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British pull-out

Tim Slinger

British pull-out

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BRITAIN has announced plans to pull out its warships from the Caribbean, and this island’s police chief is worried that the move amounts to a serious blow in the fight against the illegal drug trade.
Commissioner Darwin Dottin told the Daily NATION that Barbados and neighbouring territories would now have to work harder to stem the inflow of narcotics.
“We’ve been boosting our capacity over time, acquired significant maritime assets for the Coast Guard, installed coastal radar and we continue to improve our intelligence system.
“But it means we have to work harder to ensure that all of these elements come together for the protection of Barbados’ security,” he said.
His comments followed yesterday’s disclosure by The Guardian newspaper in England that the British government would shortly announce the abandonment of their warships patrol of the region for the first time in over 65 years.
The Royal Navy has been associated with several major seizures in Caribbean waters over the last ten years.
Back in 2002, the HMS?Grafton busted a fishing vessel of Venezuela and netted nearly $400 million. However, the biggest haul of illicit drugs ever, by a British warship, worth close to $4 billion, occurred back in 1999.
Closer to home, in 2006 the RFA Wave Ruler intercepted the Venezuelan registered fishing boat Oliana 1 carrying over $700 million in cocaine. The following year the warship RFA Largs Bay seized over $160 million worth in cocaine from a small fishing boat off the coast of Barbados.
“The withdrawal means the Navy will no longer provide a warship for anti-narcotic operations in the region and will have to reduce its role in disaster relief work,” The Guardian newspaper said.
Head of the Regional Security System (RSS), Grantley Watson, said yesterday he had to consult with other senior officials about the extent of the implications for the British Navy’s withdrawal.
But Dottin said the nature of the drugs trade required an international effort and noted that our countries had participated in the effort.
“The region is sandwiched between the drug producing countries and the drug consuming countries and it (Britian’s withdrawal) is going to have an impact.
“The region would have to work in a collaborative way, to share our expertise, share our assets to help us deal with the difficulties in the region,”?he added.
The commissioner also noted that the proposed withdrawal, which would include disaster relief work, would severely affect the region in post disaster.
“In respect of disasters it is the case that those ships have provided huge assistance particularly post disaster. They’ve brought their assets to bear. Most of those warships would have rotary-wing aircraft (helicopters) which would be very useful in post disaster situations and they’ve brought particular expertise that the region would not have and so that is going to be a huge loss to the region,” Dottin said.
The Guardian newspaper said it was the first time the British Navy had to abandon an existing overseas mission triggered by a budget squeeze.