Prevention starts at home

Second of a four-part special series on the drug scourge

Marked increase in drug abuse but a simple solution may be closer at hand

KUCHING: Everything starts at home – and Kuching Narcotics Addiction Rehabilitation Centre (Puspen) director Christopher Billy is a firm believer of this age old expression.

“It’s all about parenting,” he told New Sarawak Tribune about one of the simplest and most basic ways of tackling drug abuse.

Christopher says tackling drug abuse starts at home.

“Children need to be taught discipline and respect. Parents who are now in their 40s (with children in their teens) grew up with strict parents.

“Just discipline (your children) like how your parents disciplined you and you won’t go wrong,” he reckoned.

He admits that there are more and more inmates as each year goes by, and there are those from the interiors of Sarawak – a rare thing in the past.

With over 146 inmates – the youngest is 13 while the oldest is 55 – Christopher explained that Kuching Puspen is divided into two sections – one for young addicts who mostly came in voluntarily for a three-month programme and the other, for those ordered by the court to undergo a year or two of rehabilitation.

“This is to help them get rid of their addiction. If they are caught again once they are out, they will go to jail.”

The Cure and Care section is for young addicts, who will go through the same procedure as those in the older group. They will be given counseling, take part in sports activities, religious lessons and vocational skills.

With 86 staff under him, in which half are in the security department, Christopher said he did not have any problems with the inmates, who are free to move around the centre.

“I run it like a school and in normal circumstances, there’s bound to be one or two naughty ones so they will be disciplined,” he said, adding that he was thankful that no untoward incidents have happened at the centre.

The green house.

Every Wednesday is family day and Kuching Puspen tries its best to get the families of inmates involved as much as possible.

Christopher is thankful for the volunteers who put in a lot of effort to get the inmates to learn new skills, which may be of use to them once they are rehabilitated.

He hoped that the public would join in the fight against drug abuse. “Only then will the success rate be higher.”

It is estimated that the majority of the inmates go into relapse once they are out, and to this, Christopher said it was better for the inmates not to go back to their homes as there was a higher chance of them going back to their old destructive ways.

He believed that a fresh start was needed and this was where the community needed to play an active role “by giving them jobs and moral support”.

Although the National Anti-Drugs Agency has programmes, Christopher said they were very short-handed.

Statistics wise, he said the highest number of inmates was from Kuching, Bintulu, Miri, Serian, Samarahan and Padawan.

Chilli planted by inmates at Kuching Puspen.

Most are lowly educated and from the lower income group, feeding an extremely expensive addiction. Many are also unemployed or doing odd jobs.

The most popular illicit substance is syabu, followed by ganja and Nospan (a controlled cough narcotic).

“The inmates are usually hooked on drugs due to peer pressure, curiosity and stress.”

He said the first thing parents needed to do was to report to the authorities if they suspected their child of abusing drugs.

“It’s the only way to help them no matter how painful it is. So be alert to what your children are up to and who their friends are.”

There is a marked increase of cases involving drug abuse and drug peddling in Sarawak this year compared to the year before.

Sarawak narcotics police head Supt Sahar Abdul Latiff disclosed that his officers arrested 51 drug pushers from January to April this year compared to 41 for the whole of last year.

Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 calls for the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Under Section 39A (2), 21 individuals were arrested last year but in the first quarter of this year alone, 22 had been arrested. Section 39A (1) saw the police making 236 arrests this year.

A total of 2,063 individuals were arrested in the first quarter of this year for drug consumption compared to 1,706 for the whole of last year while under Section 12(2), a total of 717 individuals were arrested this year compared to 584 last year.

Section 12(2) carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail or 10 strokes of the rotan.

Supt Sahar urged the public to come forward should they have any information on drug activities, adding that the law would continue to pursue the drug pushers.

TOMORROW: Father of three teenage daughters worried about the influx of drugs into rural areas.