Boat fiasco raises a lot of questions

By The Editorial Board 06 May 2023, 10:00AM

A boat from American Samoa was able to enter into our waters undetected, make two stops, the first one at Matautu and then in Savaii.

The crew of the boat also managed to offload some cargo before they were stopped by a patrol boat and this has been labeled as a security lapse.

The Prime Minister is on point when she said the action by the local authorities should have included the seizing of the vessel and the detaining of its crew when it entered Samoan territorial waters.

This is a very serious breach. There are so many questions that are being asked  and very little answers are being given. How many such boats have entered our waters? What are the types of goods that are coming on these boats?

The other question that is glaring into our face is how was the paperwork for the boat done so fast? Who signed on the paperwork without the proper authorities being notified and then as quickly as the boat was seized, it was set free.

In any other jurisdiction, the crew of the boat would surely be arrested and the owner of the boat would be looking at charges.

Try entering New Zealand waters. They would not do the paperwork for you and set you free.

This incident highlights the lack of protection we have on our borders. The impact of this is huge because it has exposed our vulnerability to the world that anyone can enter Samoan waters and need not be afraid.

The recent methamphetamine or ice arrests and court cases show the prevalence of this synthetic drug in our society. How is it getting into our country? The police in all their arrests have never found a meth kitchen. This only suggests that the narcotic is being brought into the country.

In 2022, the Guardian plotted possible pathways by sea on how drugs could be entering and transiting through the Pacific from Asia and America to markets like Australia and New Zealand. Samoa falls in this route.

An expert on transnational crime in the Pacific,  Jose Sousa-Santos of the Lowy Institute said transnational crime — specifically drug production and trafficking — is one of the most serious security issues facing the Pacific Islands region. Methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine trafficking is on the rise.

He had said that the Pacific Islands have become a production site and trafficking destination as well as trafficking thoroughfare, and indigenous/local crime syndicates now work in partnership with transnational crime syndicates.

He said the criminal deportee policies of Australia, the United States, and New Zealand are contributing to the problem, as is the Covid-19 pandemic, by exacerbating the vulnerabilities on which transnational organisations and local crime actors capitalise.

The Pacific and its partners have responded by strengthening regional policing architecture and governance through enhanced law enforcement mechanisms, but challenges remain as the illicit drug trade adapts and takes root in the region.

Two years ago, our patrol boat ran aground and since then we have been without a vessel to look after our ocean borders. This has opened the doors to other activities such as illegal fishing. This activity is not only hurting our economy but also depleting our resources.

Let us hope that the new patrol boat from Australia arrives sooner than later but until then we are reliant on the navy patrols from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Perhaps this is the best time to make use of the geopolitical tension among the big players and talk on security deals which would increase better surveillance of Samoa’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

But before all that, an investigation is warranted into this fiasco associated with the vessel from Pago because it is raising several questions which borders on the integrity of the people who dealt with the matter.


By The Editorial Board 06 May 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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