Groping in the dark
As in all areas of crime-fighting and, indeed, law and order, successive T&T administrations have fallen short in combating, let alone suppressing, the traffic in illicit drugs. As the United States State Department's latest Narcotics Report reminds T&T, this country has been less than a fully fledged ally in the US-led war on drugs. As T&T officials have responded, however, the US itself has been far from stalwart in its support of Caribbean efforts against an international trade in cocaine, marijuana and other narcotics for which America provides the biggest market.
T&T Ambassador to the UN, Rodney Charles, also highlighted the sorest point in the counter-productive US policy and practice of deporting criminals to an already stressed law-enforcement system. Insistence on shipping back "home" convicts who have no supportive contacts in T&T and elsewhere has resulted, as Ambassador Charles put it, in the dumping here of "criminals with essentially PhDs in crime". As long as it persists with this policy, the US can hardly pretend to have clean hands while criticising the efforts of Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, in fighting drug trafficking and other crimes.
If anyone has the moral authority to criticise, however, it is the people of Trinidad and Tobago who continue to pay the price for the often fatal shortcomings in the policy and plans of those with the responsibility for protecting this nation and keeping it safe.
It is becoming increasingly clear that, for all the boasts during its campaign for office, the People's Partnership had given very little, if any, thought to the requirements of a more effective and efficient national security system. Now, having dismantled significant elements of the security apparatus of the Manning administration, it finds itself inventing ad hoc responses that have not been able to achieve their stated goals.
To a significant extent, this country is a victim of the transshipment of crime that comes with being a transshipment point for the movement of illegal drugs and guns. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out, therefore, that tightly secured borders, both marine and aerial, are key to keeping this country out of the clutches of the narcotics trade.
And yet, those borders, particularly our coastal borders, are more vulnerable today than they were three years ago due to policy disruption without the implementation of any new and improved system.
In the absence of a coherent planning framework and a comprehensive package of well-integrated strategies, we continue to grasp at one initiative after another with no clear assessment of quantifiable outcomes and efficiency of resources.
For its part, the United States is crystal clear on its interests. We in Trinidad and Tobago need to be equally clear about ours in order to determine whether our common interests coincide. In the fight against drugs, they certainly do.