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Drug traffickers and other criminal elements have been given the heads up by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves; he made it clear to them that they are being watched!

The Prime Minister was making reference to the “C-26” flight operations run by the Regional Security Systems (RSS), when he addressed the opening ceremony of the RSS’s Security Chiefs’ Meeting last Monday 26 at the conference room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kingstown.{{more}}

Commissioners of Police, heads of defense forces and other security personnel from the seven RSS member states gathered in St. Vincent for a two-day meeting where, among other things, they received reports from the various divisions of their operations and discussed security strategies for the upcoming Cricket World Cup 2007.

Stressing the continuous need to keep adjusting the role of the RSS, Prime Minister Gonsalves recalled the reasoning for the formation of the RSS, which was to help maintain political stability within the region. He suggested that his name may have been on the original files of the security arm of the RSS. He reiterated that the region faces new challenges including trafficking in illegal drugs, small arms and people, along with money laundering, among others.

As he spoke to the contingent of lawmen, Prime Minister Gonsalves said that drug traffickers and other criminal elements are surprised when they are confronted by law enforcement personnel as they use their “go fast boats’ to conduct their activities but revealed that the “C-26” operation gathers the necessary intelligence, including their coordinates, which lead to their capture.

The Prime Minister boasted that intelligence gleaned from the C-26 operation leads to an over 50% rate of apprehension, detention and arrest of suspects. When he spoke to SEARCHLIGHT after the opening ceremony, RSS’s Coordinator Grantley Watson said that the C-26 operation is capable of fulfilling its role but it is not fully utilized. He blamed varying levels of intelligence capability within the member states for this disparity in usage.

The C-26 programme was originally funded by the United States but now the member states of the RSS are fully funding the Bds$3 million annual budget. This US pull-out was due to the decision of Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ not to sign on the Article 98 waver of the International Criminal Court. The waver would exempt the US from persecution in the court. A total withdrawal of military assistance was America’s response to this decision taken by the Caribbean states.

Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves was in a combative mood as he urged the security chiefs to work together as they “narrow the space in which the criminals operate,” further adding “the vagabonds must have no area in which they could function.” He also condemned the actions of law enforcement officers who allow themselves to be bought by these criminal elements. Describing these officers as a “very, very small minority” the Prime Minister said that they don’t belong in law enforcement. He declared that they must be stamped out!

Dr. Gonsalves also expressed concern over the benign personality that is accredited to such criminals because of the various gifts or financial contributions they may make to their various communities. He made it clear that despite these “kind” acts they are in fact not folk heroes and are, rather, purveyors of a criminal culture and have no respect for life.