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Vincy Pac uncovering criminal elements

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Six foreign nationals were rounded up and another shot dead as the major anti-crime initiative “Vincy Pac” continued, and at press time, the operation was being hailed a huge success.{{more}}

SEARCHLIGHT is reliably informed that one Jamaican who overstayed his visa, two Barbadians who are people of interest in their homeland in relation to drug offences and murder, a Grenadian wanted for rape, and two St Lucian nationals who entered the country illegally were all in police custody, after they were caught in the Vincy Pac dragnet.

Additionally, on Thursday, May 21, another Barbadian man, Dwayne O’ Brian, was shot to death in Vermont, when according to police reports, shots were fired at the police when they approached the area where he was believed to be.

Two Vincentian nationals also perished during this alleged gun battle.

As he addressed the issue of foreign nationals who have been captured, Dr Gonsalves said at a press conference last Tuesday, May 26th, that it proves that every island has home grown criminals.

He said that along with the stated objectives of the operation, which includes, among other things, the capturing of foreign fugitives, eradication of marijuana, the freeing of young men held in the hills against their will, it was important that the good name of St Vincent and the Grenadines be built upon.

“St Vincent and the Grenadines has often been seen as exporting persons who have been involved in criminal activities, but people tend to forget that we send nurses and artisans,” he said.

On Thursday, May 21st, some members of the media, along with Dr Gonsalves, took a helicopter tour of the hills of St Vincent and the Grenadines to witness first hand the work of the security forces.

The burning marijuana plants and destroyed shanties bore testimony to the assault that had been launched on the marijuana industry.

After he had finished his helicopter tour, Dr Gonsalves spoke to the press briefly and dismissed the notion that the operation is a waste of time, in that the illegal farmers will simply bide their time and return to the hills.

“Well, let us see what will happen,” he said.

He said that there has never been such an operation in this country, and suggested that a similar operation conducted here, which was led by the United States in December, 1998, was done for public relations.

As for those who are concerned that the government’s move to eradicate the marijuana will have a dire effect on the economy, Dr Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT that he is convinced that if a proper cost benefit analysis is done, it will be found that marijuana “is not a benefit to the country.”

As he reiterated the importance of operation Vincy Pac, the Prime Minister, during his Tuesday, May 26th, press conference stressed again that the bulk of the marijuana farmers are part of larger criminal enterprises.

He also announced that the government will launch a “well funded” alternative sustainable livelihood project, to make sure that the young men who do not wish to go back into the illegal drug trade can make a constructive and legal living.

He highlighted one of the strategies which made it possible for police to apprehend the wanted men they claim were hiding in the hills among the marijuana farmers.

“As you flush them out of the hills, you have to do mopping up exercises elsewhere,” the Prime Minister said.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Keith Miller told SEARCHLIGHT that he is convinced that the vast majority of the Vincentian public supports Vincy Pac.

He said that the police have found “quite a bit” of weapons and have done major eradication exercises.

The top cop reminded the public that it is a criminal offence not to assist the police and even worse to assist someone to evade the authorities.

The 2002 National Drug Information Systems annual national report suggested that over 3,000 acres of land are being used to grow the illegal herb here.

The report also claims that there are about 2,500 marijuana farmers and about 90 per cent of the drugs produced here are exported.

Vincy Pac involves military personnel from the Regional Security Systems (RSS) member countries, including this country and Trinidad and Tobago.