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The report of a pilot and two flight attendants testing positive for controlled substances is disturbing.

It raises questions about the safety of our airlines and the professional code of conduct of crewmembers. The crewmembers may be grounded but not without the incident raising suspicions about airport security and safety.

When a pilot is flying the national airline high on drugs, he is not only risking the lives of everyone on board, but also putting at stake the lives of those who depend on the tourism industry.

Flight attendants, who are claimed to be ambassadors for being the first point of contact to visitors, on drugs while on duty, sully the image of the national carriers and the country.

But the issue here is beyond brands. It is about the safety of the passengers. It is about the abuse of controlled substances, which is already rampant on the ground and may now be as prevalent on air. This may be the first reported incident but that does not rule out the possibility of such incidents having occurred in the past.

We have had cases of rifle bullets being mistaken as coins and surveillance cameras being defunct at the airport. Today, we have crewmembers flying in on drugs. There is little doubt then that crewmembers may also be involved in bringing home supplies of contraband substances.

The civil aviation authority and the narcotics control agency claim that they are still investigating the case. Their refusal to share information to the public is not helping gain public trust or in allaying the fear that has caught the imagination of the people. It is sad that the information and communications minister is not aware about the ‘details’ of the case just as he wasn’t of the bullets.

What does this tell the people about our policymakers and authorities that are expected to be aware of things happening in their organisations?  Such positions reek of complacency and raises concerns of competency.

The drug test was a random one but an important coincidence. Of the 78 crewmembers, three tested positive. The government may argue that the number is too small for it to be consequential. The minister has said that no penalties will be imposed on the crewmembers since the test was conducted for the first time.

We find this position, coming from a Cabinet member, utterly unacceptable.

Even if it is just one case, such behaviour at work that risks the lives of hundreds must not be tolerated.  We expect our airlines to have the highest standards in terms of safety if not service. The least they could do is to ensure that public trust in the airlines is maintained. The civil aviation authority must strengthen safety and airport security to ensure that controlled substances are not flown in.

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