Lest we lose our bearings due to proliferation of drugs

Unless the proliferation of drugs is stifled with an iron hand quickly, the whole of our society has signed up a bond for its continuing degeneration

As the work of the Commission of Inquiry into drugs carries on, some disconcerting information has surfaced up. It seems that some of those facilitating drug dealings in Mauritius may well be coming from highly respected professions. A situation such as this raises the question as to who we can trust when it comes to preventing the country from drifting into ungovernable directions. Can we?

Dereliction of Duty

We heard on earlier occasions that some notorious dealers held in the prison would have made the prison the headquarters for their operations. Mobile phones have thus found their way into prison cells enabling imprisoned drug barons to carry on their business blithely from within. This could not have happened without internal complicities.

The idea one usually has of prisons is that they are impregnable fortresses shut off from the outside world of freedom and liberty. Ordinary visitors calling on incarcerated persons are required to expose or leave behind for safe custody their personal belongings before being granted access to prisoners behind screens. There may even be cameras, hopefully not in disrepair where they are of critical importance.

It is only those who are not subject to prior corporal search when contacting prisoners in person who would therefore be ferrying unauthorised objects to prisoners to enable them to carry on their trades from within the walls. Suspicions have arisen that specific prisoners would have been helped to this effect by prison officers and others acting in dereliction of their duties.

There are specific codes of conduct expected from persons entrusted with public duties. The prison officer is under the strict duty to ensure that prisoners have no access to outside materials. That includes mobile phones, sim and phone credit cards without which calls cannot be made. This is a duty of trust. If it is breached, it means the concerned officer cannot be trusted to carry on his duties. Worse, this can be interpreted as aiding and abetting in the commission of an unlawful act, notably transacting drug business. The same strict rule should apply to lawyers, counsellors and faith practitioners who have regular contacts with prisoners.

Modus Operandi

The information that is coming out in public is that certain incarcerated drug barons might have been operating from within prisons through agents at the port, the airport and through marine brokers and couriers from within and outside the country. All this, if true, would not have been possible without a wide external network of trade facilitators.

The latest evidence that such is indeed the case has come out from a Passport and Immigration officer working at Plaisance airport having been implicated into a drug delivery activity. The contacts who came for the “controlled delivery” had to be chased at high speed on roads. This is only one case which might have been spotted out of numerous others over a long stretch of time, based perhaps on leads provided by one or another person caught up and currently disclosing details of accomplices and their operations to the police.

Based on other information picked by police, it has also come to light that yachts which ply between Mauritius and nearby countries, such as Réunion and Madagascar, would be involved in the conveyance of drugs to the country through the maritime route. Thus, in the case of a person arrested by police recently, the maritime drugs were concealed in sealed canisters coming in shipping containers. So, no access point – air, land and sea – has been neglected by purveyors of drugs into the country.

Highly Profitable Business

It is suspected that what is coming to light today about the drugs business in Mauritius is not a recent phenomenon. It is believed that the illicit activity has been going on over a long period of time. A big black market is and has been around. One may recall decades back some Mauritian parliamentarians caught in Amsterdam with a suitcase full of drugs exposed as it did not benefit from diplomatic immunity at the airport.

Culpable complicities in official and possibly professional circles should have helped for the local drug trade to be nurtured over a long period of time. This is nothing less than the worst type of corruption where those who are entrusted with duties to protect society do exactly the converse of what is expected of them by turning a blind eye on crime. And even participating in it.

Given the high risk such activity carries in the eyes of the law, why is it carrying on, nevertheless, one may ask? Simple, it is fairly easy to supersede customs and other controls at entry point, possibly with internal complicities and/or by employing hard-to-detect devices for which we would not be equipped. But the strongest reason for carrying on with the drugs trade is no doubt huge amounts of easy money expeditiously made by drug dealers. Numerous cases of unaccounted-for wealth coming to light these days explains that this trade must have been highly profitable and going on for a long time.

Catastrophic Social Impact

The public was hugely alarmed last year when it came to light that “synthetic drugs” had found their way among school-goers, that violence was increasing in those institutions, that there had even been cases of deaths among kids from overdose. Instead of looking at the broader social threat posed by the situation and dealing with it to nip it in the bud before it proliferated in this tender age group, the matter was highly politicised. We don’t know what’s the situation today.

What it shows however is that the drugs market operates just the same way as other traded goods wanting to sustain themselves by widening their market reach as much as possible. That the illicit drugs trade brought school-goers into its net shows that its lucrative market needed to be expanded beyond the grown-ups and that it had created the scope for so doing among the kids. What does it bother about health and family disruptions it introduces in the process? For it, the main preoccupation is to make as much money as possible by whatever means available.

This is what happens when institutions and those who have been entrusted with making them work as they should, abscond from their rightful duties or sell their conscience for the sake of getting into money, dirty or not. The last thing drug barons need is to be sermonised about the negative effects on society as a whole of their dirty trade. They couldn’t care less. It is the supposedly conscientious officials who deliberately undermine the duties they are paid to carry out for the protection of society, who are primarily guilty of the massive social degradation we are facing today.

We are having and will continue having a horde of sick people on our hands, victims of the ease with which the drugs trade has proliferated in the country. The price for the destruction of values, private lives and social harmony is incalculable. We’ll keep paying this heavy price as seen in the upcoming of disorientation and death at a tender age, loss of family values such as honesty and good social comportment, proliferation of thefts to pay up for drug purchases and the accompanying social instability.

Do all the get-rich-quick accomplices realise the consequences of their irresponsibility? Where have their sense of ethics gone? Or, did they have very little of it to begin with, in their quest for riches? One point should be clear: unless the proliferation of drugs is stifled with an iron hand quickly, the whole of our society has signed up a bond for its continuing degeneration, already visible in the system that kills and steals for getting into small amounts of money to buy drugs. One would still have to reckon with the carried-forward harm already wrought from the drug habit in the population and the on-going price we’ll have to pay for the addiction.

Few would have imagined that our beautiful country would have come down to this dangerous pass. But we are already there and it is as difficult to veer back course now to our previous drug-free status as it is to arrest the continuing course of this sickening scourge.

Anil Gujadhur

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