Gang wars, prostitution and an increase in crime in Fiji and Tonga has been attributed to usage of narcotics methamphetamine, which according to people on the ground is out of control.
Users and dealers spoken to by The Pacific Advocate say meth – referred to as ‘white’ or ‘ice’ – is available in every suburb of Suva, Fiji’s capital and along the tourist belt in Nadi and the Coral Coast.
The drug is also available across the Bligh Waters in Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. Jekope*, a 42 year old drug dealer who lives in a settlement outside of Suva claimed that even the police were involved in the trade.
He said most drug peddlers deal meth because the returns are high. In a special investigation into the extent of meth use, it was found that sex workers used it and also sold it.
If someone wanted to buy meth, they could simply catch a taxi and ask the driver to take them to the nearest pusher.
The meth trade has also led to a gang culture never seen in Fiji before. Recently there have been brawls and attacks involving youth from different areas. According to close sources within the police force, most of this was meth related.
Fiji’s police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho has rejected claims that authorities aren’t doing enough to quell the growing influence of hard drugs in the country.
People close to the industry said a growing number of locals cook the drug in-country, child sex workers use and sell it on the streets, and the deepening influence of narco-corruption is compromising some of the highest levels of society.
Fijian political party National Federation Party president Pio Tikoduadua released a statement claiming the use of hard drugs has spiralled out of control.
“It is obvious this government lacks the political will to tackle this issue head-on. And we wonder why the government continues to be lackadaisical about this scourge.”
Mr Qiliho hit back against Mr Tikoduadua, claiming the criticism was uncalled for and saying it diminished the hard work being done by Fijian authorities, in collaboration with the Australian Federal Police and New Zealand Police, to combat the sale and consumption of drugs like meth.
“For the National Federation Party to come up with such a statement is uncalled for, and I don’t normally react to political statements, but in this case we need to put it into perspective that government has invested a lot and so has the police force, and we don’t go around publishing this,” Mr Qiliho said.
“To say that it’s out of control, I wouldn’t say that. We do a lot of work, and if they say it’s out of control, it’s rubbishing all of the organisations… that we work together with as a region and globally to address this issue.”
“It’s not something that’s localised to Fiji. It’s a global issue that the whole world is trying to address at the moment… The small island states around us are also going through the same issues.”
The South Pacific’s booming meth trade is largely a result of its location in the middle of one of the world’s most lucrative drug corridors, which runs between East Asia and the Americas, some of the world’s biggest manufacturers of the drug, and Australia and New Zealand, the world’s highest-paying markets.
Mr Tikoduadua has claimed that in 2019 he proposed that Parliament open an “urgent inquiry” into Fiji’s hard drugs situation, and the establishment of a special parliamentary committee to holistically look into the associated risks.
The proposal was rejected at the time, he said — and in the three years since, the meth crisis and its various impacts on the economy, public health, and society at large have continued to spiral.
José Sousa-Santos, a senior fellow at the Australian Pacific Security College and the author of a February report looking at the impacts of transpacific drug trafficking, said that the escalating, catastrophic situation constituted a threat to national security.
*Name has been changed