The discovery of 400 kilogrammes of high grade marijuana in a container at Caribbean Bottlers TT Ltd, continues a welcome discovery of large caches of illegal drugs in TT.
The drugs, worth $6 million, were found in 12 black duffel bags and one crocus bag behind cases of Cereza beer, which the company explained; it imports from Mexico. The find was promptly reported to the police.
Caribbean Bottlers believes that the container’s route through Jamaica might have offered an opportunity for the placement of the drugs and unequivocally denounced the activity.
This drug find follows major crackdowns by the police in Valsayn and Westmoorings, where millions in illegal drugs were seized and the scale of trade in cocaine and marijuana was revealed.
In January, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley publicly noted the concerns of the United States about the quality and diligence of security at our ports of commercial entry.
The conversation about scanners at the port has been going on for four years and in April, a ribbon was finally held and cut by the Minister of Finance, former Minister of National Security and Minister of Trade and Industry to formally launch the deployment of Vehicle and Cargo Inspection X-ray scanners at the Point Lisas Port.
Deployment at the Port of Spain port was supposed to follow but their use was opposed by PSA president Watson Duke.
This new container find calls into question the quality of the implementation of these devices as a critical security measure.
Are these scanners being used diligently? Is the training of local operators up to the required international standard?
The US Customs and Border Protection Agency has a Caribbean Basin Initiative which sees the entire archipelago of islands as a whole for defensive security measures against the trafficking of illegal drugs, guns and ammunition.
It’s clearly sensible to view the Caribbean region as a unified presence with common issues and shared challenges in managing border security instead of as isolated nations each tasked with meeting co-ordinated intrusions and breaches managed by organised criminals.
As far back as November 2014, CARIFORUM, the regional subset of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States to which this country is a signatory, entered a financing agreement with the European Union to strengthen regional border controls, prisons reform and anti-terrorism initiatives.
The Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, which received EU$3.3 million in 2016, is supposed to lead this multi-faceted, co-operative approach to criminal investigation and border control.
TT must take appropriate steps to control its borders, but Caricom must also step up its efforts to push for more co-ordination in drug, arms and human trafficking cases which affect the entire region.