October 30, 2014

Guyana relentless in drug trafficking fight

By Jasmaine Payne

Despite the need for increased international support from larger countries to fight the global issue of drug trafficking, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee has assured that the government of Guyana remains relentless in its fight at the national level.

 Speaking at the opening ceremony of the First National Conference on Narcotics Trafficking, held at the Grand Coastal Inn, Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara on Thursday, the home affairs minister said it is clear that smaller countries cannot deal with tackling the issue alone. In specific relation to Guyana, Rohee said that increased provision of financial and technical support by the international community is essential to help Guyana overcome constrains faced in dealing with the issue.

 “It is the government’s view that there should have been greater multilateral, financial, technical and intelligence cooperation in the 2005-2009 National Drug Strategy master plan, but this was not the case,” Rohee said. Despite this limitation, however, he explained, the government has still been able to successfully implement strategies under four major areas in tackling drug trafficking: supply control, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, and institutional and managerial framework. As a result, the plan for a new Drug Strategy master plan has already commenced, and will aim at intensifying activities to tackle drug trafficking at a strategic level, provide comprehensive training for service providers, develop a national protocol, and find fail-safe mechanisms to ensure that narcotics trafficking is effectively controlled.

 Rohee stated that Guyana’s geographical location is critical when assessing international drug trading routes. “Guyana forms a bridge between South America and the Caribbean, where drug trafficking peaks,” he said, noting that this makes the challenges that Guyana faces in regard to the issue sometimes overwhelming. Moreover, it is common knowledge that the proceeds from drug trafficking are often channelled into other activities, such as money laundering and terrorism, making it all the more critical that drug trafficking be tackled from every possible angle.

 Still on the note of challenges, Rohee stated that the issue of drug trafficking is a very costly one. He revealed that Guyana has spent almost Gy$900 million in efforts to tackle the problem this year. He said that Guyana’s focus lies in building appropriate institutional structures and capacities, but  these can in no way be compared to what obtains in developed countries, which themselves have all been devising strategies to deal with drug trafficking and its consequences, he said. Rohee reiterated that the drug problem cannot be limited to borders. “Only an international response to an international problem can ensure that it is effective”, he said. He called on nations to implement strategies at bilateral and multilateral levels to effectively combat problems.

 Guyana, he said, has for some years been actively involved in devising bilateral strategies to fight the drug trade, and has developed such relations with Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname – its immediate neighbours — to fight drug trafficking. Guyana has also fully participated in several international events that have been convened to deal with the issue. The country is also a signatory to three major international treaties on drugs and crime, Rohee said. These are the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the Convention against the Illicit Trafficking of Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

 These apart, Rohee stated, the government also continues to wrestle with drug trafficking through the implementation of new laws. These include the recently implemented Anti Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Act and the Interception of Communications Act. He also praised law enforcement agencies like CANU and the Guyana Police Force for their efforts in the battle. “The (police) force, as of November 15, 2010, eradicated 63 marijuana farms, amounting to 142,656 kilograms of the drug at a cost of US$60 million,” he said.

 Rohee stated that Guyana’s zero tolerance policy on drugs must be seen against the backdrop of the intervention strategies that have been implemented. He stated that all these efforts also address the need for increasing international support. “While many challenges still exist, we are confident that the battle is not lost,” he concluded. The National Conference on Narcotics Trafficking included representatives from the United States Southern Command, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and other local stakeholders, including representatives from the Guyana Defence Force, Guyana Police Force, Guyana Revenue Authority and other bodies.