12 July 1998
The Drug Summit special session of the United Nations General Assembly
last month was a disappointment. It was attended only by some 31 heads of state and
heads of government out of a possible 185.
The session was held to mark the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention
Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and it was
also tasked to assess the international drug problem posed by the increasing illicit
use of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and developing a strategy based not just
on curbing the supply of these substances but rather on achieving a balanced approach
towards reduction of both of supply and demand.
Except for presidents Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac there were hardly any other
international heavyweights attending the special session. What was conspicuous was
the presence of the 20 heads of government or state from Latin America and the Caribbean
which was well rioted and quite momentous for the summit organisers.
Asia and Africa were represented by low-level leaders. The absence of Nelson Mandela,
Hosni Mubarak, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Jiang Zemin and Ryutaro Hashimoto were noted
and missed. Of the 185 member nations, only 152 countries bothered to send representatives
while 33 designated only their permanent representatives.
We were represented by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Tajol Rosli Ghazali.
Tajul, in his seven-minute speech, told the summit: "The Malaysian government
has, for the last few months, embarked on the process of developing further our vision
to create a drug-free nation by the year 2023. A timespan of 25 years or roughly
one generation is our target for realising this vision.
"To achieve this objective, we believe first in the creation of a drug-free
generation. Programmes and strategies are being developed, including a comprehensive
demand reduction programme starting with the smallest unit of the family, moving
on to schools, work places, village communities, the various districts and states
and, finally, the nation as a whole.
"By the year 2023, we envisage the emergence of a whole drug-free generation
nationwide. Admittedly, this is an ambitious vision. However, it is not just a rhetorical
proposal. We aim for it to be a serious, comprehensive and workable long-term strategy.
We are convinced that it is achievable and we are determined to achieve it."
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, in his message to the summit, said that every
nation is affected by the scourge of drugs and that there are today 21 million victims
around the world who abuse cocaine and heroine and another 30 million who abuse amphetamine
Countries that used to be classified as drug producing must now also deal with drug
Sounding rather optimistic, the secretary-general, stated: "I hope real progress
towards eliminating drug crops will be achieved by the year 2008." A good 15
years ahead of us; may be a bit unrealistic. Some observers are of the opinion that
it is too soon. However, let us not be too soon to accent on this melancholy conclusion!
The question being asked (and high time too) is: What is the private sector doing
or what can it do to help combat the worldwide scourge in illicit drug trafficking?.
Tajol-did allude to the fact that Malaysia includes the private sector in its ongoing
campaigns against drug abuses. The moot point is: how serious is the private sector