July 2, 2010
Coastal radar system in drug fight

The state is taking the fight against drug trafficking and money laundering to another level and has commissioned an advanced coastal surveillance radar system.{{more}}

A ceremony was held at the Coast Guard Base, Calliaqua, on Friday, June 25, 2010, to mark the successful installation and integration of the new surveillance radar system.

The authorities present at the event stated that it will also come in handy for search and rescue operations.

National Security Advisor, Sir Vincent Beache, in his presentation, mentioned that the project was conceptualised in 2006 to deal specifically with trans-national crime. He said in October 2006, a few months after requesting help from Trinidad and Tobago, that country gave a positive response and by April 2007 made a formal response that it would fund the coastal surveillance radar system which cost US$3,282,700.

He said the infrastructural development was, however, funded by St.Vincent and the Grenadines at a cost of EC$980,000.

The systems are are located at Belmont, Roseau, and at Kingstown, with its command centre located at the Coast Guard Base, Calliaqua.

Sir Vincent stated that to make the system more effective, the state will be purchasing three highpowered interceptor crafts from Professional Power Craft, Malaysia. He also disclosed that the state will construct a coast guard base on Canouan and has already received US$1.8 million from the US Government to beef up its marine security.

The surveillance system will also be expanded to St.Lucia and Grenada.

Sir Vincent also dealt with the issue of drug traffickers purporting to be fishermen when they are caught.

“One of the things that I always find difficult to accept, although I have to accept it, relates to when we have persons who go out to run drugs get into trouble, they take out their fishing gear and they suddenly become fishermen,” said Beache. He said its also difficult when the Coast Guard has to rescue these people when they encounter difficulty at sea.

According to the veteran politician, small countries, such as St.Vincent and the Grenadines, find it difficult to combat national crimes on its own, much less trans-national crimes.

He said the authorities are confronted by smart criminals who network and have the necessary financial resources to buy better ammunition than governments can.

The former political leader of the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP) lauded the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for its contribution in setting up the initiative.

“In our own case, we could not have done this without the assistance of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago…When we approached the Government of Trinidad and Tobago we were somewhat surprised at the speed with which they replied,” said Beache.

The commissioning was attended by Commissioner of Police Keith Miller, Director of the Maritime Administration David Robin, Commander Hayden Prichard of Trinidad and Tobago, Acting Prime Minister Sir Louis Straker, and Chief Petty Officer Vinton John.