And a concerted effort must be made by law enforcement agencies, the community and media to battle what is becoming a scourge in the Pacific, says Democratic Party opposition Police spokesman Tama Tuavera.
He says a One News report by Barbara Dreaver about methamphetamine abuse being widespread in Tonga must put authorities here on the alert, and border controls have to be rigid and vigilant.
Tuavera refers to a 2006 report into Cook Islands Police by former New Zealand Police Commissioner Rob Robinson, which stated that Cook Islands police had noticed an increase in the use of drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine in villages here. It was also noted then in the report that local police were worried that schoolchildren were increasingly using cannabis.
“That was 12 years ago,” he says. “The problem hasn’t gone away; undoubtedly it’s gotten worse with time and our border control is the very first barrier against drugs entering our country, there must be vigilance, the sniffer dogs must be used at all international flights and a tightening of security of all passengers, including those that pass through using the VIP process.” Tuavera says the luggage of anyone coming through the VIP channels must undergo the same scrutiny as passengers being processed normally.
“There can’t be any exceptions, otherwise it defeats the purpose of being vigilant and protecting our country from drugs entering here.”
Tuavera says Dreaver’s report that methamphetamine abuse in Tonga is being experienced at all levels of society there including the church and government MPs, must serve as a warning that no one should be exempt from scrutiny.
“Our police service is privy to a lot of information that isn’t in the public domain. They would have (information on) people who would be “persons of interest” with regards to alleged drug use. The movements of those people in and out of the country should be monitored and all should be thoroughly checked each time they re-enter the Cook Islands.
Tuavera says he is encouraging everyone to get behind our police force.
“I’m urging Customs and Immigration to be very vigilant and for these three critical agencies to work together, share information so that border controls are strictly managed, to keep our communities as safe as possible.”
NZ Police advisor for Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre Aaron Holloway has been reported saying the drug methamphetamine is the number one worry for the Pacific region and that organised crime rings are moving swiftly into the region. Holloway has stressed that a combined effort needs to be made to deal with the problem.
Says Tuavera: “We are not immune from this problem, and we have to make a concerted effort to prevent drugs becoming an out of control problem here like it has elsewhere in the world.”
- Release/Democratic Party