Zaky Pawas, Bayu Marhaenjati & Vento Saudale
Indonesia’s illicit drug trade has reached staggering levels, with the latest measurements putting the industry’s annual value at Rp 42.8 trillion ($4.5 billion) as the country’s drug users continue to increase in number, officials said on Tuesday.
There are 3.8 million to 4.2 million illicit drug users in Indonesia, National Narcotics Agency (BNN) head Gories Mere said in a speech marking International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, citing a survey conducted at the end of 2011.
Twenty-two percent of those drug users were students, he said. Young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 were the ones with the highest usage rates, with 4.41 percent of that demographic reportedly using illegal drugs. Working-class Indonesians now make up 70 percent of the country’s illicit drug users as the growing local market reaches 2.2 percent of the total population, the BNN chief said.
Indonesians have also been implicated in international drug trafficking rings, with 736 Indonesians now awaiting sentencing for such charges overseas.
“There are also 83 Indonesians who have received a life sentence for being involved in drug cases abroad,” Gories said.
Recently, eight Indonesians were arrested for smuggling 1.5 tons of heroin into Portugal by sea.
Gories said Indonesia would tolerate neither drug trafficking overseas nor dealing narcotics at home.
“We continue to work together with our counterparts in foreign countries like China, Taiwan and Bulgaria as well as multilateral cooperations regionally and globally,” he said.
Vice President Boediono claimed that drug offenders had committed crimes against humanity.
“Drug crimes must be eradicated, but we must do it systematically, in a coordinated, comprehensive way, which requires commitment from all sides,” the vice president said.
He also said Indonesia’s fight against drugs must be aggressive, advocating building of more drug rehabilitation centers.
“If buyers decline, it will be more difficult for [drug] syndicates to market their illicit goods,” he said.
“The entire education system must also participate actively to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs to students. We must also not forget about informing the public through a media campaign.”
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently recorded a tripling of amphetamine-smuggling cases and a doubling of marijuana- and heroin-smuggling cases in Indonesia in 2011 from 2010.
One of the biggest drug raids in recent years came this month with the discovery of a container filled with 351 kilograms of methamphetamine, the street value of which is estimated at Rp 702 billion. The police raided the container as soon as it left North Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Port.
The Jakarta Police on Tuesday questioned customs officials and inspection officials who were stationed at the port.
“Investigators are questioning Kurnia Saktiono,” said Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto, referring to a senior port official. “The questions revolved around how [the methamphetamines] could go unnoticed at the port.”
Police earlier arrested five people in the case, questioning 16 witnesses in total.
Earlier, Gories said cutting the supply chain and putting drug users through rehab was more effective than the threatening potential offenders with lengthy jail terms or the death penalty.
Fifty-eight drug convicts are on death row in Indonesia, but the specter of execution does not seem to be deterring other would-be users and smugglers.
Drug dealers have also been known to operate from within Indonesia’s prisons, while drug users in jail frequently become more addicted as narcotics are often traded freely inside correctional facilities.
The latest arrest came on Tuesday in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, where a drug dealing inmate identified only as A.M. was arrested for running a drug dealing syndicate from within Balikpapan penitentiary
His arrest led to the discovery of 1 kilogram of methamphetamine, estimated to worth Rp 3 billion, inside his jail cell.
This is A.M.’s third offense, the Balikpapan Police said. The man is serving a 12-year jail term for selling drugs and could face the death penalty if he is convicted in this case.
Politicians and activists have recently questioned Indonesia’s commitment to fighting narcotics in the wake of a presidential clemency granted to Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby.
The decision is being challenged in court by the National Anti-Drug Movement (Granat).