Failure to pass drug bill hampering drug user rehabilitation efforts

Amidst the 2011 Maldives budget and a host of other laws waiting to be passed in the Majlis, a bill outlining new policies on drug enforcement remains a key concern for one Male’ based NGO , which has just launched what it claims is a first-of-its-kind drop in centre for recovering addicts in the country.

“In the 1990’s in every Male’ household there was a probably an addict,” claimed Mohamed Shuaib, a reformed drug user and vice chairperson of Journey, a Maldivian NGO.  “We didn’t know of the consequences [of drug abuse] at the time.”

Shuaib added that although the Maldives’ relationship with drugs was not as intense as it appeared to be a few decades previously, the abuse of heroin – and to a lesser extent alcohol and cannabis – remained serious problems for Maldivians.

Journey, which was started in 2005 by former addicts looking to provide support and possible rehabilitation for drug users, said that despite positive government support, public attitudes and a failure to pass new laws relating to drug offences remained major concerns in trying to prevent drug abuse and rehabilitate addicts.

Shuaib told Minivan News that the official opening of a drop-in centre operated by the charity on November 29, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund, reflected improving fortunes in the country for drug users looking to kick possible addiction.

The idea behind the drop-in programme is to try and give recovering addicts a safe place to not just come and hang out, but to also seek counselling and training once they have undergone detox, according to Journey.  The programme extends a growing number of services that the NGO said it has provided over the last five years to recovering addicts; like outreach programmes across Male’ and the wider atolls where Journey tries to consult directly with addicts to try and help them seek rehabilitation.

The opening of the new drop-in centre, which also coincides within the same month of Journey’s fifth anniversary of coming into operation, was attended by President Mohamed Nasheed who claimed that reducing drug abuse was a top priority for his government.  By pursuing a society-wide approach to tackling drug abuse, the president added that he was confident of a further crackdown on narcotics abuse.

“I believe we can do this. I believe we have the capacity. I believe our youths can recover from this,” he added.

Shuaib said that Journey was generally encouraged by the government’s work and focus in regards to rehabilitating drug users, though he said that abuse of heroin – and to a lesser extent alcohol and cannabis – remained serious problems for Maldivians.

“The current government is trying, they have formed committees with parents and businesses to consult on drug policy and they are also working closely with us,’ he added.

Despite the support seemingly offered by president Nasheed, Shuaib said that the continued wait for a new drug bill to be passed in the Majlis was a source of frustration for the NGO.

According to Shuaib, current regulations on drugs in the country have failed to sufficiently differentiate between the types of drugs being used as well as the amounts found on a person.

In September, Minivan News reported how Maldivian reggae artist Haisham Mohamed Rasheed had been sentenced to ten years for use and possession of less than one gram of cannabis.  Haisham, of Maafannu Loha, was arrested with a bag containing the illegal narcotics while in a resort to perform a live music show.

Ahmed Nazim, a fellow member of Journey’s staff, added that in certain situations, the current legislation meant that someone caught smoking drugs like heroin could receive five years imprisonment for every different compound contained in the drug.

Shuaib said he believed that current deadlock in parliament, which has hampered a wide number of bills alongside cabinet appointees and next year’s budget, was the main obstacles to passing new regulations on drug abuse.  The Vice Chairperson added that he expected and hoped the majority of parliament would eventually lend their support to new laws on drugs when they came to be passed.

Besides political argument, Shuaib claimed that religious teachings has generally shaped beliefs in society making the issue of discussing and trying to confront drug addiction difficult for many people.  The Vice Chairperson accepted that many Maldivians might not see addiction as an illness or affliction, but rather a personal weakness, it was an issue he added, “about perception.”

Beyond rehabilitation, preventing future cases of drug addiction through education is seen as another important focus of the work Journey carries out.  To this end, Shuaib said that the NGO is regularly travelling to schools in Male’ and many islands across the country to try and outline the potential dangers of addiction.  Journey claims that effective drug education can be very difficult though particularly young people who fall into drugs as part of gangs.  Beyond becoming addicts, the NGO claimed that gang members were also being encouraged to sell narcotics themselves, creating a lucrative and attractive career path for young people with little to do in crowded streets.

“In certain cases, a parent may suspect involvement in dealing drugs, but they fail to challenge a lifestyle that pays,” added Shuaib.

In relation to factors driving Maldivians to drugs, or even the type of people susceptible to addiction, whether in the latest fashions or more conservative wear, the Vice Chairperson said that Maldivians of all walks of life were seen as being vulnerable to addiction.

One recovering addict at the drop-in centre suggested that he had first turned to drugs after separating from a former girlfriend, when a friend suggested drugs may be more than an adequate cure for the pain.

Some 12 years later, when asked by Minivan News if he thought schemes like the drop-in centre could work to help Maldivian addicts, he hesitated before optimistically replying “I think so.”


9 thoughts on “Failure to pass drug bill hampering drug user rehabilitation efforts”

  1. The Drugs Bill that is in parliament is not about reducing sentences for people who have drugs not as bad as heroin. That is not the point.

    The point is to find a comprehensive way to attack the drug problem in our nation. Drug abuse is an affliction, but the efforts at both rehabilitation and prevention is still half hearted at best. There has been no national survey done to assess just how many addicts there are, and how bad the situation actually is. When we claim that every household in this city is affected, why have we not taken greater initiative on it?

    Simple, people don't really give a damn. To everyone it is little more than weakness, little more than people who are lazy, and useless to society anyways.

    This attitude needs to stop. The youth of this nation have tremendous potential, but it is straight up boredom that leads to drug abuse. It is a lack of recreation and opportunity that leads to these kinds of social degradation.

    The Drugs Legislation is meant to identify those who can be rehabilitated, and those who must be locked up for as long as possible. Not everyone can be locked up, not when the abuse rate in this city is anywhere between 8,000 and 25,000. We need to ensure that our labor force is not affected by this. We need to make sure that our future is not forever thrown in to question as a result of this societal plague.

    Drugs, Gangs, Violence, and Theft are all interrelated. If we are serious about moving forward, we need a holistic approach to our societal ills.

  2. Dear Minivan News,

    Please tell us what happened in the supreme court today.

    What happened to the case of the government's nominated ministers? Did the supreme court rule that the are to be removed from their duties?

    I wish Minivan will update us on HOT issues.

    Kind regards,


  3. Drug addicts should try to recover from their addiction before trying to address the whole drug scenario. How many times did they get the opportunity to rehabilitate? So cut the sh..t and work for your selves instead of coming up with multiple excuses. How long have you been clean since your last heroine shot? Are you even clean now? What is stopping you from becoming clean? Is it the Law?
    Its a long time Journey had shifted its focus from helping the recovery community. Their main focus now is to go where funds are available in donor agencies.
    So naturally it would be the global fund and the HIV component. CCHDC and NAP knowingly or unknowingly are part of the scam. Public would be shocked how Journey and CCHDC global fund unit are manipulating all survey results and reports. And of course Global Fund has unlimited funds according to people working on their projects. So why bother?
    Instead of stating what needs to be done to the drug problem, Journey should first start having annual general meetings as stated in its constitution. Should separate its governance and management. Is it a new good governance principle that all board members must work as staffs? Where are your members and who are you accountable to? Public should note that Journey is a NGO. Not a recovery program. Recovering addicts are following NA and it has nothing to do with Journey. So instead of taking advantage of being addicts understand that Journey is a NGO before its too late. You can't take it for granted. Slowly everything will be exposed.

  4. Maldives continues to put plaster on the wound. A wound that will continue to erupt or never even heal unless otherwise causing problems are addressed.

    Nothing happens by default and drugs and related crimes and emerging social issues are the result of ignoring what people's needs are. People must have opportunities for recreation and interaction, safety and healthy growth, advancement and spiritual development.Youth must be inspired to achieve and self actualize, belong and be individual. They need to be creative and expressive, free to dream and not filled with confusion and fear.
    Those who are holding the youth back is making a grave mistake. Those who plant fear in the mind of children and youth are the cause of disabilities that lead to our youth being victimized in the long run.

  5. pls dont tell lies,their are guys in jail that are sentence to 6 years.5 years passed from the sentence but still didnt get any chance from only for rich guys.ahmed irushad,h,redham 22years
    hav been their for five this human

  6. @ Journey member - First of all to find a solution for this matter with regard to 'affliction' to society due to drug use or abuse, lets take a look into what's happening.People involving and rightly responsible for such affliction(heads)aren't residing on the local shores.They operate from outside of course.Also some of them happen to be spouses(female) of esteemed and good family members.They use their esteemed & innocent spouses to hunt ways for them to fulfill their conspiracy theory & result in successful accomplishment in finding the market for their 'product'.Always a black-sheep in the family as the saying goes.The 'product' not only involves drugs,it is a mix of multiple major crimes,such as knife-point thefts,child abuse,blackmail propaganda's via indecent photography,blah,blah,blah.So the question in bold would be 'Can anybody stop this?'Until and unless the 'Wolf in Sheeps clothing' characters can be eliminated and such characters are quarantined from the society & work place,proper measures cannot initiate.Because such characters are well-connected at all fields of influence.

  7. Practice Islamic law and give death penalty as what Singapore does this is the only try and tested method to eradicate this disease. We have enough good people to run this county without the addicts.

  8. @ Ali

    "Practice Islamic law and give death penalty as what Singapore does this is the only try and tested method to eradicate this disease."

    I support you on this.

    NO matter what we do. This problem is going to stay unless we deal with them harshly.

    So the new recruits will think twice before jumping into this chaos called drug addiction.

    Actually I think for the time being death penalty should be imposed on those who IMPORT them and market them in our country.

    That will teach the lazy and greedy people a good lesson.


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