Saturday, 21 October 2017

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SROS Opens New Narcotics Laboratory

The Narcotics Laboratory was officially opened yesterday afternoon by SROS CEO Taliafono David Hunter with the keynote address given by Prime Minsiter Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegoai. The $40,000 lab is a joint venture between SROS, the Attorney General’s office and the Ministry of Police and Prisons of in a bid to provide international quality testing for the people of Samoa. At present the lab is only equipped to test marijuana and SROS has two authorised analysts that can test the narcotic. Tuilaepa said this project is an example of what Samoa can do when its agencies come together and approach a problem with a ‘whole of government’ approach. “The Law and Justice sector agencies came together and identified a problem with our fight against narcotics,” he said. He said the project was implemented by a group that included the Police, Public Works, Health, SROS and led by the office of the Attorney General.

“To enforce and successfully prosecute narcotics is dependent on a number of things and one of the key components is having a lab to test narcotics confiscated by the police. “We acknowledge the role of the SROS here at Nafanua the new home of our narcotics lab. “There will be challenges that come with a narcotics lab - thank you for taking up that challenge.” On the day of the opening, Taliafono David Hunter said the benefits of having a local lab are not only reliability but also cheaper testing. He said while SROS is a government body it provides independent testing for other government agencies and is looked at as an independent laboratory. “So that clears the issue of integrity and biasness,” he said. “It’s really to localise the service and for government and for Samoa to be able to provide this kind of testing service rather than sending the samples overseas. “Court cases are (scheduled) at a time according to the availability of analysts overseas. “But now we are here we go by the schedule of the cases.” “And also it’s cheaper now to test it here and also the money stays here. “Cause it really costs the Ministry of Police and Prisons a lot of their money to send their samples overseas. “It required the authorised analyst in NZ institution to come over and that’s all paid for by the Police. “As with here, we only charge the Ministry of Police and Prisons the cost of the testing the sample.” That procedure was followed until five years ago, when New Zealand testing was replaced with local testing at the Alafua campus of the University of the South Pacific. Attorney General Aumua Ming Leung Wai said that there was now a new procedure to follow. “Come July 31 2013, this arrangement between the Ministry of Police and Prisons and the University of the South Pacific at Alafua will no longer exist as the construction of the new Narcotics Laboratory at the SROS compound at Nafanua has been completed,” he said. “I thank the University of the South Pacific for the last five years in their contribution in the Law and Justice Sector of Samoa, as due to their assistance, Samoa is now able to have a lab of its own. “I thank the Government of Australia for its support, as this project is funded with Australian aid via the Law and Justice sector.” Taliafono said SROS achieved international accreditation certification in 2011 which means the tests they provide here are internationally recognised. He said now his organisation is internationally recognised the intention was to relocate the testing service from the university which is a regional organisation and further localise it by a local research institute or research org such as SROS. So a year ago they approached the AG’s office with a project proposal to seek funding. “It took about five weeks to build the laboratory to spec,” he said. “We had to partition and build it in such a way that it is very secure. “Now that is built only authorised analysts are allowed to go in.” The CEO said this new laboratory is the first step in the long term plan for the lab. “We are working on long term plans where we are going to equip the lab with the necessary equipment to test harder drugs such as ice,” he said, referring to methamphetamine. “We have to ensure that our scientists attached to the lab also have to undergo further training. “The more you deal with hard drugs, especially ice, [there] is a lot of detailed analysis. “So the more we move to hard drugs the more training our scientists will need to undergo.”