The leader of Saint Lucia’s National Green Party (NGP) has advocated a robust regional witness protection programme, asserting that citizens would be reluctant to give crime information, regardless of the reward.
Andre ‘Pancho’ de Caires spoke against the backdrop of a $50,000 reward offered this week by Vincentian police for information leading to arrest and conviction in last month’s multiple homicides.
Five people, including a thirteen-year-old male, died in a hail of gunfire in the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines capital, Kingstown.
“We live on small islands with small populations where everyone knows each other, and there is no place to hide or keep a secret. We all know that someone will spill the beans,” Andre de Caires told St. Lucia Times.
The NGP leader said as a result, citizens are very reluctant to give information to the authorities for fear of reprisals, regardless of the reward size.
According to de Caires, citizens know if they divulge information, the authorities will be unable to protect them.
“So, it is necessary for the region to come up with a robust witness protection program if citizens are going to be confident enough to give any information at all. And we are far from achieving that goal,” the NGP leader told St. Lucia Times.
He explained that solving crimes, especially murders, has a dismal record throughout the region as homicide rates within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) soar.
“Nearly all the murders are a result of guns,” de Caires observed, adding that almost everyone seems to have easy access to firearms and young men possess sophisticated ‘killing machines’.
The NGP leader noted that many killings are gang or drug-related.
” Drug deals gone wrong. Revenge killings. Dirty business. Solving these murders requires intelligence, which means that the police need solid information,” de Caires explained.
“Therefore, information has to come from the public,” he declared, noting that the police are rarely present when shootings occur.
In addition, de Caires stated that solving the root cause of the killings was ‘a long story for another day.’