Castries, Saint Lucia, Wednesday, November 10, 2021:– Just as he made an early announcement of his intention to retire at the end of 2022, Police Commissioner Milton Desir has been called upon – by no less than the Prime Minister — to “do something” about the escalating signs of active gang warfare with sophisticated weapons in Vieux Fort.
The Commissioner, who was appointed on a two-year contract just ahead of the July 26, 2021 General Elections and had responsibility for policing the CIVID-19 Emergency legislation, had maintained a relatively lower public profile since July 26.
However, following the sudden death of a pregnant immigration officer, he commented publicly on the low levels of vaccination among police officers, noting that “less than half” had taken the jab and encouraging those who hadn’t to do so.
He’s since also reported more officers were taking the jab, but couldn’t offer figures.
Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre has publicly acknowledged police officers’ overexposure to possibly contracting COVID through their direct interactions with the public and his government introduced ticketing mechanisms to reduce such contact.
There was also much concern in recent times about claims that more police officers’ lives were being lost to COVID here than in the line of duty, as is the case in the USA, where the Chicago Mayor is insisting police officers wither take the jab or leave the job.
Police officers here remain largely skeptical about vaccination, a sizeable number having tested positive in August, resulting in the closure of some police stations as a result of the infections and quarantines resulting from contact tracing.
Commissioner Desir had just made his early retirement announcement and discussion had just started on whether it would spark an internal power struggle in the leadership of the force among senior officers hoping to replace him.
But then came last weekend’s deadly gangland firefight that resulted in an innocent victim being hit by a stray bullet while in the comfort of her home.
Vieux Fort South MP Dr. Kenny D. Anthony and Mayor Cyril Saltibus, Commissioner Desir and the Superintended responsible for the Southern Division Elvis Thomas visited the affected communities and business places Monday to offer words of comfort, while Prime Minister Pierre summoned Commissioner Desir Monday to discuss the police force’s plans for a quick and effective response to the gangland gunplay in the southern town.
Dr. Anthony issued a statement Monday, saying that “Beyond any doubt” the situation in Vieux-Fort town “is unacceptable” and “requires decisive action by all concerned.”
He said his constituents are “understandably mortified by the rampant and indiscriminate firing of guns,” with “the volleys of shots suggesting that highly-sophisticated weapons had been discharged on all sides.”
Saying the exchanges of gunfire “caused fear and panic” and expressing constituents’ fear that the town had “virtually become a war zone”, he said he also “strongly condemns the acts of violence and the blatant disregard for the laws of Saint Lucia and the lives of our citizens.”
Noting that “Of late, too many Vieux-Fortians have either been killed or injured through gun violence,” Dr. Anthony said: “The Police must spare no effort in tracing those responsible for these shootings and everything must be done to bring them to justice.”
And he also called on all Vieux-Fortians to play their part by cooperating with law enforcement agencies.
He said he’d “been assured by the Commissioner and other officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force” that the situation in Vieux-Fort South “will be brought under control.”
The MP and former Saint Lucia Prime Minister said more police officers have been dispatched to patrol the troubled areas and that “It is in everyone’s interest to assist the police in carrying out their duties.”
“It is clear,” he said, “that there can be no solution until the gangs are disarmed and for that, we need the support of the entire community.”
Dr. Anthony also urged “those responsible for the gang warfare that is crippling our community to stop the senseless killings.”
He told the unknown gunmen: “Your actions are destroying your own lives and terrorizing our beautiful community.”
He also urged them to “Put down the guns and let us commit ourselves to repair the damage that has already been done, so that we may save lives and restore the reputation of Vieux-Fort.”
Prime Minister Pierre also met Commissioner Desir Monday to discuss the Vieux Fort situation, which he described as “very disturbing”.
“Something will have to be done,” the Prime Minister said, adding: “The police will have to come on board.
“It is very dangerous…”
The PM declared: “The whole security apparatus of the country is in a situation of concern and people are afraid to leave their homes and we have to do something about it.”
He ended by saying he would charge the commissioner with the responsibility to restore peace and return law and order to Vieux Fort town.
According to PM Pierre, “The Police Commissioner and the police force will be called on to do something (about it) almost immediately!”