The United Workers Party (UWP) has expressed outrage over reports of sexual harassment allegations against a named senior member of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF), demanding that he step aside to facilitate a thorough independent investigation.
Former Minister Fortuna Belrose, flanked by female UWP supporters, told a news conference on Thursday that stepping aside removes any possibility of the officer influencing his subordinates.
“Saint Lucians must be satisfied that he possesses unflinching good character with the requisite competencies to perform optimally so that our citizens can feel safe and secure in his care,” Belrose said.
She said it was deeply troubling that the alleged perpetrator received a promotion without an investigation into the serious allegations against him.
“How can our women trust the police when they make a report of this nature?” Belrose asserted.
She applauded the women who came forward with their sexual harassment reports for their courage in a culture that tends to blame or shame victims.
And Belrose said the UWP calls on Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre, responsible for National Security, to remove himself from that position.
In addition, she called out Home Affairs Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte, whom she described as a women’s advocate.
Albert-Poyotte is also a former trade unionist.
Belrose urged the Home Affairs Minister to urgently seek relevant advice to initiate an immediate investigation into the complaints put forward by the Police Welfare Association (PWA) on behalf of its members.
The PWA said it had written then-Police Commissioner Crusita Descartes-Pelius regarding the ‘sexual misconduct’ allegations but received no response.
The PWA’s June 5, 2023, letter, which went viral after appearing on social media, said three of four police officers interviewed confirmed the allegations, while one neither confirmed nor denied.
In addition, the letter indicated that two former Police Commissioners were aware of the sexual misconduct reports.
Fortuna Belrose told Thursday’s news conference that the Minister of Home Affairs, copied on the PWA letter, has to respond to the organisation’s concerns.
“To remain silent or not even acknowledge their concern is truly reprehensible,” Belrose said.
She noted that the Minister of Home Affairs is also the Minister of Gender Relations and Public Service, compounding the situation.
Belrose recalled that Saint Lucia enacted the Domestic Violence Bill on March 8, 2022, with pomp and ceremony.
And she told the news conference that the Prime Minister and the Home Affairs Minister made several pronouncements regarding citizen security, reassuring domestic violence victims that the government cared and systems would be in place to hear the aggrieved.
“It was therefore shameful and in poor taste to hear the Minister asking the victims to go to court in such a harsh tone as if to suggest they did something wrong,” Belrose stated.