President Jokowi says war on drugs will go on, “no mercy” for drug traffickers

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged not to relent in his war on drugs, saying that the country’s narcotics problem required “serious and urgent measures.”

Jokowi said drug abuse was harming the health of Indonesians and in the long run could undermine the country’s competitiveness.

“There’s no other choice for us but to wage war on drugs,” Jokowi was quoted by Antara News as saying in a speech marking the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Friday.

“The drug crime is a an extraordinary and serious crime, especially because it’s transnational and organized, so it’s a real threat that requires serious and urgent measures,” the president said.

Jokowi said 4.1 million Indonesians have become drug addicts this year and that material losses were estimated at 63 trillion rupiah (4.7 billion dollars).

He called for increased prevention and rehabilitation efforts as well as stricter law enforcement.

“Arrest and take firm action against drug kingpins, traffickers and other big players and have no mercy,” he said.

Indonesia has executed 14 drug convicts this year, including 12 foreigners.

French national Serge Atlaoui is among drug convicts who will face firing squad in the next round of executions after his last-ditch appeal was rejected this week, the Attorney General’s office said.

No date has been set for the next round of executions.

Indonesia’s use of the death penalty for drug offences has been criticized by rights groups, the European Union and the United Nations.

Jokowi has repeatedly said that about 50 people die every day because of drug abuse, citing data from the National Narcotics Agency.

However some experts have questioned the validity of the statistics and raised concerns about the use of questionable methods in data collection.

In an open letter published in leading health journal The Lancet, a group of Indonesian experts urged Jokowi to end the use of the death penalty for drug trafficking.

A researcher at Atmajaya University’s HIV and AIDS Research Center, Irwanto, said the group was concerned that the government had used the estimates as the basis for its drug policy without providing sufficient opportunity for independent peer review.

“Obtaining valid estimates of drug use is not an easy, direct process and we need to make sure that national policies are based on evidence that is thoroughly peer-reviewed and transparent,” Irwanto was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post earlier this month.

“Each human life matters. Productive human lives may be compromised by misguided policies,” he said.

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