More Ques­tions than An­swers

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Alexis B. Mont­go­mary

The prime min­is­ter’s ad­dress to the na­tion on Sun­day March 8, 2015 in which he re­ported on the find­ings of the IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged ex­tra– ju­di­cial killings com­mit­ted by the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force over the pe­riod 2010/2011 raises many pointed ques­tions.

It was in Au­gust of 2013 that the na­tion first be­came of­fi­cially aware, via a na­tional ad­dress by the prime min­is­ter, that the Gov­ern­ment of the United States had taken puni­tive ac­tion against the Po­lice force of Saint Lu­cia for rea­sons we are told are due to vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights as­so­ci­ated with ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings which are al­leged to have taken place dur­ing “Op­er­a­tion Re­store Con­fi­dence”, dur­ing the years 2010/2011 un­der the for­mer UWP ad­min­is­tra­tion. In essence th­ese are the rea­sons prof­fered for the height­ened in­ter­est by the US into the is­land’s do­mes­tic af­fairs and its ap­pli­ca­tion of the Pa­trick Leahy Law that pro­hibits the U.S. Depart­ment of State and Depart­ment of De­fense from pro­vid­ing mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to for­eign mil­i­tary units that vi­o­late hu­man rights with im­punity.

Although the killings ref­er­enced as the rea­sons for the US ac­tions had al­ready been sub­jected to an in­quest and a pro­nounce­ment by our ju­di­ciary that six of the twelve per­sons died through mis­ad­ven­ture, it would seem that this was not sat­is­fac­tory and so a fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion was deemed nec­es­sary. Pursuant to a sup­pos­edly more sat­is­fac­tory in­ves­ti­ga­tion, one that would prob­a­bly ap­pease the United States and its Sec­re­tary of State, the Kenny An­thony ad­min­is­tra­tion sought the as­sis­tance of CARICOM and se­cured the as­sis­tance of the CARICOM Im­ple­men­ta­tion Agency for Crime and Se­cu­rity - IMPACS - in terms of the ser­vices of a team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force to in­ves­ti­gate all in­stances of al­leged “ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings” that were linked to “Op­er­a­tion Re­store Con­fi­dence”.

It is ironic and in­struc­tive that while Ja­maican in­ves­ti­ga­tors probed the ac­tions of St. Lu­cian po­lice, the long–an­tic­i­pated en­quiry into the 2010 Tivoli Gar­dens po­lice– mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion was fan­ning the flames of protests, con­cern and great in­ter­est in Kingston. What an in­ves­ti­ga­tion overkill, some may say. It re­mains a trou­bling enigma and seems not to be re­solved by the PM’s ex­pla­na­tion for the un­prece­dented at­ten­tion of the US to th­ese twelve un­for­tu­nate deaths in terms of the pro­por­tion­al­ity of the ac­tion by the US when com­pared with other cases in the Caribbean. Let us take into con­sid­er­a­tion that over 70 civil­ians were re­port­edly killed in Ja­maica dur­ing the cap­ture of Christo­pher “Dudus” Coke in 2010, largely by gov­ern­ment forces. Yes this in­ci­dent in Ja­maica also oc­curred in 2010.

Why didn’t the United States re­act in a sim­i­lar man­ner to the killings as­so­ci­ated with the at­tempt of the Gov­ern­ment of Ja­maica to ex­tra­dite Christo­pher “Dudus” Coke to the US? Is it be­cause they thought there were no vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights even though this in­ci­dent was re­ferred to as a “massacre” marked by blood­shed and death be­tween po­lice and civil­ians? Yet for all this, Tivoli Gar­dens seems not to have at­tracted a re­quest for an in­quiry by the US or any vi­o­la­tion of the Pa­trick Leahy Law. Why then, is the US go­ing to such great lengths to mete out dif­fer­ent treat­ment to Saint Lu­cia which is a far more peace­ful coun­try, by most in­di­ca­tions, to Ja­maica where crime rates are much higher? In­deed shouldn’t the IMPACS team of eight in­ves­ti­ga­tors have been put to bet­ter use, help­ing in their own na­tional ef­forts, par­tic­u­larly the on­go­ing Tivoli Gar­dens In­quiry?

Surely hu­man rights con­cerns are not limited to Saint Lu­cia. If the US held Saint Lu­cia’s hu­man rights record in such dis­dain, why was St. Lu­cia se­lected to host and par­tic­i­pate in the US-funded mil­i­tary ex­er­cises known as Tradewinds from May 20–31, 2013? This is an­other fact which ren­ders the PM’s ac­count dif­fi­cult to di­gest.

Was the US not aware of Saint Lu­cia’s so–called ex­tra– ju­di­cial killings at that time, in this in­for­ma­tion age where most news­pa­pers are on­line, and with our close prox­im­ity to the ever vig­i­lant Bar­ba­dos Em­bassy?

It should also be noted that there is, and had been, on­go­ing con­tact, for­mal and oth­er­wise, be­tween Saint Lu­cia and the US in terms of tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two sides.

So could this chain of events be as a re­sult of a “Re­port” which the PM said “at­tracted” the at­ten­tion of the US and prompted them to act? No­tably, dur­ing the 2011 elec­tion cam­paign it was strongly hinted by the then op­po­si­tion, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, that un­named gov­ern­ment min­is­ters were well aware of, and may have sup­ported, il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties by a so–called “ad-hoc” group within the lo­cal po­lice force.

Then we have heard men­tion of a cer­tain hit list which sug­gests a level of pre-med­i­ta­tion of th­ese deaths. How­ever, it is nor­mal and un­der­stood that law en­force­ment agen­cies de­velop and keep a list of per­sons of high risk and in­ter­est to them. Also if a coun­try is experiencing a marked in­crease in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, as was the case dur­ing the years 2010/2011, it is not un­com­mon for a sit­ting gov­ern­ment to re­spond as­sertively through its po­lice or de­fense forces to try to en­sure peace and na­tional se­cu­rity. In­deed, if a sur­vey of public views on “Op­er­a­tion Re­store Con­fi­dence” were to be con­ducted, there is a high pos­si­bil­ity that it would re­flect fa­vor­ably on the RSLPF. The gen­eral cit­i­zenry, who lived in fear and anx­i­ety, were very grate­ful for the man­ner in which the RSLPF was able to re­store peace, safety and se­cu­rity to this coun­try.

So how did we get there? One thing is cer­tain: the rev­e­la­tions of the now in­fa­mous IMPACS re­port cru­ci­fied not only the po­lice but also deeply tar­nished politi­cians and busi­ness per­sons all at once and, by ex­ten­sion, the rep­u­ta­tion of Saint Lu­cia. The ver­sion of the story be­ing told by the PM raises se­ri­ous red flags and more ques­tions than an­swers. At any rate we sur­mise that this ver­sion is not one that will be read­ily be­lieved by in­tel­li­gent, an­a­lyt­i­cal thinkers in this coun­try un­less cer­tain per­ti­nent ques­tions are con­vinc­ingly ex­plained.

Were th­ese ac­tions against Saint Lu­cia, namely the sus­pen­sion of as­sis­tance to the RSLPF, a di­rect re­sult of ac­tions in which the Em­bassy of the United States in Bar­ba­dos felt duped and co–opted into the ma­li­cious back chan­nel schemes of some, in the highly ad­ver­sar­ial lo­cal pol­i­tics of Saint Lu­cia?

Is there a link be­tween all this so–called US ac­tion against Saint Lu­cia and its po­lice force and the re­vo­ca­tion of the visa of a cer­tain for­mer min­is­ter?

Is this a re­ac­tion by the US to the im­pend­ing law­suit to the tune of US$25 mil­lion in which the US State Depart­ment is a de­fen­dant and of which the peo­ple of St. Lu­cia were in­formed by a caller to a popular tele­vi­sion Talk show?

Is this IMPACS re­port, con­ducted by sup­pos­edly in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors, with all its saucy de­tails of al­leged cor­rup­tion and staged killings which helps to add some cred­i­bil­ity to the PM’s ex­pla­na­tion, not re­ally a case of po­lit­i­cal the­atrics and a staged dis­trac­tion from the true rea­son for the US ac­tion?

Did some par­ties ven­ture too far in tak­ing ac­tion aimed at achiev­ing cer­tain nar­row po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives which re­sulted in un­in­tended con­se­quences for the en­tire na­tion in terms of its se­cu­rity?

So has the IMPACS re­port, damming as the PM calls it, gone too far with its rev­e­la­tions hence the hot potato mat­ter be­ing quickly passed on to the Direc­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions for a sec­ond take?

More­over and fun­da­men­tally, will ful­fill­ing all the rec­om­men­da­tions out­lined in the IMPACS re­port re­ally and truly ap­pease the US and re­store nor­malcy to our re­la­tions with them? Yeah right.

Af­ter hear­ing all this and an­a­lyz­ing it all we are forced to con­clude that it does not add up – “you can fool some of the peo­ple some of the time but you can­not fool all the peo­ple all the time be­cause some will see the light”.

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony: His rev­e­la­tions

of the now in­fa­mous IMPACS Re­port cru­ci­fied not only the po­lice but also deeply tar­nished politi­cians and busi­ness

per­sons all at once and, by ex­ten­sion, the rep­u­ta­tion of Saint Lu­cia.

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