Attorney at Law Mary Francis has welcomed Prime Minister Philip J Pierre’s statement this week expressing the belief that everyone in Saint Lucia must obtain justice, no one is above the law, and everyone should get equal treatment.
Pierre made the comments after the Comptroller of Customs dropped charges against Castries South MP and former Saint Lucia High Commissioner to the UK, Dr. Ernest Hilaire.
Customs Officers had detained Hilaire’s Land Rover in 2020 amid claims of irregularities regarding its importation.
In response to the Prime Minister’s remarks about equality and justice, Mary Francis, Coordinator of the National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights, asserted that actions speak louder than words.
She expressed that the government should prioritise justice alongside health and education.
“Without justice, where is the society going? It is number one. It is the anchor for the society because if you have crime and you have people not having justice, how can you have economic development? How can investment be secure? “The outspoken Human Rights campaigner told St Lucia Times.
“Where is the home for the court? From 2014 that place was closed down on Peynier Street,” Francis observed.
And she accused authorities of neglecting the justice system, which is essential to people’s stability, development, and well-being.
Francis lamented that the ‘small man’ has no access to justice in Saint Lucia, and many are still awaiting their day in court while on remand.
She declared that it was well and good for the Prime Minister to talk about equity. Still, She asserted that he had to put appropriate measures and the infrastructure to facilitate legal aid while partnering with civil society.
“Civil society can’t just be doing voluntary work because they have to have resources – give us a little stipend so civil society can partner with the government and provide services for the poor in this country.
According to Francis, there’s no public defender in Saint Lucia.
“It is an affront to democracy where the poor man, because of economic circumstances and lack of finances, is unable to get justice in a democratic country.
She said while others can afford legal representation to defend themselves in court, the poor man has no such recourse.