Feature

The War Against Drugs. Will It Ever End In Fiji?

Similar wars have been and are still being carried out in other countries. They have gone on for years. The war has still not ended.
16 Aug 2019 17:47
The War Against Drugs. Will It Ever End In Fiji?
Narcotics

It is a war that some people believe will never end.

Similar wars have been and are still being carried out in other countries for years but they have not ended.

Likewise, it is the same in Fiji.

The war is against illicit drugs.

In the past, the drug war by the authorities in Fiji was only against marijuana.

However, over the past few years, the war is against other drugs too, namely the hard ones like methamphetamine and cocaine.

Compared to marijuana, hard drugs are said to be more addictive and once people are hooked onto it, then it is hard coming out.

The use of methamphetamine or ice or white as it is commonly known has reportedly become widespread in the country in recent years.

Meth labs in Fiji

Some small-scale meth labs have been found in different areas on Viti Levu in recent years.

There have been reports that it is mostly the deportees from the U.S and Canada who are involved in manufacturing the drug locally.

Last month, Agent Billy Lewis, a U.S Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent, said clandestine methamphetamine labs were operating in Fiji.

Mr Lewis had said that Fijians and foreign nationals were producing the drug for local and overseas markets.

He is helping the local authorities in tackling the recent rise in meth cases in the country.

The billion-dollar meth lab

It was in June 2004 when Police officers from Fiji, Australia and New Zealand raided a huge meth factory at Laucala Beach, outside Suva City.

The factory was worth about FJ$1 billion and the meth manufactured there was destined for markets in Europe, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The then Police Commissioner, Andrew Hughes had said that it was the largest meth lab ever discovered in the Southern Hemisphere.

“This is a frightening example of transnational organised crime elements using Fiji as a staging ground for the illegal activities,” he said.

“Increasingly we are seeing these elements coming to Fiji and joining up with local organised criminal groups.”

The lab had the capacity to produce 1100 pounds (499 kilograms) of meth a week.

Police officers arrested seven people during the raid while Police in Hong Kong and Malaysia also arrested some people for their alleged connection to the meth lab.

The price of meth

About three years ago, the price of a pack of about five small crystals of meth was FJ$100, since then it is said to have gone down to $50.

But now, there are reports that hard drugs are being sold for as less as $10 on the streets.

The Suva City Watch page on Facebook posted on Tuesday that, “It’s sad and disgusting to hear that hard drugs are now sold for $10 a pack in major cities of Fiji”.

“Some of our brothers and sisters are beyond help. Families, relationships, traditions, culture and the Fiji way of life as we know it is slowly going away,” it said.

It claims to be a partnership intended to bring people together to make the communities safer, and that it involves the Police, local authorities, voluntary organisations, business owners, individuals and families who want to make Suva City a better place to live, work in or visit.

The claim by Suva City Watch, if true, only means that there is an excessive supply of hard drugs in the country, thus the very low price for it.

Drug use and crime

With the rise in meth use and seizures in the country recently, there has also been an increase in reports of criminal activities.

There has been a rise in thefts, robberies, muggings and house break-ins recently, as reported to this newspaper by some victims.

It is common knowledge that unemployed people often resort to criminal activities to feed their drug habit, especially if they are hooked onto hard drugs.

Some women have also resorted to the sex trade to feed their drug habit, more so if they are hooked onto hard drugs and do not have the money to buy it to satisfy their craving.

This is known to be happening in overseas countries and Fiji can be no exception.

Police are yet to respond to queries by the Fiji Sun on the possible link between the use of hard drugs and the recent rise in criminal activities.

Addressing the issue in Parliament

While addressing Parliament last week, the Minister for Defence, National Security and Foreign Affairs, Inia Seruiratu called for a whole nation approach towards fighting crime and supporting law enforcement efforts in the war against drugs.

Mr Seruiratu acknowledged that certain criminal activities had drawn the nation’s interest on the recent spate of robberies, burglaries and gender-based violence along with drugs that had captured the imagination of all Fijians.

“I am pleased that the Prime Minister and respectable members of the community had duly voiced their concern on gender-based violence, and the drug situation in the country,” he said.

He also asked whether erecting more Police posts would prevent robberies and attacks that were allegedly being fueled by drugs.

“Is having more Police patrols on the ground going to prevent another 1634 primary and secondary school children becoming victims of drug related cases such as those reported in schools in 2018?”

Mr Seruiratu said the Prime Minister has and continues to call for support to help Police fight crime and he supported this because it was the right thing to do.

“The brazen attacks out in public and robberies as alluded to by the Prime Minister is likely linked to the increase in drug-related activities,” he said.

He said the reality on the ground was that Fiji was still safer in comparison to many other countries, saying that the crime situation was not as alarming as many have thought it to be.

“Government is backing the war on drugs, and we need everyone’s support before it becomes a real menace to our society and economy,” Mr Seruiratu said in Parliament last week.

Police, public co-operation

The partnership and co-operation of the public with Police is the only thing that can address serious crimes, including drug issues, in the country.

Considering that the use of methamphetamine has become a plague now, only a concerted effort can assist the law enforcers in curbing the problem.

Eradicating it is another story.

Edited by Susana Tuilau

Feedback: avinesh.gopal@fijisun.com.fj

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