A culture of abuse in St. Lucia

A culture of abuse in St. Lucia

Attempts by prime minister and minister for finance, Dr Kenny Anthony to calm insurgents and disquiet within the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force [RSLPF] may have further discredited his authority, with two open-ended meetings adjudicated as a waste of reconstructive time that is not without bureaucratic failures and the lack of significant security intelligence and knowledge of the task at hand.

The many revelations of an intended coup d’état, death threats, unchecked criminal activities, a dysfunctional justice system and elevated illicit activities are cause for concern. In addition, the so far unaddressed IMPACS report is reportedly attracting more forceful measures by the United States to effect compliance with the Leahy Law.

In this regard, I have been told on good authority that approximately 135 visas from Saint Lucia have been flagged by US authorities, ranging from public servants, government officials and members of the police force. Inclusive of the above, 20 revocations are reportedly imminent, including two members of the judiciary that are said to complement that listing. Taking it further, the reality of this comes with the application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1, et seq.); the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which became law in March 2010; the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention against Corruption all of which are most important for the country’s progress.

Had serious resources been made available to the RSLPF from early on in the IMPACS investigation and meaningful recourse to address with priority and immense urgency, aspects of the IMPACS report, rather than mere political optics, it might well have been more effective in stabilizing the security crisis at hand. A situation that is dangerously politicized, short on training, human resource capability, and badly in need of updated assets on land, sea and aerial reconnaissance to function adequately, including a forensics lab that has been closed for years. In fact, inquiries at meetings conducted in the north and south of the island with members of the RSLPF provided no new information to counter this perception, and no invocation of a higher cause to improve a messy situation, in particular when conditions are open to extremism and aggressors that threaten communities.

At the same time, the perpetrators are knowledgeable enough to know that little risk exists against the backdrop of a dysfunctional justice system and Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) operating at maximum capacity. Notwithstanding, third quarter crime statistics for 2015 reported to the police have decreased by 7 percent; a decrease in homicides of 16 percent and murders are down by 13 percent. See PowerPoint here Against that background, the real issue is the apparent culture, values and social inequality that produce a sub-culture of white-collar and vicious crimes that is obscuring the country.

A “Sexual offences and crimes against persons were the only major crime categories which recorded an increased number of accepted cases” and “the number of rape cases increased by 11”.

This culture of abuse requires legal reform to curb gender-based violence and protection from victimisation, especially when parliamentarians in the person of Guy Joseph find it easy to express that Sarah Flood-Beaubrun should in effect “take the line, if not we will push you out of the way.” The ethics of such behaviour is in keeping with the archaic state when women were treated like objects, kept in the background and subjected to public ridicule and embarrassment for stepping out of line. This is surely out of place with a modern society that not only requires a reprimand for such remarks, but also speaks to a political culture within a heavily fragmented United Workers Party (UWP) of Pharaohs, Goliaths and Herods that seems to celebrate disrespect, and encourages offensive, racist and abusive behaviour towards women.

Modern society calls for women not simply to play a supportive role but to stand up, stand out and lead in a substantive way. This is even more apparent when parliamentarians in their legislative capacity make it very hard to progress on legal and constitutional reform, rights and freedom of persons, while evading revelations of corruption and/ or to colluding with monopoly powers and cartels via the vicious cycle to have a ‘link’ in the system. The culture of cover up, failure to report, the disrespect for the rule of law and a dysfunctional justice system has given rise to the destruction occurring within the RSLPF.

However, the most striking trend that impacts a dysfunctional state of affairs is when parliament becomes incoherent and inert, which more often than not stems from callousness or incompetence, while adhering to mischief making with sound bites to make up for bureaucratic context on which security decisions are made. This obviously, becomes more disastrous for security administrators and governance to live up to US and UK engagement and the larger vision for Saint Lucia’s foreign policy.

I made the point in a recent article: “The region can defy the odds for real change if there’s strong and effective collaboration on political and economic integration in order to enhance the region’s strategic importance, in a manner that is principled and economically sound.” Also, in my last article I stated: “But regardless of the errors and mounting troubles, it seems Saint Lucia has made a choice with blatant contempt based on ideological preferences and fondness for Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro’s leftist ideology, which often leads to social deprivation and economic consequences, rather than seek economic rebalancing and structural reform for economic growth.”

The consequence of this carries a backlash in traditional networks and international affairs, complicating both citizens’ and Saint Lucia’s capability to meet clear obligations as global participants. A situation that points to the broad failure by the Kenny Anthony-led administration to become effective and focused on dialogue and sound solutions in security matters, foreign policy and socio-economic matters that determine the fate of Saint Lucia. What makes this more dangerous is that this is happening at a time when failed socio-economic and stimulus programs are unsuccessful in prompting the public sector, private businesses, labour unions and cooperatives to improve living standards aimed at eradicating poverty and illiteracy; to provide employment and help diminish inequality in a bid to offer stability while growing the middle class.

Meanwhile Saint Lucia is gaining notoriety as a transit point for smuggling; the most recent example unfolding in an operation dubbed Project Monto in Canada. Embarrassing to a people and government is the inability to provide citizen safety and security, socio-economic upliftment and measures to curb systemic corruption against the backdrop of organized crime, human trafficking, money laundering and narcotics. Nothing could be clearer when 176 blocks of cocaine valued at EC$2.895 million were discovered on Saturday, September 26, 2015, during an operation conducted by the RSLPF in the Point de Caye area in Vieux Fort. No one was arrested during the operation. However, officials at the BCF expressed concern about an aircraft that flew low over the institution.

This brings to mind what happened on Sunday, August 8, 2010, when two Venezuelan nationals and a Saint Lucian escaped from the BCF with the assistance of heavily armed masked men. To date there has been no resolution of this matter. Currently, at least two inmates of Venezuelan nationality are at the BCF. Is history about to repeat itself, this time via a clandestine slow flying aircraft consistent with a turbo prop navigating the South East coast, up the Grand Anse beach corridor unperturbed by local air assets to intercept airborne drug flow and surveillance activities? This must be very embarrassing, as authorities are mute on possible shortcomings, perhaps “wilful blindness” to narco-criminal syndicates in a presumptive well-paid adventure.

The effects of visa revocations, economic and security concerns are degrading Saint Lucia’s prospects for prosperity and stability in encouraging large foreign and domestic businesses to invest, albeit, the desperate resort to the new citizenship by investment programme, commencing January 1, 2016. Applicants will require a net worth of US$3 million to qualify for a Saint Lucia passport, an initial limit of 500 applications per annum, and on becoming a citizen of Saint Lucia comes the privilege of visa-free travel to 105 countries. Under current conditions of 25 percent unemployment, low productivity and efficiency, the lack of fiscal reform and competent leadership, the Saint Lucian economy is suppressed and cannot increase government revenue at a substantial pace (at this time) to enhance confidence in socio-economic policy.

In the process, Saint Lucia has lost its historic economic leadership and regional advantage, outperformed by all its neighbours and is far from acting decisively to root out political anomalies, security and justice missteps and bad economic policies, to make stability possible. This is a vital task to create the basis for compliance with the Leahy Law, bound by international treaties and conventions to which Saint Lucia is a signatory. But when convenient facts are ignored and decisions are hostage to the fortune of others, the endeavour becomes ‘regime change’ of both the Kenny Anthony-led administration and the United Workers Party (UWP) in order to safeguard Saint Lucia from a situation that is close to ungovernable. What greater cause can there be for a new window of opportunity to reshape an environment not to go rogue, when the moral equivalence is oppressive, literally and figuratively bankruptcy. In the service of society’s wider values, the option is to overhaul the aptitude and attitudes and not further embarrass the people of Saint Lucia and the institution of governance by electing and selecting leaders who made the most lavish promises imaginable; and continue to endorse a political culture that elects and selects the least worst and knee-deep useless parliamentarians, when perhaps their best accolades are loyalty and the willingness to fall in line with racketeering, corruption, deception and, pedalling political lies to remain relevant.

On the way forward, it will be necessary to dispel self-destructive egos in favour of careful decision making and planning for the future in the complex landscape of Saint Lucia, with a cool sense of duty. Most of all, independence of thought, accountability of action and courage to the point of loyal adherence to Saint Lucia’s values and edifying performance is particularly useful to create order in the Caribbean region.

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