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(CMC) – Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has defended the performance of the St. Lucia police force, saying that his administration has been seeking to provide the necessary resources for law enforcement officials to carry out their duties.
In a radio and television broadcast, hours after the island recorded its first murder for 2019, Chastanet said at a time when crime is on the minds of most St. Lucians, his administration has had to spend much of the last 30 months sourcing and providing some of the very basic needs for the police that were not available when the government came into office.
Police said they are investigating the murder of British national, Robert ‘Bob’ Hathaway whose bloody body was found at his home in Gros Islet, north of the on Sunday.
Chastanet told citizens “in today’s world, if you do not have CCTV cameras; if you don’t have a forensic lab; if you don’t have a justice and court system that are working in tandem; if you do not have a DPP’s office that is properly staffed; if your policemen do not have proper communication systems and vehicles, if you do not have proper court buildings, you cannot say you are serious about fighting crime”
“As if those problems were not a heavy enough burden, there are the related sanctions placed on the police in 2012, including travel and overseas training,” he added in a reference to the decision by the United States to impose sanctions under the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA).
In 2013, St. Lucia was restricted by the terms of what is commonly referred to as the “Leahy Law” from receiving security-related assistance from the United States as a result of “credible evidence of extrajudicial killings of 17 people in 2010-2011” by the island’s security forces. The US Department of State suspended assistance to the local police force and cancelled the visas of a number of senior police officers, denying them travel to the US.
In 2015, the then Kenny Anthony government said it had received a report of an investigation carried out by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) into the alleged extra-judicial killings.
Human rights attorney, Mary Francis, has expressed concern that the probe into the alleged extra-judicial killings was still dragging on despite the report, known as the IMPACS (Implementation Agency for Crime and Security) report, being submitted.
In his address, Prime Minister Chastanet blamed the last government’s irresponsible handling of the IMPACS investigation for contributing to the “sharp decline in the morale of our police, who are doing their utmost in overwhelming circumstances”.
Chastanet said that his administration, from the onset, had taken steps to combat crime at all levels, including instituting social programmes that address crime at its root.
“We first reopened the Forensic Lab that was closed for some years. As a result we were able to make significant headway in the investigation and prosecution of several rape cases on the island.”
He said that the government is also now faced with another hurdle of tackling the current health and safety issues at the facility, which he is assured will be resolved in the coming weeks.
“We appointed a Director of Public Prosecution and increased resources for the DPP’s office. The new Police Headquarters will also include six new courts, a state-of-the-art control centre and improved facilities for our police.
“Strategically, we have taken decisions to strengthen our police force and justice system, however, we recognize we still have a long way to go in providing the basics that are vital to serious crime fighting. We have invested in CCTV cameras and police communications systems which will be operational within weeks,” Chastanet added.