AUGUST 8, 2001

Mr. Chairman, Hon. K.D. Knight, Minister of National Security and Justice, Hon. John Junor, Minister of Health, Executive Secretary and representatives of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), Dr. Charles Thesiger, Chairman of the National Council on Drug Abuse, distinguished delegates,

I am pleased that the CICAD has chosen Jamaica as the venue for this important meeting of the Group of Experts on Demand Reduction.

Let me extend a warm and cordial welcome to our visitors. I hope that you will find it possible to enjoy the splendor of the Ritz Carlton and sample some of the exquisite delights, which this alluring city has to offer.

I am confident, that if your demanding agenda does not allow you to take full advantage of this visit, you will be sufficiently enticed to return in the very near future.

The problems of illegal drug use and trafficking have taken on enormous proportions globally over the last five (5) decades. Drug abuse has soared to frightening heights. International drug cartels with exceedingly large profits, have created a global network, spanning every continent.

200 million addicts constitute a tremendous market, which is rapidly expanding.

The international drug trade has now become a pernicious global empire - with its absolute contempt for national boundaries, it seeks to undermine the authority of sovereign Governments; to destroy venerable institutions; to corrupt administrations and public officials; to erode confidence and create a general feeling of hopelessness.

It threatens the sanctity of life - it thrives on ignorance - it feeds on poverty - indeed, it is a danger to our humanity.

Small, developing countries - whether island States or on neighbouring mainland - are particularly vulnerable - in terms of their own security and the implications to good governance.

The hydra-headed monster can only be destroyed by resolute determination, sustained attack and well co-ordinated action.

Improvements in transportation and communications have made it easier for major players in this US$ Billion industry, peddle almost anywhere they choose. Their ability to transfer the proceeds electronically around the world in a matter of seconds, makes it very easy for them to diversify into other forms of criminal activities such as money laundering, arms trafficking, racketeering, illegal movement of people, kidnapping, extortion, and loan sharking. They have accumulated vast resources, which allow them to penetrate the legal, political and administrative sectors of some nation states.

The illegal export of Jamaican marijuana to North America and Europe, places severe pressure on our international trade, international shipping and international air services.

This disrupts the national economy, as often times entire shipments of legal, cargo, which have been contaminated, are confiscated.

Heavy monetary fines placed on carriers, which are either forced out of business or discontinue plying the Jamaican route.

At the same time, while we do not produce cocaine and firearms, these instruments of death find their way into our neighbourhoods and stultify some of our brilliant minds. Criminal gangs in their endeavours to control turf, create mayhem through the crimes of violence they perpetrate. The Police in Jamaica have established that drug and guns are inextricably linked.

The bulk of major crimes, such as murders and shootings, are carried out by gangs involved in the drug trade, or otherwise drug-related.

While most of the illegal weapons recovered in law enforcement operations are traced to North America, we are now seeing a number of assault rifles, especially AK 47's, which are believed to be brought in from Central and South America in illegal drug shipments. We are especially concerned at the spread of military small arms, such as fully automatic rocket launchers and missiles. These are becoming more and more the tools of criminal gangs, terrorist groups and drug trafficking organizations.

They are shipped across national borders, sometimes with the assistance of corrupt State functionaries or where national structures either do not exist or have broken down.

Our law enforcement agencies, will not be unrelenting in their efforts to combat drug abuse and drug trafficking. Criminal drug gangs cannot be allowed refuge or protection anywhere within our borders.

We are acutely aware of their influence on young persons and adult couriers who are caught at the airports attempting to smuggle cocaine or ganja abroad.

Over the last twelve months we have noted that the number of outgoing passengers arrested at one airport (Norman Manley), has soared from 16 per month to 47, in May 2001. Approximately half of these persons were heading to the UK, where these illegal commodities are fetching high prices. Peculiarly enough, some of these persons pretend to be unaware of what they have been asked to do and when caught are totally devastated.

We must cast the net to catch the 'Big Fish', who earn enormous wealth from these illegal activities. They have to be hit where it hurts.

In this regard we will be stepping up our detection and investigation capabilities to enable us to confiscate the bank accounts, the real properties and the conveyances of motor vehicles and boats; whatever has been gained, through illicit activities.

In late 1999, we amended the money laundering legislation by expanding the predicate offence (drug trafficking), to include arms trafficking, major fraud and dishonesty. To ensure effective prosecution of these offences, a new institution has been established. I speak of the Financial Crimes Division in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which began operations on July 4, 2001 and which will focus on money laundering, tracing and forfeiture of assets as well as fraud in financial institutions.

We will continue to foster bilateral linkages and take advantage of co-operation through, among others, mutual legal assistance agreements.

Jamaica has entered numerous agreements with other countries so as to thwart drug traffickers.

The Shiprider Agreement with the United States of America readily comes to mind. The joint activities between the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard and the United States Coast Guard in international waters and in our territorial waters have deterred a number of traffickers from coming to Jamaica. More recently co-operation with the Government of the Republic of Colombia resulted in that country sending experts to Jamaica to train dogs and handlers in the passive detection of illegal drugs as well as the detection of firearms and ammunition. This, I am advised has contributed to the significant increase in arrests at the airports.

But, there is another side to drug control, that is the demand reduction activities. Drug abuse prevention and treatment and the process of demand reduction are undertaken by the Ministry of Health and the National Council on Drug Abuse. The treatment of addicts are carried out as part of the Ministry's mental health programme. Most of the prevention activities are being carried out through initiatives, which target the communities, the workplace and school population.

Central to these processes, has been the Integrated Demand Reduction Programme (IDER), which is a comprehensive response to causes, rather than just the symptoms of drug abuse.

Whilst recognizing the need for conventional prevention and treatment programmes, the Integrated Demand Reduction Programme (IDER) seeks to reinforce initiatives aimed at integrating vulnerable communities within the mainstream development. The underlying philosophy is that most drug activity including drug production, trafficking and abuse derives from social strata, which are essentially excluded from the opportunity structure of main stream society.

This may be through lack of or incomplete education, breakdown in family life, inadequate skills training and lack of constructive leisure activities.

Within the framework of the Integrated Demand Reduction Programme (IDER), the National Council on Drug Abuse has been working in 27 communities. Each of these communities has seen the formulation of Community Action Development Committees (CODACS) and Parish Drug Awareness and Control Committees (PARDACs), which are essentially NGOs.

They seek to facilitate treatment and rehabilitation services in the communities, while working with young people to solve problems associated with the breakdown in family life, to provide skills training, sports programmes, small business development and crime and violence interventions.

The National Council on Drug Abuse is also involved in public education programmes through the use of flyers, pamphlets and the mass media. Prevention Education programmes are also undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Education through the infusion of drug abuse prevention education in school curriculum from primary through secondary to high schools.

A substance abuse prevention project specifically targeting staff at the workplace who are abusers of drugs and alcohol is currently being executed by the National Council on Drug Abuse through funding from the ILO and the UNDCP.

In the mid 1990's, research revealed that a number of persons were being charged regularly with minor offences related to drugs such as possession or illegal use. Until recently, such persons were being convicted and sent to prison or given suspended sentences. In either case, persons are likely to continue using illegal drugs and commit drug and non-drug related crimes, having been denied the opportunity to participate in a drug rehabilitation programme.

In 1999 the Drug Court Treatment and Rehabilitation Act was passed by our Parliament.

This law gives persons found in possession of small quantities of drugs and persons suffering from drug abuse disorders or who have committed non-violent drug related crimes e.g. shoplifting, an opportunity by the Courts to choose to undergo treatment and rehabilitation instead of being incarcerated.

I am aware, that at this point in time, a number of persons and organizations inside and outside of Jamaica are anxiously awaiting word on the report of the Ganja Commission. I established this Commission in 1999 to obtain broad consensus regarding the use of ganja in society and to make recommendations as to whether it should be decriminalized or legalized.

Much of what Jamaica has achieved in drug control over the past five years emerged from the National Drug Control Master Plan, approved by Cabinet 1997. This document outlines the national initiatives to be undertaken to stem the drug problem.

Things change so rapidly in the drug arena, arrangements are currently underway to revise this Plan, and CICAD is providing assistance.
As a member of the Summit of Americas Group, which mandated the Organization of American States to implement a drug control evaluation mechanism. I want to congratulate the CICAD for carrying out that mandate to the point where the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism is now reality. The Third Summit of the Americas held in Quebec last April, heard of the successful implementation of this mechanism and we look forward to it moving from strength to strength.

It is imperative, that within the hemisphere we must find ways of limiting the traffic in illegal drugs and weapons. No country, however robust its democracy, is immune to the adverse consequences of drug abuse and drug trafficking. Equally, no country acting alone can hope to stem the drug trade within its borders. To this end, we must continue to work together, adhering to the three United Nations Drug Control Conventions, the Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere, and the Inter-American Convention on the Illicit Manufacture of and Traffic in Firearms, Ammunition and other related materials as well as the Inter-American Convention on Corruption.

It must be to the benefit of the entire hemisphere, that experts from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean should gather to discuss and arrive at solutions aimed at reducing the demand for illegal drugs. I wish to congratulate the CICAD for its foresight in making this meeting a reality. It is my wish, that over the next three days your deliberations will be cordial and successful.

It gives me great pleasure therefore, to declare this conference open.


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