Indonesia still a long way from winning war on drugs

Indonesia has been striving for decades to win the war against drugs but, instead of moving closer to victory, it has been dragged into a state of emergency over narcotics trade and abuse.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck the country on March 2, 2020, drug lords have continued to be a serious threat considering the fact that drug-trafficking has remained rampant even amid the health crisis.

Since his first leadership term, President Joko Widodo has been reminding the nation of the serious impact of drug consumption on Indonesia.

While inaugurating a grand mosque in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, on January 20, 2015, he had warned that at least 50 people were dying due to drug use every day. The statistic included those who failed to get rehabilitated.

According to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), Indonesia had more than 3.3 million drug users in 2017.

The drug users belonged to the 10-59 age group, and the percentage of teenagers falling into drug addiction stood at 24-28 percent, the BNN noted.

As per information on the agency’s official website, Indonesians in the 15-35 age group are at the highest risk of drug abuse.

Meanwhile, drug lords are dragging not just people in their 30s into drug-trafficking networks, but even those in their 20s.

On March 18, 2021, a 20-year-old drug courier was stopped and arrested at the Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang district, North Sumatra province.

The suspect, identified as ASH, was reportedly trying to smuggle 1.01 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine into Lombok Island in West Nusa Tenggara province.

ASH was apprehended before he could board Batik Air flight ID-6881 headed to Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Cengkareng, Banten province, en route to Mataram City in Lombok Island.

The airport's aviation security personnel found the drug package hidden in ASH’s backpack, according to acting spokesperson of state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura II at the Kualanamu International Airport, Paulina HA Simbolon.

The suspect is a resident of Keude Bungkaih village in Muara Batu sub-district, Aceh Utara district, Aceh province, Simbolon informed.

On March 19, 2021, eight people were nabbed with several kilograms of crystal meth and thousands of ecstasy pills.

The suspects were arrested from a vessel in the waters off the east coast of Sumatra Island, BNN Eradication Division Deputy Inspector General Arman Depari remarked.

The smugglers used two vessels to conduct their drug-trafficking operation, Depari told local journalists at the Belawan-based customs and excise pier.

They allegedly swapped their vessel with one that contained drug packages in the Malacca Strait, and then headed to the east coast of Sumatra's sea.

The BNN said it is well aware of a rising trend in drug crimes in the country, as evidenced by the confiscation of 808.68 kg of drugs over the past three months.

The weight of the drugs seized in the past three months is nearly 70.19 percent of the total weight of drugs confiscated by BNN during drug raid operations last year.

"In 2020, the BNN had seized 1,152.2 kg of drugs," BNN head Petruse Golose notified legislators during a plenary session at the parliament building on March 18, 2021.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drug trade in Indonesia has been on the increase as is apparent from the evidence of drug crimes that the BNN has seized until now, he noted.

On the basis of the confiscated evidence, the BNN has seized 3,462.75 kg of marijuana in drug raids between January and March, 2021.

The amount of seized marijuana shows an increase of 143.64 percent from 2,410 kg confiscated in January-March, 2020, Golose pointed out.

The BNN head surmised that the increase in the amount of drugs seized may point to a rise in demand from drug users in communities.

"The rise in demand is perhaps triggered by the work-from-home policy. Many have got dragged into a situation of 'drug abuse from home,'" he surmised.

During the meeting with members of the House of Representatives' Commission III overseeing legal affairs, Golose sought their support for upgrading BNN's facilities.

The current era of disruption has compelled the agency to improve its facilities, including those related to information technology, laboratory, database, and intelligence capability, he explained.

In response to the BNN's request, the House members have urged the government to step up the war against drugs, saying the country is in a state of emergency over narcotics.

"Drug crimes have even entered a phase of narcoterrorism," head of the House's Commission III, Herman Hery, stated.

To deal with this "state of emergency", Hery urged Golose to apprise President Widodo of the real situation.

Drug rings controlled behind bars by imprisoned drug dealers are partly responsible for the state of emergency with regard to rampant drug-trafficking across the country, authorities said.

To deal with this problem, the Law and Human Rights Ministry recently transferred 643 convicted drug dealers from 12 provinces to Indonesia's maximum security prison on Nusakambangan Island in Central Java.

The massive transfer of convicted drug dealers to the Nusakambangan penitentiary is the first of its kind, but the ministry will do it again in the future, according to Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly.

Ninety-nine of the 643 prisoners were transferred from Jakarta; 76 from Lampung; 50 from Aceh; 48 from Yogyakarta; 91 from West Java; 54 from North Sumatra; 50 from South Sumatra; 47 from Riau; 46 from Banten, 43 from West Kalimantan; 21 from East Java; and, 18 from Bali.

The government has done so much to win Indonesia's collective war on drugs, but it still has a long way to go.

As part of the war, drug convicts on death row need to be executed soon to deter more people from committing drug crimes, according to observers.

Source: Antara News

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