Editorial comment: Children and drugs

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Drugs and apparatus seized from the raid in Naqere, Savusavu earlier this year. Picture: SUPPLIED/FIJI POLICE

The revelation that some children living in Public Rental Board (PRB) flats around Suva were allegedly being used to sell and courier drugs is cause for concern.

PRB general manager Timoci Naleba made the revelation during an interview with the media last week. He said it was one of the reasons closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras were installed in PRB flats around Suva.

“We are trying to curb these types of activities, especially drugs, different types of drugs that have been sold now in the market,” Mr Naleba said.

“Kids can be used to take them to different locations and from that location they are picked up by the adult or the customer.

“These have been documented and they have also been shared with the police.

“As I’ve said, this suspicion is there, but to actually have them apprehended, we haven’t really come to that point yet.”

Any suggestion that children are being used in the illicit drug trade is cause for concern. In fact it should be investigated and discussions must take place to empower parents and guardians to be part of the fight against illicit drugs.

If this is truly happening, then it is a sad reflection of how some members of society look at the trade. It places young children who may be involved in a very precarious position.

A report by the International Labour Office titled The use of children in the production, sales and trafficking of drugs suggested children/youth, being minors with their presumed innocence, were targeted by drug traffickers in expanding their markets because the police usually did not suspect them.

The report focused on research done in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. We wonder whether that is the same case here as well? In saying that, we reflect on the dangers of the drug habit, and the associated ills it attracts. In fact we all have a stake in the drug war.

As parents, friends, teachers, students and law enforcers, we each have a responsibility to uphold important values that make life what it is in Fiji, or what we hope it should be like. Whether we like it or not, drugs are a part of our lives now. They come in many forms, from marijuana to hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

It is accepted that the smoking of marijuana is rife in most parts of the country.

The drug trade is lucrative. It has clothed and fed those who harbour no second thoughts over its harmful impact on the lives of users and their dependents.

Traders in this illegal business have been forced to go underground in the face of police attention. To survive, they’ve had to come up with innovative ways to do business and find interesting places to stash their cash. So awareness must start at home.

One of the dangers the police force faces is “acceptance” — when the drug habit wrongly becomes an acceptable part of growing up. It is important that we realise where we stand on the issue of drugs and we make an effort to place some value on what is acceptable and what is not.

The State will play a vital role in putting in place measures that will stimulate economic progress in our rural settings for starters. Because of the financial gain in the trade, there must be an alternative source of income to inspire cultivators to get out of it for instance.

The police also need the support of the people to do their job well and to ensure they are transparent and beyond reproach when exercising their powers.

We acknowledge the efforts by the PRB to deal with what it sees as a major issue, and we call on the powers that be to put in place measures to effectively police this.

The war against drugs needs our collective effort.