Addicts, dealers and NGOs: dealing with drugs in the Maldives

A coalition of local NGOs conducted a workshop yesterday to review new drug laws proposed by the government.

Ahmed Adam, chairperson of drugs NGO Journey, said drug abuse was a “national issue” that urgently required a solution.

”We wish the MPs would cooperate with us hope they do not think this bill was politically motivated,” he said.

A number of participants at the workshop expressed concern about the difficulty they had reaching MPs. Adam said MPs had not even attended meetings to discuss the bill despite numerous invitations.

Among the NGOs represented at the workshop were Journey, Hand to Hand, Maldivian Detainee Network and Transparency Maldives.

History of drug use

Adam, a recovered drug addict, spoke briefly about the history of drug use in the Maldives.

Historical documents that reveal travellers who visited to the Maldives in the 16th century observed opium being used inside the palace, he said.

Moreover, in the 18th century, Indian traders introduced cannabis to the country.

”In 1972, with the advent of tourism in the country, most people started smoking grass,” he said.

The government was only alerted to what was happening much later, he added.

Adam said ‘brown sugar’, the low-grade heroin that is prevalent in the country, was introduced after the mass arrests of marijuana users in the early 90s.

A drug centre was established for the first time in the Maldives in 1997.

NGOs discussion

The discussions at the workshop focused on both the reasons why people get hooked on drugs and methods of prevention.

NGOs were divided into four groups and together discussed the drug epidemic and ways to solve it.

Among the factors identified that drove people to drug use were parental neglect, congestion and lack of privacy and space at home that draws children out to streets, peer pressure, lifestyle decisions as well as lack of job opportunities and proper role models.

The NGOs argued in favour of categorisation of drugs in the bill and called for the introduction of different methods and models for treatment apart from the existing therapeutic community (TC) model.

TC was not adequate for all types of drug addicts, they insisted.

While drug smuggling could be prevented by imposing penalties on customs officials suspected of accepting bribes, higher penalties should be imposed on convicted drug dealers, they agreed.

Drug traffickers and money they earn

Minivan News spoke anonymously to an individual who divulged information on drug trafficking in the Maldives.

He claimed that he sold drugs because he felt “pity for the sick people” [drug addicts] and did not want “to isolate them from society.”

He added that he did not face “any trouble” in attracting customers.

”If we sell good quality stuff to one person, he will go and tell his friends that we have good stuff and they also will start buying from us,” he said.

He claimed to earn “at least Rf15,000 every day” (US$1167) selling drugs, approximately Rf465,000 per month (US$36,186).

”Everyday one person will buy at least three to five packets, sometimes people from the islands come and buy 40 packets also,” he said, claiming that each 0.03 gram packet (of brown sugar) cost Rf100.

Almost one or two kilograms were smuggled into the country at a time, he explained.

The rise in crime was because drug addicts needed to feed their addiction, he said.

“All gangs are operated by people and money. Gangs earn money by selling drugs. If someone gets stabbed also the gangs would provide them with medication and financial assistance.”

Moreover, he said, “gangsters” would not have any source of income without dealing drugs.

“Real drug dealers” meanwhile, do not use drugs themselves, he said. The drug of choice for Maldivian youth was brown sugar, he added.

“There’s also hash oil, ‘white stuff’ and Charas [resin from the hemp plant] also in the market.”

While more treatment facilities and job opportunities should be offered to combat drug addiction, he said, ”drug dealers should be stopped first, but [the government] can never do that. Drug dealers are assisted by high-profile people in the country,” he said.

“First, they should figure out who they are and stop them, then come after the drug dealers. Then there will be no drug abusers in the country.”


10 thoughts on “Addicts, dealers and NGOs: dealing with drugs in the Maldives”

  1. my point is what is the police drug force doing, we see the same gangs operating in male at the same scale for past 4 or five years, i've never heard any gangster caught in possession of drugs, iam sure police will have all the information regarding these people, "what's the problem with them that they don't get the real people behind the drug scene .. we always here some 16 years boy caught with drugs .. and the police will label him as a drug dealer.. my advice is to change the head of drug unit and bring someone who is capable

  2. if minivannews can find and interview a drug dealer, why cant the police or government find them? As the drug dealer have said "Drug dealers are assisted by high-profile people in the country" might be one of the reasons...??

  3. Isn't it obvious that minivan news have some drug users among them? LOL. ridiculous notion for a newspaper to go about and 'interview' someone deemed to society as a menace as a criminal!!!

  4. So many promises, than and now but very few happens in reality, Do deal with drug problem we need political will, now the sole responsibility is assigned to VP and he is running around with a different agenda of his own, if MDP GoV/ President wants to see a change 1st thing is find someone who is genuinely committed to serve Maldivians regardless of his/her political motives.
    Second the line ministry has proven incapable of serving needful, thus She should be replaced ASAP too but it wont be so easy as said dho!!!

  5. Anonymous: Ever heard of investigative journalism? It's not a ridiculous notion at all. This is a lot better than the he-said/she-said that is passed on as "journalism" in the Maldives these days.


    Besides, it's easier to find a drug dealer in Malé than it is to find a place to rent.

  6. hani: that's right! most of journalists are always complaining freedom of media, but they don't really work to find out the truth, the news we get from these so called media's are eg "today someone is stabbed" nothing else no .. name .. nothing that's all we don't know whether it's a knife or anything! godbless our country

  7. @ we don't know what we don't know : when reporting news, specially on such cases like stabbing or robbery, how can journalists write something the police does not say and the journalist did not witness? learn more about journalism before running your mouth in public

  8. the game: it's the journalists prime responsibility to go idepth and cover and also to do the follow up .. even if they have to run behind the police commissioner everyday from his home to his office, that's what journalism is and that's what we call the 4th power of democracies, please learn from neigboring India and other countries, they are not cowards like our journalists, when dhitiv got a threat .. their statment was that they won't be reporting any news on gangs .. because of fear that the gangs might attack them .. how many journalists died in iraq and afghanistan do you now ? but in this country we see people like hirigaa always complaining that we don't have free media here .. actually the problem is with these half baked journalists

  9. maybe some of u misunderstood, a person who takes drugs/intoxicants, trades in them is among the disbelievers(until the repent). hence its not only stupid but downright disgusting to even consider the 'word' of such person deemed credible or news worthy to to even be considered. besides 'garbage' attracts more 'garbage'. nowadays people feel due to 'freedom' to live anyway they please, they can say whatever they like anywhere and call to support from those who are ignorant. good luck all out there.

  10. The Harsh Reality of Drug Addiction richardmclaughlin007 — January 18, 2009 — after 11 months of sobriety from drug addiction, in 7 short days this man hits the depths of despair and insanity.

    This video was shot in Vancouvers downtown eastside by the narrator it is quite extreme, It shows how common place and and readily available drugs are and how people can succomb to a extreme physical reaction from lack of sleep, nutrition and dehydration. This video was made for many different reasons, one being educational the other as mentioned earlier it's common place here in Vancouver, in any other city or town in North America this man would have recieved immediate medical attention but here in Vancouver both the police and ambulance just drive by. If you do not belive me come on down and see our little human circus slash "HARM REDUCTION EXPERIMENT"
    This man was spotted two hours later sleeping on a concrete curb as his pillow.
    Both the narrator and producer of this video have had spent many years struggling with addiction and have spent hard time in Vancouvers "NOTORIOUS" downtown eastside.
    Today they have escaped and are clean and sober and now dedicate there lives to those who still suffer from "THE HARSH REALITY OF ADDICTION"


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