Unity needed to bust drug trade


THE reported increase in drug trafficking and other illegal activities, especially in the Highlands and Southern regions and along our international borders is cause for grave concern.
Former Western police commander Silva Sika raised the alarm, saying that police did not have the manpower and resources to combat drug trafficking in the province.
During his watch, Sika had pleaded for police boats, logistical support and resources to effectively deal with the problem.
However, his plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears as the relevant government authorities have not shown much concern and interest about tackling the problems.
Nonetheless, little is known about the extent of drug trafficking in Western, a vast and remote province that shares our international borders with Australia and Indonesia. According to police, the bulk of the illicit drug, marijuana, is transported from the Highlands region by drug traffickers and dealers who use young people in Western as middlemen.
More often than not, the middlemen are caught while the real perpetrators get away.
Although the courts in Western are cooperating with police to impose tougher penalties on drug dealers and users, the problem seems to be getting worse because of the limited police capacity and capabilities.
The Southern region police command and the Police Department hierarchy should be taking a greater interest in this issue and seek whatever assistance they can get from the Government to fight drug trafficking.
There is little doubt that drug trafficking or smuggling is widespread throughout the Southern region and other parts of the country.
Western and Gulf are major Southern transit points because of their close proximity to the Highlands provinces but the illicit drug often ends up in the National Capital District (NCD) via Central.
The NCD is possibly the largest local market for marijuana from the Highlands.
Many smugglers have also been caught transporting their illicit cargo by air from centres like Goroka in Eastern Highlands and Kundiawa in Chimbu.
The industrial city of Lae is also a major transit point for drug shipments to Port Moresby and even some overseas markets.
In recent months the National Drug and Vice Squad has intercepted hundreds of kilograms of marijuana, some of which was possibly destined for the overseas market.
One of the largest hauls of marijuana made recently in Kerema, Gulf Province, where more than 80kg of the illicit drug was intercepted by police as it was being smuggled from the Highlands via Morobe and Gulf.
Drug dealers and smugglers in Papua New Guinea, like their counterparts in other countries, will stop at nothing to push their illicit trade and expand their network.
It is a lucrative trade that only benefits the drug dealers while the users are the victims.
In the absence of proper data and statistics, it may be safely assumed that the illicit drug trade is still in its infancy stage in this country.
It may be widespread but the current drug dealers and smugglers in this country are generally considered small time.
There are no drug cartels and drug lords that control this illicit trade in PNG, at least not for the time being.
Therefore, the onus is on the Government to implement a grand plan of action to stop these drug dealers in their tracks before they create highways for illicit drug operations.
More manpower and resources are needed to boost police and drug enforcement operations in strategic locations in the border provinces of Western, West Sepik and Gulf.
This will require significant funding from the National Government to ensure that police special arms like the National Drug and Vice Squad are adequately resourced to tackle this problem.
Other government agencies like the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) and PNG Customs, also have vital roles to play in this war against drug trafficking.
These agencies will need to collaborate with their counterparts in Australia and Indonesia to effectively carry their drug enforcement operations.
After all, it is in the interests of PNG and its two big neighbours, Australia and Indonessia, to move quickly to stop this
illicit trade from expanding
beyond their international borders.

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