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In August 2013, after rumours of unlawful killings came to light, the United States suspended all assistance it was giving to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, citing “credible allegations of gross human rights violations” that took place in 2010 and 2011 during a security drive called Operation Restore Confidence (ORC).
During ORC, the Saint Lucia government issued a public warning to criminals that “there will be no hiding place for anyone.” Five of the twelve men shot dead were killed in a single operation in Vieux Fort.
In 2012, local inquests concluded that six of the shootings were justified but the US indicated that it did not have confidence in the outcomes of the hearings, while relatives of the victims have insisted they were murdered.
Consequent to the State Department’s report, the United States government proceeded to apply to Saint Lucia what has come to be widely known as the “Leahy Law.”
Dr Kenny Anthony, prime minister of Saint Lucia, on Sunday, March 8, delivered a televised address entitled “A Distressing Issue To Confront” based on the findings of a report by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), which has not been published, because “it could compromise investigations that were still taking place, and to protect witnesses,” and he called the report “extremely damning.” I will come back to this report shortly.
Nonetheless, the other matter that needs serious attention are economic sanctions, defined as the withdrawal of customary trade and financial relations for foreign and security policy purposes, or “smart” sanctions, which aim to minimize the suffering of innocent civilians.
These sanctions take a variety of forms, including travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes, capital restraints, foreign aid reductions, trade restrictions, and general export controls [some of which are already in effect on Saint Lucia by the application of the Leahy Law] to try to alter the strategic decisions of state and non-state actors that threaten the United States’ interests.
These action are deemed to coerce, deter, punish, or shame entities that endanger the United States’ interests or violate international norms of behaviour and to advance a range of foreign policy goals, including counterterrorism, counternarcotics, nonproliferation, democracy and human rights promotion, conflict resolution and, most recently, cyber security.
Revealingly, the report suggests that “the crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians/government officials, business persons and police officers.”
This is a damming combination that, if true, has profound implications on world views and that could further weaken Saint Lucia.
“The stark reality we confront is that the United States will only lift these sanctions if in their judgment all necessary corrective steps have been taken…. the Secretary of State must determine and report to the United States Congress that the government of the affected country, in this case Saint Lucia, is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice. In effect, if the sanctions are to be removed, we must show proof that we are taking corrective steps to deal with the situation,” Anthony said in his address.
The recent headline, St Lucia police kept death lists and staged killings, says report details others key aspects of Anthony’s address and provides links to related articles, that are indeed matters of national priority that taunt Saint Lucia’s sovereignty, national security reform, the rebuilding of trust and foreign policy direction.
The investigators have advised and we concur, said Anthony, that: “There is a strong need for victims to speak about their experiences. A credible national process in the form of transformative justice is required. Justice for victims, accountability and punishment of the perpetrators are essential elements of such a process.”
Anthony added, “We cannot continue in a situation where we are viewed as a pariah state by our partners in the fight against crime and lawlessness.”
However, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), Victoria Charles Clarke, says she intends to follow the law and constitution of Saint Lucia as her office deals with a report of alleged extra judicial killings by police officers. “I do not act on emotion or public opinion so I do not wish to join the discussion.”
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Vernon Francois said on Monday his “conscience is clear” and denied suggestions that he had turned a blind eye to wrongdoing by his officers even as the report suggested “willful blindness” by the commissioner and “particular members of his management team”.
Francois, who is on vacation leave, made it known that he jealously guards his integrity and is not involved in anything remotely corrupt or unlawful. “I was hoping that we would have been at the stage where definitive statements would have been made about dealing with the situation as it relates to the government of St Lucia and the United States, but we are still at the stage where a lot of unproven allegations are being made.”
According to Francois, there was need to move beyond the stage where people are still “staying in the dark under the bushes” and making allegations. “It is time to provide evidence,” he said, citing the need for the laws of natural justice to be set in motion.
This brings me to point out the sheer arrogance, policy blunder and the fact that the government of Saint Lucia did not have a plan then to institute, and is now looking into the abyss with no influence and no moral authority to make things better!
Yet on the way forward, Anthony suggested, “Fourthly, the Cabinet will appoint a joint committee under my chairmanship, to oversee the implementation of the report of the investigators. The Committee will include representatives of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and civilians.”
“We must never abandon our responsibility to do what is legally and morally correct,” Anthony added.
This is a true statement, but it is unfortunate that the resulting negligence and irresponsibility was avoidable.
Never before has Saint Lucia succeeded with blatant failure that is completely self-defeating and absurd.
With respect to the rule of law, the island now faces a challenge to restore its moral authority – the greatest source of strength and a better life to psychological, emotional, intellectual and physical bondage that prevents us seeing a new path we must take, working together towards a new global imperative, building a Saint Lucian brand dedicated to the rule of international law and order.
Saint Lucia’s sovereignty and its security is threatened and put at risk by cheap political calculations of painful misadventures to eliminate and constrain opponents by the exercise of raw political power. Now the solutions require a combination of political, economical and judicial will that is very strained – but which must take hold in order to deal with the imminent threats or be replaced by the reign of fear in the absence of law and order.
There is a choice to be made, compliance to international law, the application of the rule of law and Saint Lucia’s socio-economic survival, or face the force of global policy decision makers.
But perhaps we should not be surprised that once again Dr Kenny Anthony, prime minister of Saint Lucia, was unable to use reason and logic to bring the nation together and to better determine how the country can avoid making such mistakes in the future and to build a better life, a safe and more secure country for future generations.
The task now is to not only confront these challenges but to rise to our higher ideals of human dignity and self- governance. Saint Lucians are wise enough, smart enough to create and control a broader national security agenda to enable new depths and insight and cooperation at all levels.
Instead of the prevailing sense of strangeness that now clouds the continuance of progress towards national security and self-determination, Anthony ought to match his words with his action in quoting Lord Mansfield: “Let justice be done though the heavens fall,” and to move swiftly, because when leaders are not held accountable for serious mistakes, they and their successors are more likely to repeat those mistakes.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) spokesman on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at [email protected]