Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has suggested that some residents of North Leeward are still displeased with his government over Vincy Pac, a special operation in which police destroyed marijuana plantations, confiscated 12 guns and 394 rounds of ammunition, and shot and killed three men.
Although illegal, marijuana is an important part of the economy of North Leeward, where the crop is grown primarily on the slopes of La Soufriere volcano.
“I know that because of Vincy Pac in 2009, there are some who say Ralph was too hard on the ganja man them,” Gonsalves told a rally of his Unity Labour Party (ULP) in the North Leeward town of Chateaubelair on Sunday.
“I want to say this, in 2009 — I want to make it plain — we went up into the hills, the police went up in the hills and didn’t cut down ganja because they had already reaped. What we wanted to do is have the foreigners who up were there to come down. That’s what we did,” he said.
He said the operation was successful in flushing the foreigners out of the hills.
“You had a St. Lucian man who was in the back of Fancy… He was behaving as if he was a King Kong up there; but he can’t be a King Kong in our country,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“In Vermont, there were two persons from outside of St. Vincent, one of them who got killed where he shoot out with the police. And he was wanted for murder in Barbados. The gun found there was the gun where he used in a murder in Barbados. So, you can’t elect us to deal with that kind of serious criminal activity and be against when we go and take steps,” Gonsalves said.
“If he wah grow ganja, grow ganja in Barbados. If the St. Lucia man wah grow ganja, grow it in St. Lucia,” he said.
In the aftermath of Vincy Pac, which was conducted with the support of the Regional Security System, Gonsalves announced an EC$2.9 million Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project.
The project, which was managed by then Sen. Saboto Caesar — now MP For South Central Windward and Minister of Agriculture — was expected to benefit farmers across the country, and to serve as an alternative to marijuana cultivation.
Gonsalves noted on Sunday that since the ULP came to office in 2001, there have not been any American helicopters coming to St. Vincent to eradicate of marijuana.
He said that within two weeks of coming to office, the officer responsible for marijuana eradication at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados came and wanted to know if the government will go through with the eradication at the end of April, as was agreed with former Prime Minister, now Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.
“I said, ‘Your Excellency, I have just come to office. I don’t even know the geography of my office well, you talking to me about bringing helicopters?’”
Gonsalves said he wrote to the U.S. official inquiring about the nature of the chemical substance used in the eradication of marijuana and compensation for damage that they create.
They wrote back saying that the government owes them money for the last eradication exercise, Gonsalves said.
“I just ignore the bill. I wanted to explain that to you all and it is Ralph and the ULP who have asked for the establishment of the Caribbean Marijuana Commission on which there are two representatives: Justice Bruce-Lyle and Kishore Shallow,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves is now a proponent of the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.