The war on drugs is lost – what next?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion - Mo­hamed Kuala Lumpur

RE­FER­RING to Man­gai Balasegaram’s col­umn, “We’ve lost the war al­ready” (Hu­man Writes, Oct 28; on­line at­drug-war), I would like to com­ment:

The writer sug­gests that drugs should be de­crim­i­nalised; she has also writ­ten against the death penalty for drug of­fend­ers in her pre­vi­ous columns. In the Oct 28 col­umn, Balasegaram says that the global sup­ply of drugs has not been re­duced; the cul­ti­va­tion, il­le­gal traf­fick­ing, and con­sump­tion of drugs are at their high­est now. So what is Malaysia go­ing to do about this? Our Gov­ern­ment has to act se­ri­ously to erad­i­cate this drug men­ace!

I of­ten see in news­pa­pers how our po­lice force has been con­stantly ar­rest­ing il­le­gal man­u­fac­tur­ers of Eramin pills, meth, ke­tamine, and prod­ucts us­ing ke­tum leaves. Be­sides lo­cals, for­eign­ers are in­volved in th­ese busi­nesses too. From what I un­der­stand from th­ese re­ports, lo­cal de­mand is very high, adding to the lu­cra­tive ex­port mar­ket for th­ese drugs. Malaysia also acts as a tran­sit point for the drug traf­fick­ing trade, as Ma­rina Ma­hathir pointed out in her col­umn (“It’s easy to do the right thing”, Mus­ings, Oct 28; on­line at star-ma­rina).

As Ma­rina wrote in her col­umn, de­spite the death penalty, “The money is too big to not take the risk”. With huge amounts of money in­volved, it is very likely that the drug busi­ness will con­tinue and flour­ish – with­out fear. With the Gov­ern­ment about to abol­ish the death penalty, should we as­sume that the drug trade will be un­stop­pable? We all know that Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s style of bru­tally killing drug sus­pects is too cruel, so what op­tions do we have?

I used to see drug ad­dicts in hospi­tals where they would come to col­lect doses of methadone, the syn­thetic drug that is used as a sub­sti­tute in the treat­ment of mor­phine and heroin ad­dic­tion. I used to visit the psy­chi­atric de­part­ment for busi­ness mat­ters, and I no­ticed this. But most ad­dicts are not tak­ing the methadone, I as­sume.

In Kuala Lumpur I see many thin, weak-look­ing and dirt­ily-clad peo­ple wan­der­ing the streets – I think th­ese are drug users.

With free food pro­vided by the char­ity food kitchens and eas­ily avail­able places for sleep­ing (five-foot ways, at bus stands, over­head pedes­trian walk­ways, un­der bridges, etc), th­ese drug ad­dicts are not mov­ing out of the streets and I think they re­ally pose a dan­ger to the pub­lic.

The po­lice, wel­fare de­part­ment of­fi­cials, City Hall of­fi­cers, NGOs – are th­ese peo­ple all sim­ply not both­ered about this predica­ment? And yet, de­spite this sad state of af­fairs, we are boast­ing about achiev­ing de­vel­oped na­tion sta­tus by 2020.

The new Gov­ern­ment that was voted in in May has to act on this mat­ter – ur­gently, more ur­gently than act­ing on the 1MDB case of fnan­cial cor­rup­tion. The drug is­sue in­volves the lives of the peo­ple – it kills! I would like sug­gest a few mea­sures:

> Give harsher sen­tences to the drug traf­fick­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers (drug lords).

> De­stroy all ke­tum plant­ing ar­eas.

> Check the Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms points of en­try care­fully for smug­gling – and the cor­rup­tion of drugs.

> Ed­u­cate peo­ple about the haz­ards of drugs, from pri­mary to ter­tiary level, through the mass me­dia and elec­tronic me­dia.

> Re­ha­bil­i­tate drug ad­dicts.

> Con­sider care­fully whether we should de­crim­i­nalise drugs?

> Check and con­trol the hospi­tals for any drug “leak­age” by doc­tors and staff.

> Check all the lo­cal phar­ma­cies for any abuse or stor­age of il­le­gal drugs or pre­scrip­tions.

> Why are th­ese mod­ern il­le­gal drugs so eas­ily avail­able? Study this mat­ter.

Most im­por­tantly,the Gov­ern­ment must in­volve ALL stake­hold­ers – the ex­perts,the press, the med­i­cal ex­perts, the po­lice, Cus­toms, Im­mi­gra­tion, hu­man rights groups, etc – to study this prob­lem. Dis­cuss it, re­search and make a good pol­icy – not a flipflop one! The Gov­ern­ment must be COM­MIT­TED to solv­ing this drug prob­lem.

Thank you.

Filipinos protest­ing the bru­tal war on drugs waged by Duterte that has seen hun­dreds be­ing killed. — NEON TOMMY/ Vis­ual Hunt

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