The drug scourge
A national problem that brooks no partisanship
— S. Modeliar
Those who are involved in the traffic of drugs are a well organised conglomerate. In the Subutex case the international ramifications are too obvious with the yet to be explained flight of Caterino from Mauritius. Such a flight could not have been operated without a well engineered plan involving lots of money. It is still a puzzle why the government did not push for a thorough investigation in the matter.
Irrespective of that still unresolved issue we have witnessed two weeks ago that the main witness in the case against Sada Curpen, Ms Cindy Legallant has refused to testify. In such situation the witness is warned by the court and is fined. But no one can force a witness to speak in a court of law if he/she is unwilling to do so. As most cases are determined on the oral testimony of witnesses, situations like the one that occurred in the Sada Curpen create difficulties for the prosecution.
We must be realistic and be bold to say that in matters of drugs and gambling the real rulers are members of what is commonly known now as the mafia. The word mafia is associated mainly with a secret criminal organisation operating mainly in Sicily since the early 19th century and known for its intimidation of and retribution against law enforcement officials and witnesses. This notion spread to the United States. Today such organisations exist worldwide. In Mexico the authorities are facing tough opposition from drug cartels that have grown into such a massive criminal enterprise. Complacency over the years has led to that situation. One wonder whether Mauritius is not on the fast track to joining that select club.
In 1986 a Commission of Inquiry on Drugs was established in Mauritius following the arrest of four parliamentarians who were MSM members after defecting from the Labour Party following the revocation of Sir Satcam Boolell, the leader, as minister by Sir Anerood Jugnauth, then Prime Minister. That inquiry revealed the close association that existed between top police officers and some lawyers along with politicians with the drug barons. A new legislation was enacted and the death sentence became the penalty for drug traffickers. Nobody was ever executed for such an offence in spite of a few convictions. Not much was achieved through that legislation and many of the recommendations of that Commission were never implemented.
The situation has deteriorated today. Drug consumption is proliferating. This has resulted in a number of violent offences — mainly robbery because drug addicts need the money. Nobody seems to be able to combat that vicious circle. Politicians are too much taken up with their own survival and are spending more of their time discussing alliances with a view to joining the bandwagon of power later this year. There must first be a deep rethinking of the strategy to combat drug consumption through systematic education. This cannot be done only by NGOs or social workers or well intentioned volunteers. Parents have a crucial role to play in the process. Unfortunately the parents of today, at least a majority of them, have just abandoned their powers of looking after their children in the quest of their own interests. Most of them labour under the mistaken belief that the teachers at schools will look after the children. That breakdown in family values and traditions is largely responsible for the increase in drug consumption. As for teachers there is no need to repeat what their priorities are. They may be doing some teaching but in the main what they are focussed on is private tuition. What do they inculcate in our children in terms of traditional civic values is yet to be seen. Maybe a few do it but by and large the perception is that the teaching profession is now regarded as essentially a lucrative business.
But it is not only parents and teachers who bear responsibility in the increase of drug consumption by failing to guide our kids. The press has a lead role to play. Besides whining about the lack of advertisements coming from government, about the danger of dictatorship, about the lack of freedom of the press, the press should concentrate seriously on the vital role they can play in educating our youth on the drug issues. The government has in recent times allowed gambling houses or stations to grow like mushrooms all over the country. These places are open all day and almost all night. They are mostly frequented by schoolchildren and young people. Who knows what is going behind the façade of gambling? Who controls the entrance to these gambling places? A total lack of control of these places contributes in that culture of the destruction of traditional values.
Can religious beliefs help in enhancing traditional values? It should but success would depend on the approach taken. If religious leaders themselves are vying for recognition on the popularity scale and make statements that smack more of politics than of religion, how then can religion be of help? It would appear unfortunately that recourse to religious appurtenance is used more often to create divisions and subdivisions in society in order to blackmail and negotiate the best deal with the government of the day and get the best possible deal for a particular group. Today the debate is raging about the use of Creole as a medium of teaching in schools. The Church is pressing for this. The result is that such a move is perceived as an ethnic one thus provoking more ethnic reaction by other groups. Whilst religious leaders should and do have a duty to express views on matters that beckon society the manner of proceeding should be carefully thought out.
The drug issue cannot be approached on partisan lines. This is a national problem and all politicians irrespective of the political divide; all parents and teachers irrespective of their urge for materialistic gains; all religious leaders irrespective of their ardent desire to cater for the interest of their fold; all NGOs irrespective of their need to obtain government grants through hunger strikes or otherwise; all responsible trade unionists irrespective of the tribulations of their members; all civil servants irrespective of their eternal whining and complaints against the government of the day — should restart thinking about the drug scourge and its ramifications. If we fail the country fails and we would be at the mercy of the mafia as is the case in many countries.
But there is also an urgent need to look at some legal provisions on the issue of the fight against drug traffickers, an issue that we shall be addressing in a future edition.