In December 2018 I wrote to Cook Islands News warning parents of the danger of meth to their children.I thought this new warning might get a reaction from government. Not so!
In May I wrote to Ministers for Education, Health, Justice and Police and repeated my request for government to take a co-ordinated approach to tackling meth. This time I pointed out the Police had now made their first arrest for importation and possession of meth, so it had arrived.
I am sure we can all think of reasons why government might be soft on drugs. From my discussions, I believe the likely reason for government departments ignoring this problem is that they see this as a Police issue, nothing to do with Education or Health or Justice. That is a serious mistake, and I will explain why.
While I was attempting (unsuccessfully) to rehabilitate my meth addict nephew in New Zealand in 2017, I talked to experts on how best to combat this drug. The advice they gave me was to approach it at two levels. First, there are things you can do at the top of the cliff, before your children become addicted to meth. Second, once you have addicts and dealers in your community, there are things you can do at the bottom of the cliff to reduce the ongoing harm.
If you fail to stop meth at the top of the cliff, then you have to deal with the addicts and dealers at the bottom of the cliff. Here the most important agencies are the Police, along with Immigration, Customs and Justice. Health are involved again.
So it is not just a Police issue. If we are to stop meth taking our children’s future, a co-ordinated approach from government is needed with an emphasis on prevention, not policing. And it is not just government that has to step up. Our community has to be committed to working with government to get rid of dealers who are prepared to poison our children to make money.
Before sending this letter to Cook Island News, I copied it to the Secretary of Education to see if she had any comment. Her reply was helpful. She says that government is aware of the need to take a co-ordinated approach to this problem, and it is now the subject of a combined agencies group.
She confirmed that the emphasis to date has been on enforcement, but said the Education department is now developing policy to address the problem. There is no apparent timetable for this, but Ministry of Education intends to consult with stakeholders (I think that means parents) in due course. Senior public servants don’t like the public poking their noses into their job, and in a polite way she has told me to butt out.
My concern is that it can take a long time for any government policy to be developed and even longer for it to be implemented. So next week I want to focus on drugs in our schools, our Cook Islands gang connections, and look at some of the issues the Education department may need to consider. After that, Health, Justice and the border control agencies.