Huge volumes of illegal drugs, reportedly passing through Samoa to the bigger markets in New Zealand and Australia, is not easy to tell from any addiction problems with drug users in the country.
The Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailili Egon Keil admitted he is not officially aware of the problem.
But it is not from the lack of trying to find out, rather it is not having access to health information on individuals, suspected of using cannabis or hard drugs such as methamphetamine or “crystal ice”.
Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil in a recent interview with Newsline said he has been in contact with his Health counterpart as well as their management on how the police can attain information if someone is overdose on some hard drugs.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the ability to get information from health if there is an overdose and it’s something that I have been talking to the management and the CEO of Health about,” Fuiavailili said.
“We wanted to know how we can attain that information if somebody is overdosed on some hard drugs and notifying the police so we can look at it from the criminal perspective and not from the health perspective.”
Newsline followed up the issue with the Health CEO Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, who was not aware of the Commissioner’s concerns.
Leausa did accept that doctors too have legal restrictions they have to be very mindful of with patients confidential information.
“Legally we can provide personal information about the patient but as part of a police investigation, but the authority has to come from the top level,” Leausa explained.
‘We have to tread carefully with patients confidential information or doctors could end up being sued.”
Leausa clarified further that the information is on a case by case basis of individuals but not a mass release of all patients.
He finds it difficult also to identify any addiction problems because people have different complaints and there are no records that shows easily if the person has an illegal drug addiction.
Commissioner Fuiavailili remains keen on a solution to the dilemma and of the alarming statistics that suggests a lot of drugs coming through the pacific.
“All the statistics and the trends from various sources, agencies, regional and also global is suggesting that there is a lot drugs coming through the pacific and it is something that we cannot turn our backs on or pretend like it’s not happening.
“But it’s happening and it is happening now.
“The Pacific Island Chief of Police (PICP) have also identified that it is a big issue in the Pacific and here in our region so it’s something that we really need to tackle.
“It’s something the cops can’t tackle alone and it’s a holistic approach that we have to take.”
The Commissioner wanted a national approach with inputs from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women, Attorney General, border agencies like customs and immigration, quarantine.
‘We all have to come together and try and solve this issue because it’s getting in somehow and it’s coming through our borders.”
He worried that it’s not just drugs but other transnational crime such as trafficking in firearms, people and prostitution that all connects back to drugs and money.
“So we need to tackle all these things but the more pressing one for us is drugs.”
Fuiavailili believes the problem of users addictions is not easily visible in Samoa because there are no rehabilitation programmes to handle it.
“We deal with communities so we have family, churches that come and assist in those things but I think we need something more professional than that.”
He said having a rehab center mean it can deal with systemic problem starting from the root as well as the cause of such problem.
“A true rehab center that deals with systemic problem going all the way down to the root and the cause of these problems and how to eliminate it and help the individual out too to come out of it,” he said.
“So if you are hooked on drugs how do you come out of it, so we need that kind of education, the tactical knowledge, the expertise to deal with that and of course to deal with that we have to reach out to our partners like NZ, Australia and the US to come and train us and hopefully we have the equipment to facilitate and do it.
“It’s a very big issue and we cannot just say to eliminate it because it’s a big issue and it needs everyone’s contribution on this one.”