Revisit drug control policy

Points to Ponder

By Lex

A FIRST POINT: How many consumers of hard drugs, “les drogués” as we call them, do we have in the country? We were told that Methadone is a good substitute and the drogués who are on Methadone would give up the use of hard drugs and return to a normal life.

I was told by a medical practitioner that such can never be the case, and only those who have the will to stop consuming drugs of any type will succeed even without Methadone, the others will be stuck as they are.

Has Methadone ever been successfully tried? We would like to know in which country did the trial take place? How many drogués there are in that country? How long did it take for them to get out of system they found themselves in? How many cases of relapse have been noted?

In Mauritius we do not know how many drogués we have who follow the Methadone treatment, but apparently there are many. And we are also informed that the authorities cannot ascertain the numberwho have successfully followed such treatment. Unofficially, we have been told that no person has so far got rid of his habit of consuming hard drugs. Can the authorities provide us with some facts and figures so that we know where our hard earned money goes. Instead of throwing so much money on the drogués, government would do better to spend the money on the poor, especially on widows and their children and on those who are suffering from some incurable disease.

Why is government spending so much money on drogués? Those persons who consume all types of drugs, hard or soft, have to blame themselves and no one else. Therefore we find it strange that they demand of government that they must be given Methadone, a pension and what not. They have relatives who can take care of them, and if the relatives reject them, how and why do they become the responsibility of the government?

There are two matters that we would like to bring to the attention of the public. First we would say to those who are the friends of the “drogues”, should they feel like helping those dregs of society, they should do it with their resources. If they cannot do so, then we say that they cannot rely on government resources, they must look for resources outside the government. We pay taxes not to be spent on people who do not deserve any pity.

Secondly, government, especially the Police Force and the Prison Services must be totally convinced that there is no place in Mauritius for drug dealers or consumers. To start with, I really do not understand why the death penalty is not introduced for all those who kill thousands of our citizens. We can take Singapore as an example, how right the politicians over there are. If we want to emulate them, let us do it in the field of drugs. Coupled with the death penalty, we must have another type of punishment in our prisons. But everything must start with the government. If government will only talk, without taking the necessary action, we shall never get rid of the drug problem. Government is not doing what it should in spite of the fact that the policemen and the Prison Officers too do their duty. Are you going to lay the blame squarely on those officers?

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Accomodation of judicial staff

A SECOND POINT: We must accept the fact that we have a good judicial system, with relatively good Judges, Magistrates and good supporting staff. The system started well before 1810 and is still going on. It does not depend on the stakeholders only but also on the infrastructure as well.

The personnel involved in the different Courts must feel at ease in their work environment, and the litigants and others who are accused of criminal offences must have faith in the system. Previously, most of the Courts used to sit in Court Houses that suited the purpose for which they were constructed. There were then fewer cases than we have today. Because of this very obvious fact as well as the passage of time, the Court Houses cannot cope with the increase in the number of persons working in a very restricted space.

Quite a number of District Courts cannot accommodate the number of clerks and other officers because the building is too small or is in need of refurbishment, or because of the number of Magistrates assigned to the particular Court.

Let me a take few instances of what I am trying to say. We have the case of the District of Moka. The Court House situated in Moka has been closed down for the past 5 years or is it ten years? Since that time, the Moka Court has been sitting at Rose Hill on the premises of the Rose Hill District Court. This cannot be, for the simple reason that it is not fair and reasonable that Moka District Court House does not exist as such. Moka District Court cannot squat on premises that is intended for Rose Hill District Court.

The District of Souillac now sits in a garage because the Court House has been condemned. The District Court of Mahebourg Court House has been refurbished lately, but on rainy days some of the rooms leak like a sieve so to say and cannot be used. The District Court of Pamplemousses is so small that there is hardly any room for the Magistrates to perform their duty properly and we do not want to talk about the clerks.

I have not used the official names of all the Courts but the common appellation. The Courts are officially called by the name of the respective districts.

This is the situation in some of the Court Houses. The Courts, the Court Houses, the Magistrates and the Clerks and other employees cannot be treated so shoddily.

Who is responsible for the maintenance of the Court Houses: it the Judiciary or is it the Ministry of Public Infrastructure or some other ministry? Anyway, somebody must be responsible for the sorry state in which our Court Houses are to be found and that person must answer to those who control the public buildings.

I think that it would be a good idea for the Chief Justice, the Senior Puisne Judge and the Master and Registrar of the Supreme Court to pay a visit to all our District Courts and see for themselves the condition in which the Magistrates and others are called upon to perform their duties.

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Banking sector practices need to reviewed

A THIRD POINT: Can we rely on the banking system as it operates in these hard times? We have been told that the banks doing business here are showing billions of rupees as profits; such profits are unjustified in the circumstances, because there is a deficiency in the law that regulates the banks or there may be some lack of control on the part of the supervising authority.

We have been told that there is no lack of control as the supervising authority can act only according to the legislation. It is generally accepted that the banks do not act fairly with their clients. Those who deposit their savings in the banks are given a miserly rate of interest whereas borrowers from the Banks are charged a very high rate of interest. The reason is simple: in the first case, the interest goes to the client whereas in the second case, it goes to the bank, that is to the shareholders and those working for the banks.

We are not against the banks making profit, but it must be reasonable. We have always said that the difference in interest between the depositors and the lenders should never exceed 2%, but such is not the case.

The banking system is corrupt. This is the opinion of the politicians in the United Kingdom after the condemnation and fining of the Barclays Bank for manipulating data. British and American authorities have imposed fines amounted to four hundred and fifty three million dollars on the Barclays Bank. One of the members of the ruling party in the UK has described the financial institutions as a “massive cesspit”. Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, is calling for a committee of enquiry in the whole industry and he is followed by others. Some Conservative ministers joined in the demand and with such demands it is pretty sure that they will have their enquiry.

It is not only Barclays that that has fingers pointed at it. Several other banks could be caught in the scandal, Barclays is the first that has been caught. The turn of other banks will come soon. The data that was manipulated concern the setting of the London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR) to make its financial position appear stronger and everybody in the banking sector must know that manipulating the LIBOR is not acceptable.

What about our banks? They must be like Calpurnia, above suspicion. But they do not appear to be so. Is it not time to set up a committee of enquiry to have a close look at the operation of all banks operating in the country in order to safeguard the interest of all the stakeholders? I am sure that the banks here would gladly welcome such a committee…

* Published in print edition on 6 July 2012

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