We cannot narrow our war on drugs to political will alone however harrowing it is. It is our battle and we shall not retreat or surrender and we all have to stand up and be counted. If we don’t save our children or any victim from the scourge of drugs then our country will totter on the brink of collapse. Our human capital is our best asset. Almost every Mauritian family has a sad story to tell but it will not help if we act like spent swimmers and drift.
New Spirit and Domestic policy to combat drugs
The new Spirit has to prevail because for far too long the approach had been piecemeal and no one size fits all solution. We need a comprehensive Mauritian solution to our problem, that is, we have to think globally and act locally.
According to UN at its General Assembly Special Session held in April 2016 there had been a systemic failure of policy. Even UN has been out of step with modern policy and it is high time to put people at the centre of policies. In New York, leaders of the three countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia) which have suffered disproportionate violence from narco-trafficking called for a more “humane solution “to the drug problem that goes beyond a focus on enforcement and criminalisation.
In Mauritius, the Dangerous Drugs Act has to be amended and until FIU submit its annual report it is difficult to assess how much asset has been recovered from narco traffickers and others whose wealth is disproportionate to income earned.
As a result of lessons learnt and experiences shared, a National DRUG Master Plan has been prepared since July 2017 by UNDOC. Dr Abdool, a Mauritian national, was the Consultant and main driver. There had been wide discussion with all relevant stakeholders. The NDMP should be widely circulated and implemented. It’s comprehensive with clear indicators and program-based budgeting. We have a blue print and we are allowing dust to settle on it. It has many intended consequences but unintended ones will arise because of collateral. For instance, in the near future will we be ready to consider decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and the legalization of medical marijuana? Is death penalty a deterrent? At the UN MEETING, Norway pleaded for an approach to drug control centered on human rights and an end to drug crime executions.
However legitimate these questions are, we should not get holed up nor should we wait for Justice Lam Shang Leen as chair of the Commission of Inquiry of Drugs to submit his report. Nevertheless once the report is released it should be fully debated in parliament.
As a caring nation we have a moral obligation to ACT VIGOROUSLY. Our country cannot become a killing field for our kids. Time to circulate the NDMP report because information has to be disaggregated. By socializing knowledge, the power to amplify the results of collective action is inevitable.
COUNCIL OR COORDINATING COMMITTEE
For implementation of the NDMP, the merits of a coordinating committee under the aegis of the PMO far outweigh the need of a Council. The latter will be passive. A talk shop is the last thing that is needed as time is of essence and allocation of resources is of paramount importance for the work to be done with good oversight. I impress upon the PM to urgently chair the coordinating committee in view of the gravity of the situation. Immediate measures have to be taken in respect of the following:
a) Responsibility of treatment by trained health professionals doctors, nurses, psychologists. Financing must be available for proper addiction units at the five regional hospitals.
b) Detox unit for in-patient requiring short term stay for introduction of substitution therapy.
A centre for younger persons, that is those under 18 is needed. Most patients I grant you could be treated as out-patient. In Kenya the system works well.
Let us look at specific cases. An addict on heroin will be seen at Bouloux centre and then referred to the Detox Unit to be started on Methadone or Suboxone. Follow up will be done at the regional addiction unit.
A person who is taking NPS (synthetic drugs) and has a psychotic episode will be managed at a psychiatric unit and followed at the addiction unit of the Regional hospital. The danger lies with New Psychoactive Substance (Synthetic Drugs) because of their availability, accessibility, affordability.
Accompanying measures are irrelevant if there is no Psychosocial support for effective follow up. Dr A.Jhugroo, consultant psychiatrist at the Harm Reduction (term no longer used in UN document) Unit should be given the resources, space and respect he commands as a diligent professional. He is the most reliable person to brief the PM notwithstanding the relevance and importance of all dialogue partners.
Role of NGOs
NGOs have a prominent role to play as foot soldiers since they are the strong link in the cluster chain or conveyor belt. They are the footbridge in the trinity being the cog in the wheel to reach out to parents, teachers and the victims in the Rehabilitation and Reinsertion process.
c) The ultimate process is to move beyond prohibition to effective prevention. There is no prevention without Education. Primary prevention is essential as an early warning system to ward off the young and the innocent from the scourge. Secondary and tertiary prevention measures are equally relevant to those who are victims. It’s never to late to be recuperated.
It is important to create a democratic social control over aggregated information. A collaborative order more particularly with NGOs should be put in place to break the feedback loops that create poverty, anger, stress, ill health. For example, poverty and or drug scourge that blight the poor communities could be mapped, understood and collaboratively dismantled in real-time with the micro level participation of those affected. Rehabilitation and Reinsertion programs will move the marginalized to the extended mainstream.
It is precisely because the order is tall that we sign up as our country needs us to wage war on Drugs.