PM Harris responds to recent fatal shootings

The following is a Statement by the Office of the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris Re: Fatal Shootings

My fellow citizens, my Government is concerned about the continuing homicides that threaten to besmirch and deface everything that our forebears have built with their sweat, blood and tears, as well as the hard-won gains they made, progressing gallantly and proudly on the road to freedom and self-sufficiency.

These senseless homicides that are being inflicted not only on the victims, but also on their families, friends and the larger community and country, appear to be vengeful and retaliatory. We condemn these killings and are doing everything in our power to contain this situation, which regrettably started getting out of hand about 15 years ago, with the peak being reached in 2011 when there were a record 35 homicides in St. Kitts and Nevis.

My Government and the people of St. Kitts and Nevis sympathize with the suffering of their families and loved ones. We also sympathize with all of the families and loved ones of every gun victim who has died, as well as with those victims – and their families and loved ones – who survived their gunshot wounds, but are forever changed physically and psychologically.

As we worship in our respective churches this weekend, I invite you to open your Bibles and reflect upon the Ten Commandments, as well as Galatians 5:22-23 which lays out the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

My Government and I are fully cognizant that, to foster a sense of dignity, pride and belonging, the citizens of this country need economic upliftment and an effective criminal justice response in addition to spiritual support.

We hereby reaffirm our commitment to providing material support to young people. A small number of them have become caught up in drugs and gangs, and other illicit activities; the consequences of which have led to tragedy for themselves, their families, communities and our beloved country. Our recently launched Fresh Start Project for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises is intended to uplift marginalized people, moving them out of the throes of poverty and enabling them to experience the triumphs of entrepreneurship. So far, about 200 young and industrious persons from both St. Kitts and Nevis have benefited from concessionary loans.

Our brave and honourable security forces can rest assured that the Team Unity administration stands fully in support of them as they endeavor to restore the safety and security of our country. That is why the Ministry of National Security received one of the largest allotments in the Government’s EC$608.3 million Budget. That is why we engaged the Bramshill Policing Advisors to provide training, mentoring and investigative assistance in solving crimes and homicides in particular. That’s why we have invested in a new K-9 Unit. That is why we are pursuing the expansion of CCTV. That is why we increased the risk pay for our security forces by 20 percent. That is why we have enhanced the Royal St. Christopher & Nevis Police Force’s communications abilities with the commissioning of the Motorola digital radio system. That is why we have provided state-of-the-art forensic equipment, including a comparison microscope for the Forensic Department. That is why we have established a broad-based Criminal Justice Strategic Board, which has as its mandate, inter alia, the reduction and prevention of crime and the reintegration of offenders into society to deter recidivism. My Team Unity Administration firmly believes that an integrative, interdepartmental approach must be taken in this war on crime. All hands are required to be on deck to assist our brave law and security enforcement officers in curtailing the activities of criminals.

Indeed, had the government of the last 20 years taken the crime situation seriously and provided the investments we are now making, our country would have been a model in terms of the maintenance of law and order. Though the situation is challenging, my administration intends to make St. Kitts and Nevis the safest place to live, work and play. That goal will not be realized overnight, nor will it be realized without the necessary cultural changes, including a new ethos of professionalism and service that we are now inculcating in our police.

My Government and I take this opportunity to reaffirm our continuing commitment to addressing the needs of all of our law and security enforcement officers, and to thank each and every one of them for their tremendous service to our great country.

I take this opportunity to remind everyone that if you see something say something because the life you end up saving could be your own or that of a family member or friend, or the crime you help to solve could be one that ends up making an indelible mark on the life of someone near and dear to you. It is important to stress that we all must engage in this fight to stamp out the scourge of crime. Crime knows no political allegiance. It is therefore reprehensible that those who have failed the country for 20 years on the matter of law and order can now without shame seek to discredit the good work of my administration and to insert their divisive approach to politics into what should be a non-partisan, national response to crime. It is therefore important for you to work with our police force in organizing neighbourhood watches and other initiatives to prevent and detect crime. We encourage the nation to stand with our law and security officers because they stand up for us each and every day on the frontlines in the war on crime.

This is not a fight that we intend to lose. With love, forgiveness, perseverance and teamwork, we can take our society back and make it the best place for people to work, live, vacation and invest, and from this goal we will not waver.