Expert warns Samoa about hard drugs

While methamphetamine, commonly known as “ice”, is not yet widespread in Samoa, the Government shouldn’t be complacent, an expert on transnational crime says.

Jose Luis Sousa-Santos, the Managing Director of Strategika Group Asia Pacific, (an international risk and security analysis group), says there has been a rapid growth in the Pacific market for drugs and Samoa is becoming a target. 

He said within the space of two-to-three years, Tonga and Fiji have had to deal with major problems associated with ice, but Samoa still has the opportunity to solve the problem now while it's manageable. 

“We are seeing signs of meth being used by youths in Samoa," he said.

“In the short time I have been here in Samoa, there are the red flags that methamphetamine usage is being seen, of course not to the level that we see in Fiji and Tonga.

"So there are drugs being brought in. I think [Samoa] cannot fall into [a state of] complacency. 

"What we have to realise is that the speed at which the indigenous criminal networks worked in Tonga and Fiji really took not just Australian and New Zealand law enforcement, but Fijian and Tongan law enforcement and Governments by surprise. 

“It was only three years ago where Tonga and Fiji both thought meth is a problem we can deal with...now you are seeing that the real threat to the youth of both countries is meth. 

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"What’s impacted crime, domestic violence, prostitution is methamphetamine.” 

Mr. Sousa-Santos said Samoa needs to learn from the impact of the drug on Fiji and Tonga and be proactive in addressing it. 

“[Samoa should] have systems in place and not just law enforcement responses and systems in place but a holistic, across the border and multi-layered approach to address this issue. 

“That means having civil society, traditional power structures and churches involved, to ensure it’s a whole society approach to create a safety net so that the youths in Samoa do not face what the youths in Fiji and Tonga are now facing. 

“If we don’t, we are then faced with becoming reactive, forever trying to catch up with what these criminal networks are throwing at our youth, and then it becomes the law enforcement, police backed by Pacific partners trying to respond to a purely law enforcement issue.”

He said Samoa does not currently have the resources to be dedicated towards dealing with huge problems associated with the drug, so now is the time to act. 

“When we working in this field five years ago, we’re saying this issue is starting to take hold in the region we have to be proactive, and we didn’t so now we are reaping the fruits of that. 

“Stats coming from the Tonga police show that every drug seizure made by the Tongan police has a component of weapons seizure with it; you don’t have that in Samoa. 

“When you get to that point, what impact does it have on Samoan society, culture and youth? How many resources would have then to be dedicated to fix, address the damage that has been done to the future of Samoa. 

“Maybe because the situation has not gone to that point yet, that Government and law enforcers are thinking we’re still on top of it. And that is the risk.” 

Mr. Sousa-Santos is in Samoa for the Women, Peace and Security Summit. He has researched and analysed the issues associated with transnational crimes for about 20 years, with eight years dedicated to the Pacific region. 

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