The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE -

Last Satur­day this news­pa­per fea­tured on its front page my story en­ti­tled Has Fran­cois Ac­cepted Five Mil­lion Dol­lar Hand­shake? The ar­ti­cle cen­tered on rev­e­la­tions from “nor­mally re­li­able sources,” among them that “va­ca­tion­ing” Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois had fi­nally suc­cumbed to of­fi­cial pres­sure to re­sign in the public in­ter­est.

More­over, that he was poised to col­lect a cool $5 mil­lion dol­lars and other perks as his re­ward for ac­com­mo­dat­ing gov­ern­ment, for some time un­der pres­sure to act on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the IMPACS re­port.

More than one online media out­let also fea­tured ver­sions of the STAR re­port. One such source re­ported that Saint Lu­cia’s top cop Ver­non Fran­cois had “re­quested early re­tire­ment” and was await­ing word from the Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion.

Not sur­pris­ingly, when the Min­is­ter of Na­tional Se­cu­rity, Philip La Cor­binere, was ques­tioned by the media all he said was that the pub­lished sto­ries were mere spec­u­la­tion. On an ear­lier oc­ca­sion he had out­right de­nied a STAR re­port that the US State Depart­ment had de­cided against fur­ther fund­ing of Saint Lu­cia Po­lice oper­a­tions, in­clud­ing train­ing, be­cause the Kenny An­thony gov­ern­ment had demon­strated a stub­born re­luc­tance to look into what the US gov­ern­ment had de­scribed as “gross hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions by the po­lice.”

Not long af­ter La Corbiniere’s public de­nial of the STAR rev­e­la­tion, the prime min­is­ter him­self proved the jus­tice min­is­ter less than truth­ful on the is­sue.

We have since learned the gov­ern­ment had been try­ing qui­etly for months to per­suade Fran­cois—the main fig­ure in the IMPACS con­tro­versy by virtue of his of­fice—to re­tire ahead of time but the gover­nor gen­eral may have got in the way of a set­tle­ment with her re­quest for jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. (Is there a burned cake be­tween Her Ex­cel­lency and the prime min­is­ter? Is that why he re­cently re­minded Saint Lu­cians of his power to fire her?)

Said our source, the gov­ern­ment had no other choice but to per­suade Fran­cois to, more or less, re­sign vol­un­tar­ily. We’ve been in­formed that for a time Fran­cois played hard­ball, de­mand­ing that his name be cleared in ad­vance of his con­ve­nient de­par­ture from the force. The prime min­is­ter had re­vealed on TV that the IMPACS re­port fin­gered the po­lice com­mis­sioner for “will­ful blind­ness” in the al­leged “ex­tra­ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tion” of sev­eral cit­i­zens be­tween 2010-11. The prime min­is­ter had also gone out of his way to say he had seen a re­lated death list, which Fran­cois in­sisted was only a work­ing tool.

As we re­ported last week, usu­ally re­li­able sources told this writer Fran­cois and the gov­ern­ment had fi­nally ar­rived at an agree­ment. So much for the other story that it was Fran­cois who had re­quested early re­tire­ment. In­deed, the com­mis­sioner had twice re­turned to work, only to be or­dered back home “on va­ca­tion.”

In­ter­est­ing to note, the jus­tice

min­is­ter has per­sis­tently re­fused to set­tle the mat­ter, pre­fer­ring in­stead to al­low what he de­scribed as “mere spec­u­la­tion” to con­tinue spread­ing, at the added ex­pense of the be­lea­guered RSLPF.

Not that the ma­jor­ity of Saint Lu­cians place much faith in the min­is­ter’s word. Re­cently it was bruited about, and re­ported by the media, that the min­is­ter had rea­son to fear for his life, cer­tain uniden­ti­fied po­lice of­fi­cers be­ing the rea­son. Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexan­der was quick to is­sue a de­nial of the re­ported threat. Co­in­ci­dently, the min­is­ter has since been as­signed half a dozen po­lice body­guards.

As I write the prime min­is­ter has de­scribed last week’s STAR re­port as “an ad­ven­ture in ab­sur­dity.” Sur­prise, sur­prise, the prime min­is­ter, by his press sec­re­tary’s ac­count, re­vealed dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day: “Mr. Fran­cois has opted to re­tire on his own ac­cord and the process is not yet com­plete.” No rea­son was given for the sud­den change of heart.

By Ja­dia JnPierre-Em­manuel’s in­formed ac­count, the prime min­is­ter, re­fer­ring to the $5 mil­lion set­tle­ment men­tioned in our orig­i­nal story, said: “Five mil­lion dol­lars is as­tro­nom­i­cal. I have roads to build and things to do. As min­is­ter of fi­nance I have not seen this fig­ure.”

We have now been in­formed that Fran­cois’ leave was up on Mon­day this week. But don’t go look­ing for him at po­lice head­quar­ters. Ev­i­dently he is too busy ne­go­ti­at­ing his vol­un­tary re­tire­ment, whether or not in re­turn for $5 mil­lion on top of his reg­u­lar en­ti­tle­ments!

PM Kenny An­thony: Has he lately taken to speak­ing in tongues?

Com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois: Sac­ri­fi­cial lamb or has he de­cided to hang

it all up in favour of greener pas­tures?

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