Fri, 04 May 2001

No ecstasy in solving drug problems: Surjadi

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia now has the notorious distinction of being a drug exporting country, particularly in the illegal production and distribution of ecstasy pills.

Minister of Home Affairs and Regional Autonomy Surjadi Soedirdja said on Thursday that Jakarta has received complaints from several countries urging the government to crack down on contraband activities.

Speaking to journalists after a coordinating meeting on welfare affairs at the vice president's office, Surjadi admitted that production of the illicit drugs had reached an alarming level.

"Some countries have complained about this because the effects of the Indonesian pills are said to be more intense, but also more dangerous, than others," Surjadi remarked without further elaboration.

The minister also admitted that the government's steps to minimize drug abuse in the country has not succeeded in denting the rising number of drug abusers, which has spread throughout all age groups and professions.

"Many organizations have tried to reduce the rising number of drug abusers, but success of the efforts compared to the increasing cases shows that they have not been effective enough," Surjadi said.

"In the meeting, the Vice President demanded effective efforts be instigated to cope with the problem, particularly preventive measures," he remarked.

However, Surjadi remarked that the meeting had not yet decided upon concrete steps to tackle widespread drug abuse.

"As we all know the spread of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)/AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) cases will follow the narcotics problem. According to statistics four provinces -- Irian Jaya, Jakarta, Bali and Riau -- have a high numbers of AIDS cases," Surjadi said.

National Drugs Coordination Board (BKNN) Chairman Comr. Gen. Ahwil Luftan said Indonesia produces many types of ecstasy pills, as most ingredients for the mood-enhancing hallucinogenic are easily found here.

"The pills' ingredients can be found anywhere and only needs a pharmacist's assistant to formulate the drug. Here, they mix the main substance of amphetamine with many chemical substances," Ahwil said.

The government is currently working on an amendment to the narcotics law that will impose a death penalty for those found in possession of a determined amount of substances.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has been discussing the revisions since last year.

Another measure that could be included is stricter control of certain chemical imports conducted by pharmaceutical factories across the country.

"We need to strengthen our efforts in dealing with drugs and increase social awareness of the problem," Ahwil remarked. (dja)