The internet has provided us with easy access to information on the dark side of island society. Although still shocked, I vividly remember that It was on the boat from Koror to Peleliu more than 10 years ago when Hon Kuniwo Nakamura told me that most children of Peleliu had experienced marijuana.
I was once invited by the Japanese Parliament special committee to present a few lectures, and explain the dark side including all kinds of transnational crimes in the Pacific Islands. Next month I have been invited by a Japanese news company to present a lecture again on the darkness of Islands and Chinese erosion in the region to an audience of over 100 people.
In 2017 I was suddenly fired by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation where I had worked for 26 years. Many of my Palauan friends were surprised and invited me to visit them. Palau is very special for me in many ways. One of them is Hon Nakamura who has always encouraged me to keep heading up and strengthen the role of Japan for the Pacific region.
I was invited by Hon Nakamura for lunch and we spoke for more than two hours. I thought it would be the last time to visit Palau and say thank you and goodbye.
However, Hon Nakamura gave me some new homework, which is the help cease the drug problem of the children in Palau. It was more than shocking as he explained “Rieko, Marijuana is ok, but ICE is not ok for kids. Tasukete-yo”.
Hon Nakamura said that many small islands need marijuana as an earning but not ICE which is methamphetamine that destroys the brain and one’s whole life. It comes in from the Philippines and China.
In Japan, I spoke to many drug experts and found that rather than trying to stop the use, it is better to create activities for children to spend their time well.
It for with this perspective that I planned a children’s painting competition along with Jennifer Anson who supports kids with Judo and Shigeyoshi Takano who is the founder of Judo in Palau.
However, the drug problem in Palau is more serious than a painting competition, as Island Times recently revealed in one of the articles.
Again, I was shocked by rumors over the years that the family members of many Palauan leaders had been involved in drug circles.
Now I understand why the Hon Kuniwo Nakamura asked for my help to solve the drug problems in Palau. It is only people from the outside who can write and take action, because the reality causes too much pain and hurt in Palau society.
Dr. Rieko Hayakawa is working on her 2nd PhD (Intl Ocean Law) at Doshisha University in Kyoto. Her first PhD (ICT4Development) is from Otago Uni in NZ. She has launched Micronesia sea surveillance project, as well as proposed Indo-Pacific vision and maritime security concept for Abe administration. She is currently a Sec. Gen of Palau Judo Kids Support Circle.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article belong to the contributing author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Island Times editorial board and staff.