‘Gangster paradise’: Crime is big business in St Lucia, says national security minister

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Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and National Security, Hermangild Francis

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia — In September of 2018 “The Justice for Roger” campaign blog, which was set up to seek justice for Roger Pratt, a British tourist who was murdered in Saint Lucia described the island as a “gangsters’ paradise” and asked if tourists should boycott Saint Lucia.

In recent times COVID-19 has provided some answers, but more striking, on July 29, speaking on DBS’s Newsmaker Live — Saint Lucia’s minister for home affairs, justice and national security, Hermangild Francis, a holder of a law degree and a former deputy commissioner of police in the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) uttered what local and external intelligence have known for some time now.

“Crime is now big business in Saint Lucia, there are persons who are known hitmen in Saint Lucia and these guys will not hesitate, if they get the right amount of money, to put a hit on you,” Francis explained.

“We have information that certain persons have hits on certain politicians,” — “We have an idea as to who are some of those individuals and we are looking to curtail some of their activities,” — “Our information is that they travel, but they don’t carry their weapons with them — so the weapons are actually brought to them to do a particular hit at a particular location.

“These guys are good … they are good. They know exactly what they doing and they’re not giving the police any sort of leeway to be able to intercept. When we get our leads we have to continue, whether it takes a year or two to bring these persons down, we have to do it.”

“I would say maybe about 15 to 20 percent. For this year I know of about two incidents where hit-men were involved and again the information was such that we actually intercepted one of the individuals but again, like I said, these guys don’t carry their weapons with them, they do what they have to do and then they pass it on. So we have a lot of persons in our society who are assisting these guys. I’ve said it, the police alone cannot do it.” Francis said.

On January 30, 2020, at a pubic vigil for Victor Maurice, former town clerk and Castries Constituency Council (CCC) councillor who passed away on January 28, 2020, in Martinique, two months after he was shot at his Balata residence in Saint Lucia — Mary Isaac, minister for health and wellness made a decisive revelation.

“ … Crime is big business in Saint Lucia and it is driven by people who are way up in the hierarchy of this country …”

JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED- 31ST JANUARY 2020

Several members of the administration were also in attendance at Thursday's candlelight vigil. They have called for justice for Victor Maurice and have lamented the spate of violence in the country.

Posted by Choice TV on Friday, January 31, 2020

In 2018, former national security minister, Keith Mondesir, indicated that the crime situation highlights a lack in basic policing, and that police officers are not walking in the communities.

“I think the policemen are not invading these ghettos where these crimes perpetuate and I think the visibility of policemen on the streets – they are not visible enough. Policemen, in my opinion, should not be drivers driving up and down. In a small place like Saint Lucia, there is always somebody that knows who committed a crime. But if you are not in a community – if there is no community policing, you are not going to get that information,” he said.

Given the background of the national security minister, his inefficiency to deliver on solving crime (operational and /or policy) compounded by his public utterances, in any jurisdiction of repute, he would be required to tender his resignation.

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The key factors here are the mindset of policymakers towards national security, which is an incredible patchwork of disrespect, lip service and outmoded methods to fight organized crime.

The repercussions are also a far cry from the current government when they were in opposition assuring that “we can, and will solve the crime situation”. But upon assuming office, they have become lame ducks, and belatedly realise that extrajudicial killings prosecutions are required, and the promised salary increases for police officers and better working conditions have become a pandemic politics and preferential economics driven by charitable organisations.

Unsurprisingly, the deficiency of government to measure up to the sort of insecurity that extends in the country defies common sense. Organized crime depends on the facilitators of criminality within key sectors to help them secure and conceal their assets. The wide range of inequality, poverty, inflation, social exclusion and marginalization, unemployment, human trafficking, the drug trade, inadequacies and system failures is par for the course.

The intense calls to overhaul the RSLPF are greater than before. This is not in keeping with the status quo per se, but more towards external protocol, surveillance, operations and intelligence, whereby a more diverse force of officers, civilians, data and technology come together. The combination is on one hand global interconnectivity, with the ability to act quickly and effectively, a greater chance to achieve timely results and the import of trust that has long gone out the window.

Without trust, there is little chance to fight the ravages of crime, poverty, hopelessness, and confiscate the proceeds of crime. The extravagant award of direct contracts and unexplained wealth.

There can be no doubt that the RSLPF will have to win the respect of activists and retake the streets and communities with a more comprehensive policing approach that is inclusive of diplomacy, development and education. Cooperation and communication with the youth, educational institutions, media, the private sector, NGOs, civil society and the wider community must be given priority to prevent and reduce the rate of public disorder, crime and recidivism.

The portrait that exists of the RSLPF is a generalized stigmatization that will not disappear overnight, without taking into account a far more inward look to acknowledge inadequacies, system failures, civilian oversight and public accountability.

Exploring IMPACS to bring relief to the Leahy Law on Saint Lucia amid internal and external factors, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government must act within due process, as the rule of law commands, and close the door on further speculation to derive the desired result.

Corrective measures will have to be made forthwith towards a clean slate in the RSLPF and support agencies. However, this calls for bold and courageous leadership in a new culture of zero tolerance for criminality, extortion, misconduct and corruption; while progressive policymakers enact legal reforms and table new legislation.

According to Chastanet: “So I’ve done everything I can do. In the feedback that I’m getting, I think people have been very happy with the progress we’ve been making. We will be doing some lobbying on our own to meet with some senators and some congressmen.

“I feel that we are along the way. I’m not going to sit here and cry; we’ll continue to do what we have to do and hopefully the US at the right point will say, okay Saint Lucia has moved off in the right direction.”

Right now, it seems that Chastanet is borrowing from president Donald Trump (“Who knew that healthcare was so complicated?”) … Who knew that the Leahy Law sanctions were so complicated…?

Revealingly the report — Operation Restore Confidence (ORC) suggests that “the crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians/government officials, business persons and police officers.” Kenny 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.”

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