Tackling the Drug Problem

The approach that has been used so far is to consider the problem of drugs use and abuse as being illegal and a crime. This approach has so far failed

Drug addiction and trafficking is a worldwide problem, sparing no country whatever the level of development. It is a very lucrative business of hundreds of billions of US dollars a year, and thrives through nexuses, gangs and mafias that involve people in both high and low places as suppliers, users, financiers, facilitators, contracted criminals, extortionists. Besides the victims of addiction, violent killings – that can be by the thousands such as in Mexico – in protracted gang warfare to seek revenge or control territory are routine in this ‘business’.

The approach that has been used so far is to consider the problem of drugs use and abuse as being illegal and a crime. Repeatedly, reports have shown that this approach has so far failed to contain the spread of drug addiction and trafficking.

But attitudes have begun to change in certain countries and jurisdictions, as they acknowledge that drugs for medicinal and recreational use by human beings is a reality of contemporary society worldwide that is here to stay. The alternative approach of decriminalization and legalization of the softer drug cannabis or marijuana has been tried in a number of countries, and Canada is the latest one to join the group of countries which are implementing programmes along these lines.

This is reported by Oliver Bennett in the Independent online UK of 16 October 2017, ‘Canada’s rocky road journey to legalising cannabis’, noting that ‘telegenic, young and liberal-minded’ Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is ‘delivering on an election promise that will cement his reputation with young voters and baby-boomers alike: the legalisation of cannabis’. This measure ‘finds widespread acceptance; 68 per cent of the public are in favour of legalisation’, in the country where an estimated 3.5 million Canadians use cannabis.

When this becomes operative next July, it will ‘make Canada the first industrialised country to properly bring legal cannabis to market’. Countries where cannabis is already legal are the US, Uruguay, Jamaica, UK and the Netherlands. The ‘business’ models used are: free market, government regulated, or a combination of both.

If ever we were to consider legalization of cannabis in Mauritius, the Uruguay model would be of more interest to us: it’s not a free-market approach. Drug users must register with the government and machines scan buyers’ fingerprints on purchase, and there are quotas to stop overuse.

We don’t need to go ballistic or hysterical about this approach, nor can we hide our heads ostrich-like in the sands. As the Lam Shang Leen Commission pursues its enquiry on the local drug situation, nothing prevents government from initiating a process of serious reflection on the future strategies that the country needs to tackle this scourge more effectively. We are keeping pace with global developments in so many fields. There is no reason why we shouldn’t do the same for the drug problem.

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Communication strategy: GNEWS

We recently came across GNEWS, ‘an official publication of the Republic of Mauritius’. This is a print version that likely complements the government news and other information available on the website http://www.govmu.org. Unless we are mistaken, this is the first ever publication by the Government of Mauritius that is distributed by the authorities free to the public through the newspaper network. It is meant to be about ‘projets & developpements’, and the one in my hands is that of October 2017, No. 5 totalling 16 pages.

Presented in tabloid format, the publication is in colour on lightly glossy paper, and contains a variety of news of topical interest. These are in the form of reports and narratives accompanied by the appropriate graphics such as tables and pie charts, statistics where they are needed, photographs and other such features to make the publication attractive to the public and reader-friendly. In this particular issue, it seemed to us that there is a fairly balanced mix of photographs, with no over-exposure of the Prime Minister or other Ministers and MPs.

This is a departure from monthly newsletters issued by some ministries in the past in which every photograph – of which there was a profusion — had to focus on the minister. We hope that this approach of no over-exposure of political personalities will be maintained, because in the long run readers get fed up with seeing the same faces again and again. As a result they lose interest and wouldn’t care to pick up the publication(s) even if free.

Unfortunately, this is a lesson that politicians across all party lines consistently refuse to learn. They think that they can score brownie points over their counterparts by painting them as enemies rather than political adversaries and in the process up their images and falling popularity, especially when the mid-mandate point is crossed. At this stage, any government will already have had its critical quota of inanities by its own members: there would have been scandals, corruptions, scams, incidents of a sexual nature in real life or via social media – and so on.

Or for that matter, even earlier there can be departures from policies or positions announced as part of the political manifestos during electoral campaigns, precipitating a fall in popularity a short time after installation of the new incumbent to office. See what is happening to Presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron of the US and France respectively, whose ratings have been rapidly plummeting according to serial polls carried out.

In our local context, politicians abuse of religious and cultural platforms to openly attack their opponents and claim a moral high ground, in particular when they are in power. Similarly, all governments in power have been accused of using the MBC-TV as a propaganda tool by the parties which are out of power: and the latter come and do the exact same thing when they are back in the seat! The point is that such over-exposure becomes counterproductive beyond a saturation point which has a low threshold, and which the politicians of all hues fail to accept.

We therefore view GNEWS positively, in the hope that it will reduce the need to put pressure on the MBC-TV for excessive coverage of all and sundry. Of course in any publication there is room for improvement and innovation to suit changing needs and tastes, which will enhance the communication value of what we consider, is a good and fresh initiative.

 

*  Published in print edition on 19 October 2017

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