On 16 January, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said that studies from a curfew, enforced on juveniles in Iceland, could be replicated in Malaysia, to try and curb drug-related incidents among those under 18.
A curfew will not work. In small towns, outside Ipoh, and perhaps elsewhere, glue sniffers do it on their way home, from school. A night time curfew will not stop these children. Some drug pushers ply their trade just outside the school gates.
Who will enforce the curfew on children? Parents? Some don’t even know where their children are in the early hours of the morning. Some are not aware their children have “ponteng” school. The police are overworked, fighting crime, and minding social media to arrest people who criticise the royalty.
Moreover, one cannot outsource parenting to the government. Wan Azizah should tackle the root causes of drug taking in children. Make education a priority. Tell parents to take an interest in their children’s welfare. Try birth control, if they feel they cannot afford to care for more children responsibly.
In some areas, parents have a lackadaisical and tidak-apa attitude towards education. Children lack aspiration when their own parents lack the motivation to empower themselves.
Wan Azizah should advise parents to discipline their children and take sole responsibility for their children’s behaviour. Fathers should be good role models for their sons. Parents should ban their sons from racing their bicycles or kapcais.
How do children get access to drugs?
It is alleged that some children take drugs because they are easily available. Hook a child on drugs, and he becomes a regular source of income for the drug pusher. Not only city areas are targeted. Children in rural areas, and Felda estates, fall prey to them, too.
Others allege that some children take drugs to forget a personal trauma. Perhaps, coping with the death of a loved one. Or seeing their mothers abandoned by their father, for a younger woman. The mother takes on two or three jobs, to feed her family. There is no father figure to instil discipline. No-one supervises the children. Who knows what they get up to when no parent is at home?
In some Felda areas, children take drugs because they feel that there is no hope in their lives. School is boring or tedious. No-one forces them to finish their studies. The future appears bleak. Drug taking makes them forget their woes, and children turn to petty theft to fund their addiction.
In 2017, Gedangsa chief settler, 62-year-old Sahrom Hashim, told FMT that the youths would also drink ketum water to get a high. He said, “They go deep into the oil palm estate to take the drugs. When the estate workers finish for the day, about 5pm or 6pm, the addicts will go in and stay there until sunset.”
What about parental discipline?
Some parents find it difficult to instil discipline in their children. Remember the teenager, Aminulrasyid Amzah, who was shot and killed by police in Shah Alam, a few years ago? He had taken his sister’s car for a joy ride.
A few years ago, several children were killed while racing their bicycles along a major road in Jobore Baru. A young woman driving her car, suddenly found herself surrounded by several hundred spectators and bicycle racers.
If the children had been at home, in bed, these tragedies could have been avoided. Do they not have school in the morning? Is this known as modern parenting?
A curfew may work in Iceland, but probably not in Malaysia
Although Wan Azizah and members of the committee on the Eradication of Drugs are seriously considering a ban on children’s movements at night, she confirmed that the Icelandic curfew may prove difficult to emulate, because of our 24-hour mamak stalls.
So, why don’t we restrict mamak stalls to more social hours?
Currently, one can find children, some as young as seven, with their friends, socialising in mamak stalls, in the early hours of the morning. They do not appear to be with their parents, or another adult.
Factories, the police, hospitals or other large firms with night shift workers, usually have canteens to cater for their staff. People who finish at midnight normally return home, to eat, and sleep.
The climate is another factor. A curfew may work in Iceland, because if you stay out for too long, after 10 pm, in winter, you may freeze to death; whereas Malaysia has mild weather.
The committee needs to go back to the drawing board, for a more viable solution. For starters, ask the children why they take drugs. Provide them with after school activities, or youth clubs. Drug pushers should be severely punished and the supply chain broken.
Children may be dissuaded from taking drugs if they are aware that those who are found with small quantities of drugs are rewarded with a harsh prison sentence. They would realise that the juice is not worth the squeeze.