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A factory of shame JAKARTA - Over a long period in a hamlet in Tangerang, Banten, workers have quietly churned out illegal drugs in a factory licensed to produce cables, seemingly without disruption, until fish in a nearby stream died, from red and yellow substances dumped into the water it was surmised.

The substances were later found to be derivatives of the processing of amphetamines and other drugs, confirming the police's earlier suspicion, which led to the raid on Sunday, a raid said to be among the most important in police operations so far, given the factory's capacity to produce a million ecstasy pills a week worth Rp 100 billion (about 8 million euro).

The war against any business profiting from addiction is a slow one, and it is fitting that we congratulate the police for finally busting what appears to be part of yet another international operation on our soil. From time to time we have received reports of the arrests of suspected drug dealers, several of whom have been tried and convicted. But the police know well that they are far from reaching the roots of the huge tentacle that forms the drug syndicates, even though a few of those arrests involved suspected operatives of those syndicates.

What was more surprising about the raid on Sunday, however, was that the local police in the entire district of Jatiuwung -- about 100 kilometers west of the capital -- claimed ignorance of the factory and its actual operation involving among others Chinese, French and Dutch nationals. We are thus painfully reminded that the weekend achievement, hailed personally by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in the same breath a harsh reminder that the weakness of our law enforcers and related government agencies remain a major contributor to Indonesia continuing to be an infamous haven -- like it or not -- for various international crimes.

In this vast country and its growing, porous areas like those in Tangerang, local police are supposedly in the forefront in the monitoring of criminal activities. We have been told repeatedly that they are poorly paid, an excuse like the one made for officials who process illegal identification documents, passports and business permits. Strange then that we should bristle every time we are branded as a haven for terrorism or drug smuggling, as long as we are still going around in circles in working out how to put an end to both corruption and the lack of professionalism among the people tasked to protect the public against crime.

In an atmosphere like this vigilantism emerges, regardless of widespread condemnation of people taking the law into their own hands. There have been stories of the parents of drug addicts attempting to shoot the suspected dealers themselves, aware that, for all the government campaigns on drug abuse and police raids, the damage to their children's lives cannot be undone.

Furthermore, while the growing number of former drug users involved in antidrug campaigns and novel attempts at rehabilitation are commendable, these efforts have not been able to keep up with the activities of those involved in drug syndicates, walking in and out of prison and resuming their businesses of peddling addiction.

From the accounts of former users, we can gather all too easily that such successes are rare. The official estimate of an annual average of two million drug addicts among a population of around 200 million has done little to appease those who have seen firsthand the wasteful impact of drug abuse on their young.

Behind the sensational sporadic news of arrests and raids are thousands of families trying to cope on a daily level with members who have been in and out of costly rehabilitation centers, where many users even manage to develop access to drugs. While such families are left to manage on their spare resources and exhausted emotions in taking care of their own, then the least the public can expect is much more visible efforts on the part of the police to increase their protection of the public.



Posted in Drugs @ 15 November 2005 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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