Editorial Comment – Drug link concern

Chairperson for National Security and Defence Review Committee Timoci Natuva with the chief guest PS of the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Rescources Malakai Finau and stakeholders at the opening of the 2nd Border Agency Cirdinations Workshop at Holiday Inn Suva. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

In September 2016, a United Nations report suggested that the Pacific was increasingly used as a transit point for drug trafficking.
It mentioned the vulnerability of the region to exploitation by transnational organised crime.
Inshik Sim, the UN Office on Drugs Crime analyst at the time, said methamphetamine and precursor chemicals from Asia, and cocaine from the Americas, were trafficked to and through Pacific Island countries en route to Australia and New Zealand, and other destinations.
The report suggested there was evidence of what it termed ‘spillover’ of illicit drugs into Pacific Island countries and mentioned that these countries did not have the infrastructure or programs to deal with illicit drug use.
The report identified some factors that facilitated illicit transnational activities around the region.
Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific then, said the Pacific was increasingly integrated and connected with other regions, especially Asia and also the Americas.Connecting with the rest of the world, he said then, could be positive from a development perspective, but it also meant that the region was more susceptible to accompanying crime and security challenges.
That report comes to mind in the wake of Timoci Natuva, the director general for our National Security and Defence Review Committee, suggesting Fiji may possibly be the staging point for drug dealers targeting other countries.
The committee, he said, was trying to make new laws and policies to ensure our borders remain safe.
In April this year, The Guardian reported that the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s fourth National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report showed an overall increase in illicit drug consumption around Australia.
That’s when it was compared with the previous report.
Three tonnes of cocaine, and more than 700kg of heroin, it reported, were consumed in Australia between August 2016 and August 2017, while more than eight tonnes of methamphetamine were shot up, smoked or snorted.
The massive figures are worrying the powers that be there.
But it is when you factor in Mr Natuva’s statement about Fiji being a transit point that the worry shifts down to us as well.
To fight this, he reckons we need an integrated approach between different border agency stakeholders to safeguard the nation.
It is good to know we are working with INTERPOL, New Zealand Defence, Customs and Immigration, Australian Defence, in a regional approach of sharing of information.
However, Mr Natuva also noted issues that must be addressed to strengthen our border security.
We hope they will be considered with some urgency.

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