Excerpt from The Guardian
In the early hours of a Saturday morning in the city of Nadi, on the west coast of Fiji’s main island, Isaiah* is sitting in a Burger King drinking Fanta through a straw and explaining how he became a drug dealer.
He started five years ago, aged 13, selling cigarettes and marijuana. Now he sells cocaine and methamphetamines.
“My family were selling drugs in Suva,” he says. “They said there would be a time when me and my cousins would take over. We start training, training, training.”
Isaiah inhabits Fiji’s underbelly, far removed from the tourist trail of white sand beaches dotted with coconut palms. Here, away from the five-star resorts and snorkelling safaris, police are reckoning with an explosion in the domestic use of what they call “white drugs” – cocaine and methamphetamines – which until a few years ago were almost unheard of in the country.
For Isaiah, drugs have become a way of life. After his family broke down when he was 10 he spent six years sleeping rough on the streets of the capital, Suva, where he fell in with a gang. Now he is the one doing the training, teaching boys as young as 11 how to deal drugs.
“I’m the youngest of the dealers in Fiji, the youngest and the strongest,” he boasts. “I’m not worried about going to jail, I’m not scared of anyone. If you want to threaten me I’ll fuck you up,” he says, in a sort of general threat to the world.
He tells the Guardian that he can now make between FJD$5,000 (£1,800) and $10,000 (£3,500) in a day, in a country where the minimum wage is$2.86. Fiji’s national drug advisory council says meth, which is more widespread in the country than cocaine, costs between FJD$700 and $1,000 (£255-£365) a gram.
“It’s good money, I’m getting high, having fun,” he says. “When I have the dope, I can get anything I want.”
Across the table, Lisa*, 26, whom Isaiah describes as his surrogate stepmother, says that for her drugs are not about enjoyment, but survival. She explains she takes meth and cocaine to help with health issues, including back pain and panic attacks.
Lisa has two children, the youngest of whom is two. She is also a sex worker, an occupation that is illegal in Fiji.
“Ice helps me so I don’t have sickness; I had panics and back pain,” she says. “Some people say, ‘Why are you using this?’ I’m using this for my safety and my life; I’m looking after my kids.”
Law enforcement says increased domestic drug use in Fiji, as well as in other Pacific nations such as Tonga and Samoa, has been fuelled by a combination of factors: growing economies, booming tourist industries and the fact these countries lie on a transnational drug shipping route.
Source: The Guardian