Culture of accommodation perpetuates illicit drug trafficking, SVG Health Minister

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)…St Vincent and the Grenadines, Minister of Health and the Environment, the Hon Dr Douglas Slater on Tuesday asserted that the Caribbean had a culture of accommodation that perpetuated illicit drug use and trafficking.

Dr Slater told more than forty participants at the launch of the first sub-regional workshop for the development of national anti-drug strategies and plans that in many countries, including St Vincent and the Grenadines, the proverbial ‘blind eye’ has been turned where drug trafficking was concerned. This was so, he said, because of the ill-gotten gains that persons in ‘high places’ were deriving from the trade.

The four-day training intervention which opened on Tuesday morning in Kingstown is supported by the European Union under the 9th EDF programme. It has brought together practitioners from The Bahamas, Belize and St Vincent and the Grenadines to develop for their countries ant-drug strategies and plans.

Minister Slater who gave feature remarks commended the CARICOM Secretariat for what he called ‘a long awaited step in the right direction.’ He lamented that great investment of social, economic and political capital had been injected in the fight against illicit drugs, yet those investments had reaped very little returns as the drug trade seemingly continued to flourish.

He argued that the trade flourished because of rank indiscipline within the society, ineffective drug fighting strategies, weak governance, coupled by a culture of accommodation and a spiral of silence.

In outlining direct and indirect social and physical consequences of substance abuse, Dr Slater said chaos would reign in the Caribbean region if governments did not act quickly and ‘rein in’ the situation. He recommended the development of workable and sustainable policies and strategies as one appropriate response to the problem, but asserted that greater political will and less accommodation to the issues were also critical.

Notwithstanding, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Health Minister expressed optimism that after years of challenges in combating the thriving drug trade, there seemed to be new impetus to tackling the problem by adopting a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary approach. He said that in the past drug abuse and illicit trafficking was seen as a health problem; and while focus had been placed primarily on interdiction on the supply side, no priority had been given to drug demand reduction. With the acknowledgement that drug abuse was now a development problem and that it was the health of the region and not just individual health that was stake, “we may just get it right this time,” the Minister asserted.

“There is political will; there is technical capability; there is a need and we have to find the way – the way is the strategy,” he concluded.

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