Drug warning: Ignorance and failure to act simply not an option

The warning contained in a story titled “Expert warns Samoa about hard drugs” published on the front page of the newspaper you are reading today could not have come at a better time.

Given the disturbing developments we’ve been seeing with neighbouring countries such as Tonga and Fiji in relation to hard drugs, the relevant authorities in Samoa would do very well to listen.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tonga’s drug crisis has been well detailed in the media, including the regional pages of this newspaper, during the past few months. Countless stories have highlighted how methamphetamine – among other hard drugs - had become widely available with children as young as 13 years of age being caught up in drug dealing activities.

One report quoted the Director of Mental Health at Vaiola Hospital, Dr. Mapa Puloka, as saying that drug abuse had infiltrated all levels of society.

"They are addicts who need counselling and rehabilitation. Many parents with addicted kids do not know what to do, and they need as much counselling as their kids." He said.

Tonga’s problems of course stretched much further. Drugs and corruption is quite a deadly combination and that appeared to have been one of the biggest challenges. Some 28 Police officers were implicated in the drug trade, even Customs officers were arrested for trying to import meth – among other illegal goods.

Now how do you begin to address a problem when you have people in positions of reasonability leading the way in breaking the law? There is a lot more but we will stop here.

The point is that for Samoa, we need to take notice. We need to wake up. We need to take the lessons and do what we can to avoid this happening here.

Is Samoa immune from this? Absolutely not.

In other words, ignorance and failure to act is simply not an option. We say this because there is too much at stake for Samoa.

We are talking about future generations of this nation we want to steer far, far away from the devastating path they could be lured to follow, if we don’t wake up to the alarming trend of illicit drug use and everything else unpleasant that comes with it.

The truth is that while the topic pops up now and then, there is reason to believe that the need for the authorities to wake up and be more proactive in terms of prevention is more pressing now than ever before.

When we think of small Pacific islands, such as Samoa, hard drugs are not the first things on our minds. We think about the beaches, relaxation and an easy life. Which is the truth to some extent.

But that’s where the problem lies. We are too relaxed we’ve become ignorant of the threats posed by evil people who want to harm our way of living. We are talking about the emerging trend of drug dealers looking to capitalise on the isolation and the relaxed rules in these parts to pursue their dirty motives – and find their ways to more lucrative markets.

Which is precisely the point being made by Mr. Jose Luis Sousa-Santos, the Managing Director of Strategika Group Asia Pacific, in the story we are talking about. He warns that Samoa must learn from what happened in Tonga and Fiji.

“We are seeing signs of meth being used by youths in Samoa," he said.

“In the short time I have been here in Samoa, there are the red flags that methamphetamine usage is being seen, of course not to the level that we see in Fiji and Tonga.

"So there are drugs being brought in. I think [Samoa] cannot fall into [a state of] complacency.

"What we have to realise is that the speed at which the indigenous criminal networks worked in Tonga and Fiji really took not just Australian and New Zealand law enforcement, but Fijian and Tongan law enforcement and Governments by surprise.”

The question is are our law enforcement entities prepared? Are they capable of handling such a threat? And is the Government willing to lend an ear and do what’s necessary to ensure this nation is protected?

The point is that while we have yet to reach the crisis level that Tonga did, we cannot be complacent. There is still time for this nation to wake up to do something to protect our people from this vile evil. What do you think?

Have a safe weekend Samoa, God bless!

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