St Lucia government accused of inaction on citizen security

Phillip La Corbiniere
Phillip La Corbiniere

Castries, St Lucia — United PAC Saint Lucia, which describes itself as a super political action committee group (SuperPAC), whose philosophies and ideologies are in line with conservative values, in a press statement on Wednesday accused the Saint Lucia government of “silence and absence… in the face of a crumbling justice system.”

The Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) also weighed in on the issue with its own press statement, pointing out that national security minister Senator Philip LaCorbiniere has been quick to jump on perceived personal attacks but apparently paralyzed on more important citizen security issues.

“It is not good governance when ministers are seen to be more concerned about their individual personal interests than the interests of the country as a whole and its citizens,” the LPM said.

According to the United PAC, the list of unsolved murders continues to grow.

“During these very troubling times, why has the minister with responsibility for justice turned a blind eye to the rising problems within the justice ministry? What is he doing to help bring comfort to the families who have lost loved ones to violent crimes?” the United PAC asked.

The recent death of 22-year-old Chakadan Daniel in a police lockup In Micoud has raised more questions about human rights abuses in a country that is already under a cloud following the withdrawal of US security-related aid as a result of alleged extra-judicial killings by police. Daniel’s death has led to a public outcry locally and calls for an independent investigation, amid extensive international coverage of the incident following a report by the Associated Press carried in a number of major publications.

The LPM pointed out that, according to their understanding of the situation, incidents like the recent death at the Micoud police station are taken into account by the US State Department in reviewing the Leahy Law restriction on security related assistance.

“Saint Lucia is not going to see a resumption of US security aid unless and until the government addresses and is seen to address these issues,” the LPM said.

However, in recent weeks, the only official response to these events has been to attack the media for reporting the facts.

Police Commissioner Vernon Francois
Police Commissioner Vernon Francois

Police Commissioner Vernon Francois claimed the local media was the “driving force” behind the international publicity and asserted that the local press should be more concerned about the effect of negative publicity on Saint Lucia rather than the police force.

“There are a number of ways that people can die in police custody,” Francois said in an interview on local television, while promising a direct and thorough investigation into the latest death.

Human rights advocate Mary Francis
Human rights advocate Mary Francis

Human rights advocate Mary Francis took Francois to task over his comments about media coverage.

“The media has to enlighten the public. Without the media we would be in darkness; we would not know what’s going on,” Francis said.

She continued that the media has a role to play and the police cannot accuse the media which, she said, sends out a message to the media in a subtle way that “we cannot have this kind of thing… blaming the media, whereas he should blame his men”.

“You cannot blame the media for the bad behaviour of the police,” Francis said, alleging that corruption is rife within the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.

“The comment of the Commissioner of Police, Mr Vernon Francois, was, in our opinion, a warning to the press and the public to continue to remain silent in light of serious allegations against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force,” the United PAC said on the issue.

In a national address on August 20, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony announced that government had requested the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) to provide three senior investigators to assist in resolving outstanding issues.

“What has happened to the independent IMPACS investigation touted by Prime Minster Anthony?” the LPM asked.

The United PAC called on LaCorbiniere to intervene to ensure that the justice system is brought up to a satisfactory level.

“We also call on the minister to personally ensure that the ongoing investigation of the Micoud Police Station incident is done thoroughly and justly,” the group said.

United PAC said it believes that the minister’s voice should not only be heard when he feels an injustice has been done to his reputation but as the custodian of justice in the country, his voice should be heard every time a citizen is treated unjustly.

“We believe that the ministry for national security must be held accountable for the Micoud incident and measures should be put in place to ensure that history is not repeated,” the United PAC said, adding that it awaits a press conference from the minister “with the same alacrity with which he convened a press conference to condemn allegations against himself.”

The LPM said, “Dark clouds of social despair have been hovering over our nation like a pending hurricane since 1979 and there is a tremendous level of vulnerability that hovers over the personal safety and property of all law abiding citizens and visitors alike. Something must be done now.”

The LPM suggested that the commissioner of police should consider temporarily relocating the officers at the Micoud police station, in order to alleviate the suspicions of all concerned.

“This will also facilitate a greater level of transparency of the investigation, and allow the healing process to begin,” the party added.

“More importantly, while the ghost of labour is mesmerizing the population, life seems normal for the cabinet of ministers and their acolytes,” the LPM concluded.

In what seems to have become a customary failure to respond to inquiries, the prime minister’s press secretary had not acknowledged by late Wednesday a request for comment on these issues sent that morning.

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