Mauritius, a drug hub

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We have lately been witnessing an increasing number of cases of drug trafficking which shows no sign of abating despite a crackdown on traffickers by the authorities and the search on suspected passengers smuggling drugs on board airplanes or ships through the only port or airport of this country. Smuggling, sale and consumption of illicit drugs is continuing to cause havoc in our society as the demand is growing and the market has to be satisfied by all imaginable means deployed by the drug barons.

The island has become a centre for traffickers with such prolific subterfuges to hide the drug in transit for example within a steel empty gas canister in a container shipped from abroad, in chocolate boxes, inside suitcases, in postal parcels and worse of all, in the organs of the human body to evade visible suspicion by customs control at the airport. Traffickers have also collected waterproof bags containing boxes of drugs thrown overboard in the open sea and have set sail in speed boats to other shores with kilos of drugs in the haul.

They spare no time and efforts to smuggle drugs into the country despite a relentless search on the illegal entry of hard and soft drugs. The “she-carriers” are hired in neighbouring countries of the region by the drug barons and tycoons and they travel by plane to the island as tourists lodging in bungalows where delivery is made or in public car parks. It is easy to calculate the countless number of arrests and seizures of drugs made so far and their value which has exceeded astronomical figures by the billion never reached before. It may only be the tip of the drug iceberg looming on our shores with the mafia working round the clock. 

The island has become a centre for traffickers, hiding their drug in transit within a steel empty gas canister or in chocolate boxes.

On 31 October, some 200 lbs or 100,000 grams of heroin in floating bags thrown overboard by an unknown ship from a nearby country and worth more than 1.5 billion rupees was seized on board a speedboat which collected them off the north coast and which was being tracked by the coast guards and the police helicopter. It is estimated that with a cartel investing liquid money of about 200 million rupees in the purchase of the drugs found, a return of more than 500% is realized.

The sophisticated global satellite telecommunication networks are even used for on line contacts through mobile smart phones, internet applications, and the social media networks anywhere anytime. The international internet communications relay information in seconds joining anyone anywhere any time to plan the drug trade and follow the ring and transit system with GPS mapping the location of the drugs en route until its destination.

The plantation of cannabis inland carried on concurrently in faraway inaccessible forest and agricultural areas are being tracked by the police helicopter and their seizure, uprooting and destruction by the police and antidrug unit is ongoing. The sale of heroin, cocaine, subutex, and synthetic drugs in some well-known rural and urban suburbs and coastal regions is flourishing and generating easy riches in millions of rupees, money laundering in the acquisition of luxurious cars, real estates and disguised leases with fake names and enormous amount of cash in hand. The trade has infiltrated the prisons where traffickers are serving long term sentences and have not ceased their lucrative activity by mobile phone contacts and visitors calling on them for instructions, the naïve student population, the discos where dancing, smoking and alcohol drinking is on the go at night and in private parties.

But who are the consumers of the drugs? They are the peer groups of vulnerable youth under 18, the unemployed in street corners having nothing to do and who indulge in drinking bottles of beer, the addicted group of adults, the well to do gents in revelries, the tourists in night clubs and all those looking for illusions, hallucinations and ephemeral pleasures, delights and ecstasies. The dealers and their retail sellers are lurking in every corner and they operate with a network of intermediaries to target them. For a mere hundred of rupees, criminal assault is even being committed by drug addicts to obtain money to buy drugs and satisfy their needs.

Who are the wealthy godfathers, how can they be unmasked and trapped, what trend of life do they lead, what visible signs of ill-gotten unexplained wealth can be observed, what information on their property, the number plates of their cars with tainted glass windows that can be traced, their movements once suspected, what activity do they carry on daily, how from the dealers and intermediaries can information be gathered and put together despite their omerta? How is the purchase masterminded and where, who are the members of the cartel with ready money laundered, the passers identified, the transport planned in time and the contacts established by mobile phones as the drug trade is a cash business?

Is our society undergoing a crisis and is this social evil going to wreck the stability of the family fabric and leave the nation in desperation with the stigma as a drug hub? Maybe “money money money” and the world of opulence is to be blamed as the circulation of ready money in millions has increased without limit in the informal economy. Can we eradicate the proliferation of drug dealing in all places where there are police stations and an army of officers to control law and order in the suspected areas with vehicles on patrol night and day and intelligence field officers to identify the places and dealers through surveillance videos in strategic areas and well known cross roads on a 24 hour basis?

Can the antidrug dog handlers patrol the port and airport passenger terminals and make them to be seen controlling and dogs sniffing luggage on the moving belts to scare potential carriers of drugs? Do we have the facilities to de-intoxicate the drug addicts and conspicuously track this group of consumers and can we start a sustainable campaign on billboards with plain and striking creole slogans to stop smoking and injection of drugs and hence’’ SIDA’ ‘contamination? Can a billboard be displayed in the airport/port/drug areas spelling out the heavy prison sentences for drug trafficking and serve as a deterrent to any temptation to carry drugs by passengers? Grand Baie with its direct link with the motorway from the airport, its marina with a fleet of every type of pleasure crafts and boats/catamarans, speedboats anchored, hotels, villas and bungalows, restaurants, discos in the touristic areas have all the amenities for night activities by the beach.

Can an anti-smoking, anti-alcohol, anti-drug movement be launched with the NGO’s and the civil society in each area to discourage consumption of drugs and act as a watchdog? Where are the human and religious values gone and which have been the pillar of our family traditions and the beliefs of our parents and grandparents in fostering a decent life and future for their sons and daughters and so bypass the inferno in which they may fall once the drugs are consumed and become an addiction? Have the families no control over the youngsters and their outside activities?

What role do our religious bodies have to play and participate actively in inculcating to the young generation in respectful behaviour and healthy lifestyle and be responsible law abiding citizens? Can our speaking unions, federations of religious entities or supreme interreligious council and the civil society and NGO’s be called upon to join a national movement to eradicate the ills of drug consumption? Can our religious places of worship be involved in anti-drug sermons? Can families be brought together in an environment at home to monitor the problem and prevent any youngster to try drugs? By undermining the very bases of the drug trade, can the network be dismantled in the years ahead?

Do we have to introduce weekend military service to the 18 year olds to discipline them in training camps for physical activity and sports with a healthy body and mind? Can psychologists, doctors, social workers give them lectures on the composition of drugs and its harmful effects on our mental health and sensitize them on the consequences of addiction? Can a Drug Commissioner coordinate this nationwide campaign by the organization of activities with the ministries concerned and declare a war on drugs as in the Philippines?

Do we have to introduce compulsory scout and girl guides enlistment for the under 18 to learn the values of these movements? Do we have to impose heavy fines and penalties upon those who sell and consume drugs and introduce stringent regulations just as the penalties for offences under the recently road traffic laws have been drastically increased?

Let us not remain passive to protect our country from the drug syndrome and contamination and make it a hub for good living.

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