Although I am a little sceptical about Norman’s assertion that there is a Pablo Escobar doing business here, it would be difficult to conceal that amount of wealth without being detected by the various money agencies - unless much of that wealth is invested offshore and that person is well connected.
But that aside, we expect ‘government’ to do its job no matter the political consequences. This matter is of such profound importance. Elsewhere entire communities have been devastated by the drug, whole generations have been lost. It’s literally a war out there.
No one here should be surprised about meth and its presence here on Rarotonga. If it’s found its way into Tahiti, Samoa and Tonga, then count on it being here.
The fact that we have had high profile cases even involving members of our police force entangled in the importation and distribution of drugs is in itself indicative of how serious we should all be taking this. The very culture of our border control officers and police and the pennies they are paid will not be lost on the drug organisations with deep pockets - the Cook Islands would be seen as an easy touch. They are very organised and buy and own police, politicians, judges and lawyers the world over. They are astute and should not be underestimated, they know that everyone has a price.
I have seen enough documentaries on this menace to realise how destructive this drug is, I have witnessed two people - a mother and daughter - overtaken by meth on this island. I know of a primary school friend incarcerated for two years for going on a smashing spree in Australia in an out-of-control rage after taking crystal meth. Today he is finally clean, but not without looking like a car crash and not without a lot of support from family and the Australian institutions to rehabilitate him.
But what is inexplicably required is for politicians to stop their finger pointing and political sniping. This issue is bigger than politics, bigger than you and me and needs everyone, together. Serious dialogue on how best to address this malignant cancer must start now.
Most importantly and without hesitation there must be resources made available to help those victims, no matter how many times they fail and return for help. Just as importantly, it requires discussion and a far greater sense of understanding than has been shown in many other countries. And as demonstrated in ours, that the victims of drugs should never be stereotyped or ostracised or categorised as having little or no significance to the wider community, but rather to be given conditional support - and loads of it. Where politicians are concerned that means setting up the financial structures to assist new and current support agencies help the victims who aren’t always just the addicts, but as has been the case in many other places - relatives and friends. Like cancer spreads, once one family member gets ‘hooked’ another is not too far behind.
In the US, the latest numbers reveal that death by suicide and drug abuse has overtaken death by motor vehicle accidents, despite motor vehicle deaths growing almost every year. A large portion of death by suicide is drug related.
Unfortunately, in the instance of mental health and drug rehabilitation the Cook Islands has a poor record and relies on the support of New Zealand. There is nothing or next to nothing in the way of support from here. Should we be surprised? The police should already be aware of who the users and importers are. If they lack the legislative power, the commissioner and his minister should say so, if they lack the resources ditto to that too. Nothing will be gained by saying nothing while the problem exasperates. It’s important to tackle this early and should be a matter of national priority.
The Cook Islands and all Cook Islanders must demand significant support to fight crystal meth and all other illegal drugs and commit resources to support agencies. Where there are huge financial gains to be made with low or minimal risk, like drug dealing in the Cook Islands seems to be, there will always be a growing number of individuals gravitating towards it. If the country procrastinates and does nothing until much later, our prison won’t be big enough to hold the greedy pushers and their business relatives. Think about the resources we will have to commit later, the resources to rehabilitate, the court system clogged with drug cases, clogged with crimes related to drugs, the family stresses that will spill over with greater and greater financial strain to everyone. The addiction is so powerful that burglaries will increase and worse murder, it robs people of any dignity. As the British knew so well and exploited so well in Hong Kong some 200 years ago, the easiest way to enslave people is to get them addicted to a drug. In that situation heroin was used to maximum effect. Meth is significantly more addictive - more enslaving than anything that has come before.
But the deep, most significant gains to defeat any societal menace like this can only be made with more investment, more commitment, more priority towards our youth, our schools and our colleges - education, education, education. Something far too underrated.
It is important to start a meaningful conversation about meth. The public needs to become more aware of what it is and what it does. For this Cook Islands News should be congratulated.
Editor, I offer this letter for publication anonymously to protect the three people I have mentioned who have fought and continue to fight their own demons.
For Freedom From Slavery
(Name and address supplied)