By GYNNIE KERO
THE country needs tougher penalties to deter international drugs smugglers from using Papua New Guinea as a transit point, a police source says.
The source, who requested anonymity, was commenting on the 18-month prison terms handed down last month on seven foreigners who were caught in Milne Bay with cocaine worth around K3 million.
The seven — one from Montenegro and six Chinese from Hong Kong — had arrived on a vessel from Hong Kong via the Philippines in May last year.
It was the first cocaine-smuggling case in the country.
The source said the 18-month prison term was too lenient, and suggested that laws on drugs be reviewed so that tougher penalties could be imposed on such people.
Efforts yesterday to get comment from Justice Minister and Attorney-General Davis Stephen, and department Secretary Dr Eric Kwa, on the matter were unsuccessful.
Earlier, Chief Inspector Joel Kapinias, who is in-charge of the National Drug and Vice Squad Office in Port Moresby, said tougher penalties were needed to punish drug smugglers.
Kapinias agreed that the penalty for the seven was “lenient”, because in countries such as Indonesia, the seven would have faced the death penalty.
He said the Drugs Act 1954 allowed a maximum jail term of only two years. “It is outdated and toothless,” he said.
Kapinias said that particular legislation covered the cultivation, harvesting, possession and making only of marijuana.
“It does not cover other offences relating to drugs. You can have plantations and harvest tonnes of (marijuana) but you will only be given up to two years imprisonment. That is the maximum penalty,” he said.
Two years ago, former National Capital District Met Supt Benjamin Turi also called for tougher penalties on drug smugglers.
“Two months’ imprisonment is nothing to drug smugglers. They can bring drugs in bags and get caught, but they are able to go out and do the same thing again.”
Turi said tougher penalties such as 10 to 20 years in jail would surely send a “stronger message”.
The seven were intercepted by a team of police and naval officers in waters off West New Britain in May after being tipped off by an official who had been keeping the 11 bags of cocaine belonging to the seven, which local fishermen had found on an island in Milne Bay. The seven were returning to retrieve the 11 bags.
Cocaine, also known as coke, is a strong stimulant mostly used as a recreational drug. It is commonly snorted, inhaled as smoke, or dissolved and injected into a vein. Mental effects may include loss of contact with reality, an intense feeling of happiness, or agitation.
By GYNNIE KERO