By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- The French government is assisting the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force in the fight against narcotics-trafficking.
Last Friday, CIFAD, a training partner based in Martinique, concluded a workshop for officers. Course participants are now certified in “boarding and searching of vessels.”
Lead facilitator François Blin says this skill is vital in the fight against the smuggling and distribution of illegal drugs in the region. He noted many similarities in the challenges confronting both Martinique and Saint Lucia in policing the borders of these islands.
“Yes we have lots of problems concerning the drug at sea because each island is so close that the traffickers can go quickly from one to another one and so we have to fight together, we can't do it alone and we have to put in function a network. And the network passes through people who are involved in this who are the officers in France, in Martinique and in St Lucia of course,” he said.
Saint Lucia commissioner of police, Vernon Francois
Meanwhile, Saint Lucia Police Commissioner Vernon Francois said the police are cracking down on trafficking activities involving Saint Lucia, Martinique and St Vincent.
“What we have realized in Saint Lucia is some sort of a triangular trade where you find household items are being stolen off Saint Lucia, transported via canoe to St Vincent where it is exchanged for drugs (marijuana). This is taken to Martinique where there is more often than not an exchange for firearms because, as you are aware, Martinique is part of the European Union so there is this free movement so it is generally easier for the firearms to come in through Martinique and so the drugs come into Saint Lucia, that is what we have noticed,” Francois said.
The police commissioner said, as a result, the government of Saint Lucia, particularly through its law enforcement arm, has continued to work closely with neighbouring authorities to ensure individuals involved in such activity are caught and brought to justice.
Saint Lucia is currently prohibited by the terms of what is commonly referred to as the “Leahy Law” from receiving security-related assistance from the US.
The so-called Leahy Law, named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, is a US human rights law that prohibits assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.
Saint Lucia thus joined Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan, whose security forces have been denied assistance by virtue of the Leahy Law.
Prime Minister Kenney Anthony has indicated that the prohibition under the Leahy Law is grounded in the killing of 12 individuals by security forces in Saint Lucia in 2010 and 2011.