Agency ropes in media in anti-drug fight-• Communities report reduced disturbance from addicts


The recent meeting between NDEA management and members of the media

They traded accusations but in the end agreed they previously misunderstood one another and agreed to support work to fight drug use and trafficking as well as the crimes caused by substance abuse.

In their heated meeting – chaired by private consultant Rene Morel at the International Conference Centre – the agents said the media tends to portray them negatively, while the reporters said the NDEA often withheld public information.

The agency said it tries as much as possible to divulge whatever information they can without breaking laws that demand they do not give details of issues before courts of law, and asked the media to try and get their news from other sources.

Asked if they had any results to show they are making progress, NDEA chief executive Niall Scully referred the media to several communities whose members could give testimony of the changes they have seen.

“On La Digue there has been a big change over the last few months,” a representative of the island’s committee for tourism and safety told Nation when contacted.+

“We used to have 10 to 15 cases of theft or attacks on tourists by drug pushers every month but the number has now dropped to a single case,” another member said, both requesting anonymity.

They said a number of pushers and possibly a trafficker have been arrested, adding drugs used to be shipped to the island by boat from Praslin, “but the NDEA now does spot checks on these boats and that has really helped improve the situation”.

“Some of them used to rob visitors enjoying bicycle rides but such incidents have now stopped,” they said.

The resident feared, however, that some of the people involved in drugs have migrated to Mahe and Praslin following the crackdown on the around 2,000 population tourist haven.

Members of other communities contacted on Mahe and Praslin talked of pockets with reduced crime rates but said different law enforcement agencies seem to act in isolation with some “ignoring substance abuse as if only the NDEA can deal with them”.

Mr Scully called on communities to play a bigger role in helping the agency cut drug abuse, saying the agents know who the pushers and traffickers are but need evidence before they proceed.

His team – which declined to be photographed at the meeting – defended the way they operate for example when they enter suspects’ houses, noting sometimes they meet “extreme hostility and residents armed with all sorts of weapons and occasionally we are badly outnumbered”.

“Still we follow laid down procedure and many families cooperate very well with us and we thank them. No doubt they have seen the benefits of helping us,” the agents said.