Drugs "crisis" worries Member of Parliament

Member of Parliament, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, has expressed grave concerns about the increase in drugs confiscation, which has been described as a crisis, in neighbouring American Samoa.

Speaking in the Parliament, the M.P. said plans by the Government to boost border security by bringing in drug-detecting sniffer dogs and setting up a scanner at the airport are a step in the right direction. 

“I applaud the Government for considering the investment in drug detected dogs and having a scanner machine at the point of entrance to assure drugs are not being smuggled into Samoa," he said.

Lealailepule then made reference to a drug bust in American Samoa with the authorities putting the street value of the confiscated methamphetamine at US$1.3 million ($3.25 million tala).

“In April, 2019 there was a drugs bust in American Samoa, whereas the street value of methamphetamine or ice confiscated had a street value of $1.3 million USD ($3.25 million tala). And I urge the Samoa Government to be vigilant in protecting our country from drugs,” he said.

Last month the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tinisio Hunt, announced that the Government has asked China for robot sniffer dogs to assist man Samoa's border. 

“These are efforts to combat drugs being smuggled into the country from American Samoa.

"As I said before, there is a growing presence of methamphetamine commonly known as ice. If you follow the drug problem in American Samoa, it  is very concerning and we have to be one step ahead and gear up to fight off this problem," he said. 

The canine robot will cost US$600,000 ($1.5 million tala), which Tialavea said is money the Samoa Government does not have. 

"We don’t have that kind of money, hence requesting to get it through aid from China and we hope the request will be considered."

The Minister said Samoa's border control currently has two sniffer dogs, but with the Pacific region facing an increase in drug-related problems, there is a need for more resources and support.

Another issue he addressed was the lack of resources to assist the Ministries of Police and the Correction Services track down prison escapees.

“The Government should invest in search and rescue dogs or drones to search for the escaped prisoners in the forest. My friend that has a farm in Fiaga was highly concerned the police officers are searching the prisoners on foot. This is unacceptable,” said Leala. 

“I am concerned as members of my constituencies were harmed at the hands of these escaped prisoners.” 

The M.P. is referring to the home invasion at Vailoa, Faleata on February 21, 2019 where the escapees Pati Chong Nee and Aniseko Vaelei robbed the owners of the One-on-One Supermarket and took off with $60,000 cash. 

Vaelei was captured not long after and was found with $10,000 cash in his possession.

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