St Lucia PM called on urgently to address police controversy

By Caribbean News Now contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia — In response to a request for comment on the current controversy in Saint Lucia surrounding the commissioner of police and the admitted decision by the US government to “disallow” officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force from participating in training programmes, the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) said that Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony should immediately address the issue and inform the nation of the truth about what transpired.

The LPM said that much of the recent embarrassment could have been averted had Anthony and his government been forthcoming with the people of Saint Lucia from the outset.

No response to a similar request has yet been received from Allan Chastanet, the newly elected leader of the opposition United Workers Party.

The LPM said that the government was forced to admit that the issues were serious and complex only after the matter became public.

The government statement on Friday to the effect that the prime minister would address the situation on a date to be announced, and the government’s lack of transparency did little to inspire confidence in its handling of the situation, the LPM said.

According to the LPM, “There were just too many mixed messages that, at the time, appeared evasive. It seemed that our government had not fully comprehended the seriousness of the issue.”

The LPM said that this may have been responsible for fuelling the rumours that caused much embarrassment, not only to the commissioner of police but also to the government and people of Saint Lucia.

The people, noted the LPM, should always be treated with the utmost respect regarding matters pertaining to national security.

The situation has been widely debated in the local media, with one prominent local radio host commenting that there is more than meets the eye or that the government is willing to tell the public, thus being caught off guard in the process and now having to retract its plans.

Participants on another radio talk show acknowledged that the reports regarding police commissioner Vernon Francois came out of the blue so far as the Saint Lucia public was concerned and reiterated the point that explanations are needed urgently.

It was said, however, that the prime minister’s press secretary instead issued an “ambiguous” statement that did little to allay public concern.

It appears that there is some uncertainty as to the current whereabouts of the prime minister but it was pointed out that, even if the prime minister is away, the deputy prime minister should nevertheless take action.

Concern has also been expressed locally over the apparently deteriorated relationship with US, as well as the role of the US in the affairs of Saint Lucia.

According to local sources, a Cabinet meeting on Monday was “tense.” There was something of a media frenzy following the meeting, but ministers declined to give interviews or otherwise comment on matters in the news.

In a statement on Friday, the Saint Lucia government said it is aware of the concerns and anxieties expressed by the public over what it described as the decision by the United States to disallow officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force from participating in several training programmes arranged or financed by the US.

There is widespread speculation locally that the US crackdown may have something to do with the US State Department’s 2011 human rights report on St Lucia that described 12 potentially unlawful fatal police shootings during the year, some reportedly committed by officers associated with an ad hoc task force within the police department.

There was only limited progress by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) in reviewing and other investigations of unlawful killings dating back to 2006, the report added.

The report also said that the government did not implement the existing anti-corruption law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

In the meantime, recent events have refocused attention in Saint Lucia on these and a number of other unaddressed questions, some also dating back several years.

In particular, Anthony, then leader of the opposition, campaigned in the last general election on a promise, if elected, to make public the reasons behind the revocation of former housing minister Richard Frederick’s US visa. He has not yet done so since being re-elected to office in November 2011.

The prime minister has also previously been called upon, without response, to explain why Deputy Commissioner of Police Moses Charles is currently on leave, also said to be as a result of a reported revocation of his US visa.

The apparently deteriorating relationship with the US concerning law enforcement co-operation is also a source of local concern and the government itself acknowledged in its statement on Friday that “it is in our vital interest to maintain close ties of co-operation with the United States in security matters.”

However, according to local reports, a police vessel previously donated to Saint Lucia by the US but later sent back for repair, is currently held in Miami, along with a consignment of urgently needed spare parts for police vehicles.

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