Ebene, two important public personalities expressed their shared concerns. One was the Ambassador of the European Union in Mauritius, Marjaana Sall, who declared that drug traffic using the sea route has considerably increased and that the recent drug hauls are an indication of how active this traffic continues to be.

The second one was no less than a Minister of the Alliance Lepep, Nando Bodha. He stressed how the Indian Ocean has become a centre for international drug traffic, having shifted from Mexico, Latin American countries and the US to our region. The links of drug trafficking with piracy significantly and adversely impact several sectors of the economy, notably the tourism sector as cruise ship operators, for example, avoid to berth in our shores.

Clearly, the ramifications of the drug trafficking mafias are widespread across all sectors and regions, and pose a major risk and impediment to not only the security of the legitimate maritime crossings that take place but also the safety of the citizens in the countries concerned. It goes without saying that smaller countries like ours are more vulnerable and exposed because of our limited resources.

To ensure that we continue to receive the support and collaboration of our valued partners, such as the EU, the government should not miss any opportunity to send strong signals about its own committed engagement in combating the drug plague. It would therefore be highly desirable to publicly obtain from the authorities an update on the status of the Drug Commission Enquiry’s recommendations and the latest outcomes from the high-level committee that was set up to examine them and propose their solutions to the way forward.

* Published in print edition on 21 June 2019

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