Meow-meow and Death Penalty
Meow-meow is a drug currently being used in UK and other parts of Europe as a substitute for cocaine and ecstasy. It is not classified as a dangerous drug and not subject to medical regulations. In fact, it is sold in another form as plant fertilizer. It is referred to as a “legal high” simply because it is not under legal control and can be readily available for purchase. It is now under investigation in the wake of the deaths of two teenage friends who had taken the stimulant.
The name meow-meow is improvised from the origins of the drug, which is extracted from the ‘khat plant’ in Eastern Africa. The local Africans chew the leaves of the khat for an amphetamine-like high. Meow-meow, also known under the chemical name of mephedrone, is available in the form of capsules, tablets or white powder that users may swallow, snort or even inject. It is also used with other stimulants or mix as an ingredient with other ‘legal highs’. Meow-meow is commonly used in UK nightclubs alongside alcohols and anti-depressant substances. Medical reports suggest that it is highly addictive and can cause problems with breathing and the circulatory system, particularly when combined with alcohol.
The trouble is that meow-meow is legal in Mauritius and may have already entered our shores as it is readily available to be purchased on the internet at a price less than that of a can of red bull. In any event, if it has not, it is a question of time for a courier to land at the airport with a suitcase full of mephedrone and walk through customs with a big grin. As the pressure and vigilance is mounted to control the illegal entry of Subutex, drug traffickers will resort to ‘legal highs’ and carry on their business. We have witnessed a similar shift in the business when the traffic route of brown sugar between Mauritius and India came under close scrutiny. A new route was devised introducing the illegal drug via East Africa.
ADSU successfully targeted and caught a number of Kenyans and Tanzanians couriers. Then gradually the business shifted to Europe where Subutex became easily available. The manufacturers were keen to sell Subutex at a discounted price in bulk where the sell-by date had expired or was about to expire. The Paris-Port Louis Subutex route had since gathered momentum. The profile of the courier had changed though. It was the unsuspected air steward or the well-dressed tourist who was able to walk through customs undetected. Now that the vigilance of the authorities is back on tracks, there will be a shift to other legal highs. The risk of acquiring these substances and introducing them in Mauritius are nil.
There are a number of substances on the market in Europe in the form of capsules or tablets disguised as anti-depressants with soothing effects but in fact having similar properties to the drug ecstasy (MDMA). As the authorities turn the screw on Subutex, those other substitutes will quickly surface and inundate the market. The trafficking business may have then shifted to some of our local chemists. It is not unknown that in the vicinity of some pharmacies, a number of drug addicts line up to gulp concoctions of cough syrups to alleviate their “yen”. In the wake of the death of the two teenagers in UK, there is a public outcry to ban mephedrone in all its forms. We cannot afford to wait for the death of a single of our teenagers to react. The Ministry of Health should waste no time and add the substance on the list of illegal drugs.
Last Tuesday, in the National Assembly the Prime Minister showed his exasperation when he was being questioned during the PNQ on law and order. Once again, he made it clear that the death penalty is an option he is seriously contemplating. However outrageous the proposal appears to some liberal-minded persons, there can be a solution to the introduction of the death penalty, if that is the mandate that the people of Mauritius will give to the Prime Minister at the next general elections. There can be two important considerations to make the proposal more palatable.
First, it should be restricted, as the Prime Minister has himself hinted, to the worst types of crimes. I can think, for instance, the killing of a child or old person or a person under some disability needing protection or in connection with drug trafficking. It can also cover the cases where there is a killing for hire or the killing has been preceded by other crimes like rape or sodomy or other forms of serious violence.
Second the passing of a death sentence should be left to the discretion of the court, which will consider whether there were extenuating or mitigating circumstances. The debate around the death penalty could be reopened along these lines, but in the meantime, it is imperative that we should not let ‘meow-meow” out of the bag.