January 4, 2013

Reports of shootings do not warrant marijuana eradication exercise: PM

Despite the recent reports of shootings that have taken place in the mountains of North Leeward, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Ralph Gonsalves says that this does not warrant another marijuana eradication exercise, such as Vincy Pac, which took place in 2009.{{more}}

“We are doing other things,” he said, adding that he was not at liberty to provide detailed information.

There is an ongoing process of eradication, however, Gonsalves explained.

“Some would like a free-for-all, but you can’t have a free-for-all,” he said during a press briefing at Cabinet Room on Wednesday.

This, he said, was the response by some to vigilant members of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.

He said some persons complained, because they were of the opinion that such officers were disrupting illegal activities.

“But remember we had a situation in Vincy Pac where non-Vincentians were going into the hills seeking to enslave Vincentians – people forget that,” Gonsalves said.

He added that some had gone as far as to mark out crown lands as their own.

“This is entirely unacceptable,” the prime minister said.

Although there was evidently a problem, Gonsalves explained that the Vincy Pac exercise had received a lot of negative feedback.

He further mentioned that an alternative livelihood programme was ongoing, but one of the issues was finding sufficient funding for the project.

“I know we borrowed $1.5 million to put towards the alternative livelihood programme surrounding agriculture and fisheries,” he explained.

But the money was yet to be administered, according to Gonsalves, but he expected Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar to present something on the project at the budget debate, which gets underway later this month.

“The problem is some people have made a significant sum doing alternative agriculture in the hills and illegal agriculture; some do not yet realise that that carries enormous risks,” Gonsalves said.

He explained that some of those risks involved not just the legal implications, but that some individuals sought to settle disputes there, as has happened before, he said.

Gonsalves also explained that there was a social problem in that those who opted to make a living in the hills often spent long periods of time in the hills which had the potential to affect their family life. (DD)