The Damaging Drug Business

The ongoing investigations into the ramifications of the drug business in Mauritius might have started biting where most it matters

This week, there were reports that the life of one of the principal anti-drug police officers, Mr Hector Tuyau, would be at risk at the hands of drug dealers. It was also reported that the President of the Commission of Inquiry on Drugs would be targeted. If true, it would show that the ongoing investigations into the ramifications of the drug business in Mauritius might have started biting where most it matters against the interests of those engaged in this illicit business.

The Inquiry has gone into the direction of pointing fingers against some members of certain public institutions who would have aided and abetted this crime in utter opposition to their actual mandates to repress the proliferation of drugs in the country. An accusing finger has also been pointed to certain legal practitioners for having allegedly been the contact persons of prisoners held in custody but still carrying on the business from behind the security of their prison cells.

It might well be the case that some of the legal practitioners who might have abused their privileged positions to support drug dealers may also now have taken the garb of politicians. If that is established, it is clear that such culpable behaviour on their part would prove damaging to the government inasmuch as certain of its members might have lent themselves to promoting the drug business in the country.

We are not there yet but, if so, it will be a point in favour of the government that, by supporting the institution of the Commission of Inquiry on Drugs and, by thus unwittingly bringing the harm closer to itself, the government would have given the green light for the inquiry in good faith, not suspecting that some of its own members could be implicated. The collateral damage is here if such is the case but it would most probably not have been expected initially that in-house agents might also be involved.

Of late, the focus of attention has therefore shifted in the media towards politicians in power who might have a question or two to answer about any involvement they may have in the proliferation of the drugs trade in the country. The expectation is that, were that to be the case, that would be yet one more angle from which to demolish the government, quite a few of its past and present members having already shown the way by committing gaffes in private and public.

Should the emphasis on politics be enough?

In Mauritius, as well as in quite some countries, it is enough that when it comes to social scourges, all attention gets focussed on a single set of culprits once some involvement of the sort has been established. However, if we are in earnest, it would not be difficult to see that more than the political establishment might have a case to answer in the matter of drugs.

We are informed that drugs have been landing into Mauritius from the maritime channel, as well as other channels such as the airport. Indeed, we are fully exposed to the conveyance of drugs by high speed marine vessels which ply among neighbouring islands.

At this very moment, an investigation is going on about a relatively small marine vessel the occupants of which were found stranded in a neighbouring island. They claimed that they were fishermen whose boat had accidentally drifted to that place but investigators over there have strong suspicions that they might have a stake in more than the fishing business. If such is indeed the case, it would mean that those who keep the local market supplied with drugs leave no stone unturned to proliferate their trade. And that either we don’t have adequate safeguards to protect ourselves against this ingress or we close the eyes and let it happen, for some unknown reason.

This raises a fundamental question as to whether it would not have made better sense to tackle the problem at source. If we don’t have the administrative means or technology resources to keep a close watch on our maritime frontiers, are we really minded to stop this kind of dangerous inflow not only of drugs but possibly of other noxious things as well, such as import of illegal lethal weapons? There are serious security concerns over here.

The big turnover of the local drugs trade, often referred to these days in the hundreds of millions worth of drugs having been seized from drug dealers from time to time, shows that the public health system is facing and will face the consequences of drug abuse on a large scale. Drug abuse is hitting the very base of society and we can’t gauge the true extent of its impact on society because of the covert but significant volume of trade being undertaken.

What we know however is that the evil social ramifications are here: planters, for example, are increasingly complaining that the fruits of their labour are stolen before they are able to harvest. Many who planted fruit trees in their yards regret it, given the onslaught of thieves invading their privacy and plucking them before the owners can do so.

We don’t have specific statistics about some of the symptoms of drugs inroads in Mauritius. But consider some data from the US. Around one million Americans got involved in overdose last year, including from prescription drugs; 64,000 of these died. The US market is being supplied by a larger variety of drugs: for instance, a synthetic drug called fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin; it killed more than 22,000 abusers last year. Drug victims are becoming younger and increasingly urban.

The emphasis for us should have been to take action to stifle the scourge before it exacts a heavier death and disability toll on the population. It could have taken the form of a strategy to start quelling its spread. Here, the effectiveness of decision-makers to stop it before it assumes an even more unmanageable proportion might have formed the core subject of concerted action by different social stakeholders.

A campaign raising social awareness of the havoc it wreaks on individual lives, society and industry as a whole would have been fully justified as countermeasures to check the drugs trade. Serious policing would have been another key factor to quell the spread of the trade for the lucrative benefit of drug barons. Exemplary action against betrayers of trust in the service would have arrested a poor trend among some officers.

One of the major problems an insular country like Mauritius faces is to look at a grave social problem, such as increasing drug proliferation, from the angle of its distinct individual parts but not as the sum of the whole. If the connivances operating at various levels – official and unofficial — end up harming our work-ability where most it matters, all will suffer as a consequence. Information coming out in public has shown that those engaged in the drugs trade know quite well which complicities to win over, which strings to pull and how to go underground so as to garner more private wealth to the detriment of the entire population.



*  Published in print edition on 1 November 2017

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