Will Justice for Commissioner Francois be Justice for all?
In his televised address on the evening of 8 March 2015, related to the undead and increasingly controversial IMPACS report, this was prime minister Kenny Anthony’s shocking promise to the nation: “I will state some of these findings tonight to bring home to you the extreme gravity of this matter. I cannot and will not discuss or review the evidential basis of the conclusions of the investigators.
“The matter of pursuing criminal charges is the preserve of the director of public prosecutions and it is she who will pronounce on the same once her actions are consistent with our Constitution. Our Constitution enshrines three separate arms of the state: the executive, legislative and the judicial. I will not allow the executive, which I lead, to transgress the province of the other two arms. I intend to fully continue respecting that sacred separation.”
Did he mean to say the DPP might pursue “criminal charges” based solely on the content of the IMPACS report?
No matter, he had chosen for undeclared reasons to reveal to the home audience and others via the Internet that “the findings of the investigators are extremely damning . . . to bring home to you the extreme gravity of this matter.” After all, they related “not only to those officers who were involved in the operations but additionally, members of the high command
of the police force who may have been involved in covering up these matters.”
He may not have declared himself executioner at this point but by his pronouncements the prime minister certainly came across as prosecutor, judge and jury.
Still citing the IMPACS report, the prime minister said, “The weapons found at the scene of the alleged extrajudicial killings were from sources other than the victims. The investigators say the weapons were planted on the scene of the shootings . . .”
The nation must’ve gasped when the prime minister said: “The report suggests that the crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians, government officials, business persons and police officers.”
Yes, “suggests.” But evidently persuasive enough to risk repeating to millions at home and overseas, despite having earlier advised his audience it was up to the director of public prosecutions to sift through supplied information and, if necessary, pursue criminal charges.
It must at this time remain conjectural the DPP’s thoughts on the prime minister’s revelations. It certainly wouldn’t do to have the public speculating about the possibility of her office operating on the orders of the prime minister, himself hardly a disinterested party in the IMPACS matter. But there could be no denying he had told the whole world what he had read in the IMPACS report—before the DPP had had the opportunity to study it. Not only did he identify officials in the IMPACS report, he had also revealed the discombobulating claim that crime in Saint Lucia was facilitated by “corrupt politicians, government officials, business persons and police officers.” Moreover, the evidence supplied by the IMPACS investigators was, by the prime minister’s measure, “damning.”
Pointedly, the prime minister claimed the investigators had concluded that “willful blindness existed in respect of the commissioner of police and particular members of his leadership membership team.” Additionally: “The investigators have recommended that all police officers involved in the unlawful killings of citizens in respect of the files reviewed must be prosecuted.”
Did those “involved” include officers accused of “willful blindness” to the alleged killings, at least one of them being, according to the prime minister, “the police commissioner?”
At one point during his televised speech the prime minister must’ve remembered that under our justice system suspects are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“I have already said, and I repeat,” he went on, “that it is not for me personally or
the government collectively, or any minister individually, to make any judgment about the innocence or guilt of anyone who may be implicated by the findings of the report.” But then was it not passing “judgment” to say the findings of investigators into alleged fatal police shootings amounted to “damning evidence?” And what about “willful blindness?” Then there was the “death list” the prime minister claimed to have seen with his own eyes, the existence of which he revealed had been confirmed by his investigators, never mind the commissioner’s own contrary view.
In any case, since it appears only the prime minister had seen a “death list,” shouldn’t he be considered an important witness whose evidence was at the very heart of the IMPACS investigation? Was he interviewed by the investigators? We know he also considered the existence of the so-called death list vital— which may be why he went out of his way on the evening of 8 March 2015 to tell the world what he’d said earlier had been “confirmed” by his hand-picked investigators from Jamaica!
The prime minister also said: “I am not here to, nor will I order that police officers be charged or dismissed or offered packages to retire from the police force.”
Then what about that reported $5 million handshake? Oh, yes, I forgot. A mere “adventure in absurdity,” by the measure of the judge, jury and executioner. And his other revelation last week that the untried, willfully blind police commissioner had been “invited by the Public Service Commission to resign in the public interest?” What about that?
What prompted The Godfather- type offer? Was it something the police commissioner said? Didn’t say? Did? Refused to do? Did the commissioner prove too dumb to recognize his leave was of the permanent variety?
Did the PSC, unprompted, hand the commissioner a rock and a harder place choice? Or did the governor general kibosh the plan? The PM didn’t say at last week’s press meeting; only that the commissioner had finally opted for “early retirement,” conceivably in his own interests, whether they amounted to five or ten million dollars and a retooling of his damaged public image. If money can’t buy you love, who knows the possibilities connected with the right amount of money— plus a leisurely swim in the famously rejuvenating water under the bridge?
As the prime minister explained it under pressure last week, while the commissioner had decided voluntarily to throw in his khakis and car keys, the process was “not yet complete,” which to many amounted to the PM speaking in tongues. One need ask: Bearing in mind the IMPACS investigation was launched (some say unconstitutionally!) under duress, is it in the prime minister’s political and personal interest to keep the report by the imported investigators under wraps? As important as obviously it is, why has the DPP uttered not a word, not a word, not a word related to the report? Certainly she must know the issue’s impact on the police and the public trust.
I recently came across the following in the Voice of last March: “In his Sunday address the prime minister commenced by stating that the IMPACS report . . . presented him with ‘most challenging and extremely tough, courageous but necessary decisions.’ He continued that the matters in question have tarnished the reputation of our country and brought considerable dishonor to our police force. In concluding that decisions have to be made, and that dishonor has been brought to the police force, the prime minister has accepted the conclusions of the report. He has found the police force guilty of dishonorable conduct.
“Further on in his address the honorable prime minister said he would share some of the findings of the report which he described as extremely damning. He said that the report ‘confirms’ that the death list . . . did exist. More alarmingly, ‘all the shootings reviewed were fake encounters staged by the police to legitimize their actions; the weapons supposedly found on the scene of the alleged extra-judicial killings were from sources other than the victims.’ It is our view that by addressing the nation in the manner that he did, the prime minister, whether he intended to or not, gave the impression that he adopted the conclusions of the report . . . The prime minister did say that the report would be submitted to the DPP for her determination of whether or not to bring any prosecutions, but it seems to us that having stated what he did earlier that the latter statement smacks of Pontius Pilate washing his hands.
“We sincerely hope that the prime minister has not, by his address, fatally corrupted the process which he has said he has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to commence and carry through to its conclusion.”
The fact remains that the police force is not only headless at this time, it has also been robbed of its soul. Meanwhile, the frustrated public demonstrates every day, one way or another, its increasing frustration. People have taken to being their own judge, jury and executioner. We are this close to Jungle City while the prime minister tries to figure a way out of the mess he created with his egregious mishandling of the IMPACS issue and what preceded it.
As for the courts, the crime lab, the government’s relationship with what remains of the force, let’s not even go there. Suffice to say, it’s true what they say in Purgatory: be careful what you pray for!
DPP Veronica Clarke: Is she stuck between a rock
and the prime minister?