Our liberal mindset is averse to the idea of capital punishment. We need to realize that this is the only efficient deterrent against drug trafficking
The people and the country are eagerly awaiting the report and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on Drug Trafficking rumoured to be ready by the end of the year. The very wide and comprehensive terms of reference of the Commission set up in July 2015 provides it with the powers and authority required for such a colossal and salutary task. The numerous hearings of the Commission, which started in November 2015, have provided it with an incisive insight into the extent and nature of the nefarious drug trade in the country.
From the 1970s, drug trafficking and use in the country have grown exponentially over the years to enormous proportions today as evidenced by some Rs 3 billion worth of diverse illicit drugs seized by the authorities since the beginning of the hearings of the Commission of Inquiry on Drug Trafficking. The quantum of intercepted drugs is but the tip of the iceberg. It provides a yardstick of the colossal extent of covert drug trafficking in the country. Drug trafficking and use has increased substantially not only in scale but also through a wider range of illicit drugs including cheaper and very harmful synthetic drugs now found in our schools and luring kids and our youth into use. Drug trafficking and use in the country has already taken a heavy toll in terms of addiction of the youth, destruction of young lives, the misery of parents and distress endured by families, medical and rehabilitation costs and deaths of addicts. Drug trafficking wreaks tremendous collateral damages in the country to the unworldly youth enticed into addiction by peddlers and traffickers.
The scale and unabated growth of drug trafficking in a small country like Mauritius, after nearly 50 years of independence, shows that the legal framework, arsenal of anti-drug trafficking measures and drug combating institutions are inept at fighting and quashing this deadly trade. It is also a scathing indictment of the inability of successive governments to put an end to this evil and protect the youth of the country from this menace. In short, it has been a losing battle against drug traffickers.
The hearings of the Commission have already hinted at intrinsic flaws in the arsenal of anti-drug trafficking bulwarks. These include fault lines in border control in the country and an insidious nexus nurtured by bribery and collusion between drug traffickers and some elements of the anti-drug institutions, the penitentiary and some members of the legal profession. There are also indications of money laundering of illicit drug sale revenue through the racing and gambling world. The recent galling boast of a convicted drug kingpin while deponing in front of the Commission that his drug business is thriving while he is serving time in prison and that he had stashed a personal fortune of Rs 650 million abroad epitomizes the state of disarray and impotence of the war against drug trafficking in the country.
Against such a backdrop, it is flabbergasting to note that, according to official statistics, drug reported offences at the Anti Drug and Smuggling Unit were fairly stable at 2,995 in 2013, 3,302 in 2014 and 2,950 in 2016. Similarly, the drug offences reported by type of drugs evidenced a similar pattern of 3,227 cases in 2013, 3,631 in 2014 and 3,370 in 2016. According to scant official statistics deposited in the National Assembly, 21 people died in Mauritius from overdose from January 2014 to June 2015, including some from the abuse of synthetic drugs. It is obvious that official statistics available mask the real extent of the havoc wreaked by drugs in the country. The death by overdose of a 19 year old youth over the last week end in Goodlands is a death too many. Yet again, it reminds us that drug traffickers are deliberately poisoning and killing our youth for their enormous personal enrichment with impunity. The huge extent of illicit revenue breeds corruption of every kind to safeguard the nexus surrounding drug trafficking.
Saving our kids
As a consequence, the pervasive and single-minded hope of the people is that the Commission’s recommendations will, after decades of government ineptitude, finally help put in place an arsenal of strict laws and tough penal sanctions to rid the country of drug traffickers and the scourge of drug trafficking. If we want to save our kids and youth from being enticed into drug use, we have as a nation to take bold and potent measures to dismantle the drug rings, nab its kingpins and prescribe the most severe of punishments to them.
The war against drug trafficking is the war of the multitude against the drug cartels. There cannot be any half hearted measures. The range of stiff penal sanctions must act as real and effective deterrents and include, as in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Thailand or Dubai, the death penalty and the confiscation of all illicit and ill-gotten wealth from drug trafficking, of all related parties. The drug traffickers must be made to realize that they could be risking capital punishment if they do not put an immediate end to their illegal activities. The severity of the sanctions must be such that the drug barons and their organization as well as their foot soldiers who poison and put at risk the lives of our kids and the youth of the country for illicit enrichment, feel the heat and realize that they do so at their own risk and peril.
Do what it takes
As a nation, we must realize that the present situation of unchecked expansion of the drug trade which puts at risk the lives of our youth is untenable and unacceptable. Drug kingpins and traffickers can no longer be allowed to peddle death to the young of the country without facing commensurate and exemplary punishment. Traffickers of hard and synthetic drugs deserve no quarter. Our liberal mindset is averse to the idea of capital punishment. As a nation, we however need to realize that this is the only efficient deterrent against drug trafficking and the best protection against drug traffickers for our youth. We therefore need to take a rational call on the introduction of the death penalty for heinous crimes such as drug trafficking of specified minimum quantities of listed illegal drugs or atrocious crimes against children. We have to realize that without this deterrent, drug kingpins and traffickers are unlikely to give up on their highly lucrative businesses, the more so as they seem to be blithely running their drug trafficking activities from prison while serving long terms of imprisonment.
The scale and adverse impact of drug trafficking in the country on our youth requires the enactment of the most severe penal sanctions to put an end to it at the earliest. There must be zero tolerance. If we are to protect and save our kids and the youth from the terrible ills of drugs, we owe it to them to do what it takes to rid the country of drug traffickers and their deadly trade once and for all. Above all, we necessarily need to win the final showdown against this evil.
* Published in print edition on 19 October 2017