By MERRICK ANDREWS
(St. Lucia News Online) — Saint Lucia’s Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and National Security Senator Hermangild Francis has disclosed that “hits” or threats to take the life of certain politicians are known to local law enforcement.
Francis, a lawyer and former deputy commissioner of police, made the revelation during a talk show host on Thursday, July 30.
He said some of these hired hitmen are known to the authorities and are being constantly monitored.
“We have information that certain persons have hits on certain politicians and so on, but it’s to monitor these individuals and to get the personnel and the right equipment to be able to monitor them, so we have an idea who are some of these individuals and we are looking to curtail some of their activities,” Francis told the radio station, according to a CMC report.
Francis, who said it is worrying that hitmen for hire or contract killings have become a “big business” in Saint Lucia, is one of several politicians who have reportedly received death threats in recent years.
Current Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony have also received threats, according to reports.
In 2017, Francis disclosed that he received a death threat via a letter. That incident occurred the year after his United Workers Party (UWP) was swept into power in the June 2016 general election.
At the time of the threat, he was quoted as saying: “I will not abandon my responsibilities as national security minister. I have always dedicated myself to the fight against crime. I did it as a police officer and now I am doing so in another capacity. We have a situation which is very serious and disturbing on our hands, and the government is seeking to address it in a decisive manner. We cannot ignore it.
“Whenever I take a position on an issue that deals with law enforcement, crime or public safety, it is related to what obtains in our laws. If I take a position on capital punishment, for example, it is a position that is enshrined in or supported by the Constitution. I don’t simply subscribe to my personal opinions. So persons, who feel sufficiently uncomfortable about some of the things I have said, and feel they should engage in issuing threats, should take a look at the laws of the country.”
FISHERMAN’S ALLEGED THREAT AGAINST ALLEN CHASTANET
In April 2020, a fisherman from Canaries who was charged for threatening to kill Prime Minister Allen Chastanet in a video that went viral on social media, was granted bail when he appeared in court.
Steve Kowan Alexander, alias “Silver”, who is originally from Canaries but living in Soufriere at the time, was granted bail in the sum of $3,500 for threatening words and $3,000 for abusive words and behavior in cash, suitable surety or land documents.
His bail conditions included surrendering his travel documents, not to leave Saint Lucia without the court’s permission, not to apply for travel documents, report to the Soufriere Police Station on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and not to contact the virtual complainant or witnesses.
Alexander, who was remanded in custody, was arrested after the video surfaced on social media. In the video, he threatened the prime minister over the sudden implementation of the 24-hour seven-day curfew to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19. The video was filled with creole-laced expletives.
Alexander wore a mask in the video but that did not stop the authorities from being successful in hunting and tracking him down.
In December 2014, reports were brought to light during a television show hosted by newspaper publisher Rick Wayne that jobless and frustrated young people in Saint Lucia are entertaining thoughts of killing Dr. Kenny Anthony. A young man employed to Wayne’s newspaper company had reportedly made the comments. Two police officers interviewed the employee but there were no reports of the employee being arrested and charged.
According to a CMC report, Dr. Anthony said in a television interview that it was not unusual for a prime minister to receive threats, but observed that it was not often that such statements are made publicly.
“In these islands, we treat these things lightly, but we don’t understand that times have changed,” Anthony was reported as saying. “Clearly, when the statements were made the best thing was to have said to the young man was that’s not the way to deal with those issues and resolve them.”
Dr. Anthony noted that the young man who made the complaint during the television programme, while complaining on behalf of others, was employed so the issue was not the same for him.
The prime minister recalled in the interview that Stephenson King was prime minister when someone was killed in King’s constituency office in La Clery, just over four years ago.
“That really was to all intents and purposes, a warning of what could happen to any MP or prime minister, so we need to take these issues seriously and get a sense of who are the persons orchestrating and encouraging this kind of behaviour,” Dr. Anthony was quoted as saying.
Dr. Anthony, who was a Member of Parliament for Vieux Fort South (and still is) described the threat as part of the “hazard of the business” while he expressed that his family and officials of his ruling party were concerned.
According to the CMC, Dr. Anthony also expressed disappointment with the response of the [then] leader of the main opposition UWP, Allen Chastanet and his party, whom he accused of being “apologists” for anti-social behaviour.
Chastanet had reportedly accused the government of overreacting, adding that while he considered it an extremely serious matter, he did not think that when the young man who made the claims, was threatening Dr. Anthony.
“I think he [the young man] was crying out to the young people who are being marginalised and have lost hope,” Chastanet was quoted as saying.
According to CMC, Chastanet said one would have hoped that the government would have reacted “accordingly” and actively reached out to all the young people in Saint Lucia.
REPORTS OF THREATS AGAINST DR. ANTHONY JUST BEFORE GENERAL ELECTION
Dr. Anthony was again in the news about a perceived death posted on social media — just a few hours before Saint Lucians head to the polls to elect a new government in June 2016.
According to a St. Lucia News Online report at the time, a female posted on Facebook that if the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party wins the next election, she will be alive to see a prime minister get “sniped” and had the words “yellow power” included in her post.
“So keep taking the cries of the people for a joke, if this should happen I will watch it go boom on TV far away from here, but since this won’t happen, I will stick around to dance with Allen Chastanet and the rest of the party,” she also wrote.
According to St. Lucia News Online, at the time, “while most of the short political campaign season has been violent-free, threats were reportedly made against two popular media personalities, Rick Wayne and Sam ‘Jook Bois’ Flood”.