- The Suppression of Escalated Crime (Police Powers) Bill
- The opposition did not support the bill (10-2)
- Saint Lucia is still subject to the Leahy Law
By Caribbean News Global
CASTRIES, St Lucia – At a sitting of parliament on March 16, 2023, the minister for finance, economic development and the youth economy and minister for justice and national security, Philip J Pierre, introduced and passed the Suppression of Escalated Crime (Police Powers) Bill – following March 9, 2023, mass murders and gang-related culture that influence the underground economy of Vieux Fort.
In the normal procedure, the Senate is expected to approve, onward to the governor-general to affix in law.
The main purpose of the Bill is to provide police officers with additional powers for the suppression of escalated crime, the explanatory note of the bill outlines:
“Part I of the Bill (Designation of an Escalated Crime Area), provides for the designation of an escalated crime area by an order made by the minister responsible for national security in clause 5 of the Bill and for the contents of an Order for designation of an escalated crime in clause 6 of the Bill.
“Part II of the Bill (Police Powers for Suppression of Escalated Crime) consists of clauses 7 to 14. The power to stop a person is provided to a police officer under 2 No. ] Suppression of Escalated Crime (Police Powers) Act 2023 clause 7 of the Bill, the power to block a road and set up a cordon is provided under clause 8 of the Bill and the power to require removal of a vehicle or other article is provided under clause 9 of the Bill.
“Other powers provided to a police officer in the Bill are: the power to access land or a building in clause 10 of the Bill; the power to close premises in clause 11 of the Bill; the power to give directions for control of firearms, ammunition and explosives in clause 12 of the Bill and the power to control places of public resort and entertainment in clause 13 of the Bill. A police officer is protected from an action, suit, prosecution or other proceedings under clause 14 of the Bill.
“Part III of the Bill (Offences for the Suppression of Escalated Crime and Detention) provides in clause 15 for offences relating to public property; in clause 16 for the offence of trespass of public property; in clause 17 for offences with respect to roads and in clause 18 for an offence with respect to assault. The detention of a person who commits an offence under the Bill is provided for in clause 19 of the Bill.
“Part IV of the Bill (Miscellaneous) provides in clause 20 of the Bill for the minister responsible for national security to make arrangements with an outside security force. The penalty for offences committed under the Bill is provided for in clause 21 of the Bill. The minister has the power to make regulations under clause 22 of the Bill.”
Strengthening capacity and resources
Upon the introduction of the bill, the opposition members of parliament objected as registered in a 10 – 2 vote, along party lines. The opposition members further explained their objection to the bill going through all its stages in one sitting, citing consultation, in particular, with the legal fraternity, “protection of civil rights” and to “ safeguard the reputation of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force [RSLPF].”
The introduction of the Bill coincides with the Regional Security System [RSS] being redeployed in Saint Lucia for the second time in ten months.
The combination of the RSS and ‘additional powers’ is expected to provide support for the RSLPF to bring crime and related matters in Vieux Fort under control, strengthening the capacity and resources available to counter lawlessness in Saint Lucia.
But, in reflection, in a situation where security intelligence is compromised, compounded with endemic and structural issues in the RSLPF, the overall plan and the crime policy are severely nebulous.
“This bill is very serious,” said the prime minister and minister for national security, Pierre, presenting the bill. “This represents the courage of this government. This bill is for a period of time, in an escalated area,” he added.
A ‘Don’ was murdered in Vieux Fort
The reference to the assassination of a ‘Don’ in Vieux Fort March 9, is notable, albeit the well-known hypothesis of the Allaby of a “fisherman” – “businessman” and “boss man.”
What is a Jamaican Don?
“Dons are criminal non-state actors that evolved out of the divisive trade union and partisan battles in Jamaica from the 1940s to 1960s. The term “don” is a recent one, however, one that gained venom in the 1980s; before that you had ‘rude bwoys’, ‘top rankings’ and ‘area leaders,’ added Google. “DON is a term used to refer to a boss in the mafia. Other words for “boss,” especially in gangland and organized crime circles.”
State of public emergency (SOE)
In Jamaica, a State of Public Emergency (SOE) has been declared for the entire geographical areas in the parishes of Clarendon and St James, reports JIS.
In declaring the areas under SOE, the proclamation states that: “… action has been taken or is immediately threatened by persons or bodies of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be likely to endanger the public safety of the communities in the areas specified.”
The parishes of St James and Clarendon remain of particular concern for outbreaks of gang violence. In acknowledging the declaration, prime minister, Andrew Holness, said:
“Organised gangs remain a threat in these parishes. Although there have been some successes in reducing murders through strategic and tactical security operations, more needs to be done. As we acknowledge this, the government will continue to use all tools at our disposal to protect the lives of our citizens of Jamaica and dismantle the threat to law and order.”
Trying a ting’
The Suppression of Escalated Crime (Police Powers) Bill in Saint Lucia is “expected to stop an immediate problem” as highlighted in parliament. “ This is only a start,” given the understanding of the situation.
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.”
“ … Crime is big business in Saint Lucia and it is driven by people who are way up in the hierarchy of this country …”
The implementation of ‘additional powers’ to the police in what is termed the ‘urgency of now’ should not be seen as “trying a ting.” History reveals, that the “Vieux Fort problem is easily replicated in other hotspots on the island.”
This expedited bill, however, reveals the expedient short-term reaction to a long-standing national security malaise that has been allowed to fester, hitherto, the political and discerning hypocrisy.
The crime wave in Saint Lucia requires a strategy, leadership, budget and policy to pursue profoundly.
The RSLPF in the execution of its ‘additional powers’ will have to proceed with caution knowing that Saint Lucia is still subject to the Leahy Law.
Moreover, the minister for justice and national security, Pierre, said:
“[Today], March 16, I received a comprehensive overview on the current state of national security and the measures being taken to secure the lives and livelihoods of residents, particularly in Vieux Fort.”