January 23, 2009
Ambassador Ourisman returns to United States

The fight against the illicit drug trade and its bedfellow crimes must be a continued focus of the United States and the Caribbean, an important element of the relationship between the two.{{more}}

This is the view of Ambassador Mary Ourisman, who up to January 16, 2009, served as the US Ambassador to Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Speaking exclusively to SEARCHLIGHT the day before her departure from the Embassy’s Bridgetown, Barbados, headquarters, Ambassador Ourisman told SEARCHLIGHT that the drug trade is a major challenge that the US and the Caribbean must face together.

She had high praise for the work of the Vincentian law enforcement officers who confiscated a staggering US$1.6 million from a yacht “Jotobin”, on April 5, 2008.

Three men, Winston Robertson, a 65-year-old retired Bermudan sailor, and Kenneth Andrews, 38, a seaman of Trinidad and Tobago, and Vincentian Antonio “Que Pasa” Gellizeau were charged in connection with the find.

Ambassador Ourisman told SEARCHLIGHT that the case involving that money which was seized was “the first case of its kind in the region” and is a testament to St Vincent and the Grenadines’ commitment to the fight against drug trafficking.

She said that discussions which were started at the Conference on the Caribbean in Washington on June 19 and 20, 2007, will launch new initiatives as regards the United States’ assistance to the region in this fight.

She said the new initiatives will be guided by the needs identified by the various Caribbean territories, instead of the US putting in place programmes that may not be meeting the region’s needs.

She expressed disappointment that a meeting that was scheduled in Washington on December 8 and 9, 2008, to further discuss the parameters of this new initiative was cancelled by CARICOM.

Ourisman also expressed confidence that the US assistance in the fight against drugs will continue despite the change of administration.

“This is not a political issue. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether it’s (Former US President) Bush or (President) Obama,” she said.

Ambassador Ourisman also noted that the US will remain committed to assisting in the fight against the spread of HIV, saying that the assistance will be more widespread in the region.

Previously, the US concentrated on Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, in its HIV prevention outreach.

As to her replacement at the Bridgetown Embassy, Ourisman said that a replacement has not yet been named.

She explained that because there is a change in administration, especially with a change of party in the White House, the process may take a while.

Dr Brent Hardt, the Charge’d’ Affaires, will lead the Embassy in the interim.