The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Our na­tion is chok­ing on the nox­ious fumes of hearsay and cant. Ca­su­al­ties in­clude once dis­cern­ing cit­i­zens no longer ca­pa­ble of treat­ing idle talk with pal­pa­ble con­tempt and de­ri­sion. But then in these try­ing topsy-turvy days of mir­a­cles and won­der the only rec­og­niz­able nor­mal is the ephemeral “new nor­mal.”

Never mind the ev­er­faith­ful an­tic­i­pa­tors of promised bet­ter days, we ex­ist in in­creas­ingly par­lous, amoral times. Only last Tues­day, from the once sa­cred House floor, our prime min­is­ter grabbed another op­por­tu­nity to blame public ser­vants for the over­whelm­ing smell of cor­rup­tion, now more than ever as­so­ci­ated with ca­reer politi­cians. Not atyp­i­cally, he of­fered not the small­est ev­i­dence for his self­serv­ing al­le­ga­tion that elected politi­cians are not nearly as cor­rupt as their staff.

More re­veal­ing was that none of his par­lia­men­tary col­leagues voiced dis­agree­ment. Not even the above-it-all Speaker saw good rea­son to up­braid the prime min­is­ter for dump­ing that bar­rel of dirt on the de­fense­less public sec­tor per­son­nel—pos­si­bly the worst charge ever lev­eled at the pre­sumed trust­wor­thy ser­vants of the peo­ple.

Less than a month ear­lier the prime min­is­ter had, for un­ex­plained rea­sons, re­minded the na­tion of his power to fire the gover­nor gen­eral—as if in­deed there ex­isted among our ovine pop­u­la­tion any doubt about his near lim­it­less au­thor­ity, con­sti­tu­tional and oth­er­wise. If only he’d ex­er­cise such puis­sance in the peo­ple’s best in­ter­est.

More re­cently the prime min­is­ter sug­gested the Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion was manned by eu­nuchs too lilyliv­ered to take tough de­ci­sions. Were the prime min­is­ter’s dis­com­bob­u­lat­ing rev­e­la­tions re­lated to the gover­nor gen­eral’s stub­born re­fusal to par­tic­i­pate in the on-go­ing pre­tend game that re­quires po­lice com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois to im­i­tate a football?

This was how PSC chair­man Wil­bert Pierre trans­par­ently ex­plained to HTS the com­mis­sion’s re­cent in­vi­ta­tion to the po­lice com­mis­sioner to pick up his cross and walk: “We wrote to him let­ting him know we had cer­tain in­for­ma­tion given to us with re­spect to his stand­ing and that we were con­sid­er­ing re­tir­ing him in the public in­ter­est. We gave him some time to re­spond be­cause [that is what the process de­mands] any time you are go­ing to pur­sue an ac­tion of that na­ture against an of­fi­cer, un­less it was dis­ci­plinary. And this time it was not.” Pierre kept to him­self the iden­tity of his source of “in­for­ma­tion given to us . . .”

He added: “We had to al­low the of­fi­cer time to agree or dis­agree. We al­lowed a cer­tain amount of time to elapse, then wrote him a sec­ond let­ter. We still did not hear from him . . . but some time af­ter we got word that he was look­ing at, or pur­su­ing, another form of exit.”

Yes, a mouth­ful. PSC per­son­nel are not in the habit of ex­plain­ing their staff-re­lated de­ci­sions to the media. No mat­ter, Pierre ac­knowl­edged “we” had re­ceived word Fran­cois was seek­ing “another form of exit.” But the PSC leader of­fered not a word, not a word, not a word about the ori­gin of the all-im­por­tant “word” re­ceived sec­ond­hand about Fran­cois’ es­cape plans.

In­ad­ver­tently or oth­er­wise, the prime min­is­ter may have dropped a hint when last week he told the press Fran­cois had opted to take early re­tire­ment— with no in­duce­ments. At any rate, not amount­ing to five mil­lion smackeroos. Such an amount, the prime min­is­ter chuck­led ner­vously, would be far bet­ter spent on new roads. Af­ter all, fast ap­proach­ing are the next gen­eral elec­tions.

Claudius Fran­cis dropped his own im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice a day or two later. Of­fi­cers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force, he told lis­ten­ers to his ra­dio show Straight Up, with at least one busi­ness­man and an undis­closed num­ber of politi­cians were in con­fed­er­acy against the gov­ern­ment. “Op­er­a­tion Re­move Kenny An­thony” was how Fran­cis re­ferred to the ne­far­i­ous un­der­tak­ing—leav­ing the im­pres­sion that the best tal­ents at the Cre­ative In­dus­tries min­istry had lately been burn­ing the mid­night co­conut oil. And not for rea­sons tourism-re­lated.

If the sen­a­tor’s night­mar­ish IED was not enough in­cen­di­ary to throw the na­tion fur­ther off kil­ter, the prime min­is­ter’s im­me­di­ate con­cur­rence with all Fran­cis had claimed fu­eled the wide­spread sus­pi­cion that the force, the jus­tice min­is­ter and the prime min­is­ter marched to dif­fer­ent drums.

Last week this was the shep­herd’s re­as­sur­ance to his ner­vous flock: “As I stated dur­ing an in­ter­view on MBC-TV on Mon­day 21 Septem­ber, I was aware of the sit­u­a­tion even prior to Sen­a­tor Fran­cis’ ut­ter­ances. There was noth­ing in Sen­a­tor Fran­cis’ state­ments which are [sic] in­con­sis­tent with the in­for­ma­tion which had reached me pre­vi­ously . . .” He added that upon the re­turn to of­fice of act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexan­der (it turns out he’s been in Ja­maica—“on pri­vate busi­ness”—from the first week in Septem­ber!) he would “re­quest a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the mat­ter.”

Mean­while, from the Big Ap­ple where he sought to ad­dress the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly as the ghost of Od­lum passed, the prime min­is­ter took time to com­mu­ni­cate with Saint Lu­cia Times. The re­sul­tant re­port started this way: “The prime min­is­ter has said, amid the cur­rent con­tro­versy over al­le­ga­tions that a few po­lice of­fi­cers are plot­ting his over­throw, that he is not afraid of any­one.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, he was “aware that a small group of po­lice of­fi­cers . . . a very small group, has planned to use the so­called Lam­birds Af­fair and, more re­cently, the AIMU in­ves­ti­ga­tions to try to em­bar­rass me per­son­ally and three other min­is­ters in my Cab­i­net. The po­lice force it­self is not in­volved in this.” (Did he mean to say the sus­pect moon­light­ing cops were, to bor­row from another prime min­is­ter in dis­tress, “crim­i­nals un­der their po­lice uni­forms?”)

The online re­port quotes the cur­rent prime min­is­ter as say­ing “a se­nior of­fi­cer” is at the cen­ter of the al­le­ga­tions and re­port­edly had boasted to col­leagues and civil­ians alike about the plan “to bring down Kenny An­thony and the

Labour gov­ern­ment.” (The prime min­is­ter chose cal­cu­lat­edly to keep to him­self and the se­nate pres­i­dent the iden­tity of the crim­i­nal co-con­spir­a­tors. Also whether charges had been laid against the ev­i­dently known in­di­vid­u­als in the sedi­tious group!)

Ac­cord­ing to the SLT re­port, the prime min­is­ter said: “Ob­vi­ously this is fan­ci­ful. But it may con­firm there are po­lice of­fi­cers who do not un­der­stand they can­not use the law for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses, no mat­ter how much they may dis­like the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

He ques­tioned the mo­tives of “the so-called in­ves­ti­ga­tors” whom he said had is­sued war­rants “to search the of­fices of se­nior of­fi­cials of the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia, in­clud­ing min­is­ters.”

“Did the of­fi­cials in ques­tion ever sug­gest they would be un­will­ing to co­op­er­ate with the po­lice in their in­ves­ti­ga­tions?” he asked. “Were they ever hos­tile to the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors?” Doubt­less, the truth will out when the of­ten-ad­journed Lam­birds mat­ter comes to court.

In any event, mag­is­trates and other au­tho­rized per­son­nel nor­mally is­sue war­rants at the be­hest of the po­lice, and only when ap­pli­ca­tions have been metic­u­lously con­sid­ered and de­clared legally jus­ti­fied. In­deed, the prime min­is­ter had him­self ac­knowl­edged this truth when he told SLT “search war­rants are only is­sued when in­ves­ti­ga­tors have rea­son to be­lieve wit­nesses will be hos­tile or they have in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence that they plan to hide or de­stroy.”

What pos­si­bly “in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence” might there have been at the com­merce min­istry that of­fi­cials would want to “hide and de­stroy?” Hope­fully none re­lat­ing to Lam­birds and AIMU!

The PM went on: “The real ques­tion is this: was the high com­mand of the po­lice force aware and did they au­tho­rize the is­suance of these search war­rants? We need an­swers to these ques­tions to prop­erly un­der­stand what oc­curred and why.”

We cer­tainly do. It would be es­pe­cially in­struc­tive to dis­cover the iden­ti­ties of those the prime min­is­ter re­ferred to as “the high com­mand of the po­lice.” Frances Henry? Er­rol Alexan­der? Also, the mag­is­trate who had is­sued, ac­cord­ing to the se­nate pres­i­dent, “sur­rep­ti­tious war­rants”— what­ever they might be!—to search gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, and to what avail. Thn again, the prime min­is­ter has been sound­ing on such mat­ters a lot like a lawyer for the de­fense!

Re­turn­ing to AIMU: the prime min­is­ter is yet to ad­dress pub­licly why his name con­tin­ues to be listed in the es­tab­lish­ment’s prospec­tus as a fac­ulty mem­ber spe­cial­iz­ing in “le­gal ethics.”

Ab­so­lutely alarm­ing is the prime min­is­ter’s re­ac­tion to sug­ges­tions that his tele­vised com­ments in re­la­tion to the clas­si­fied IMPACS re­port had proved de­mor­al­iz­ing to the RSLPF: “The po­lice force can­not be a sanc­tu­ary for those who openly en­gage in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties un­der cover of the law. This is not just about the IMPACS re­port. It is about a small group of rogue of­fi­cers seek­ing to de­lib­er­ately em­bar­rass a gov­ern­ment with the sole in­ten­tion of caus­ing its down­fall . . . We avoid pub­licly dis­cussing the IMPACS re­port for the sim­ple rea­son that we do not wish to cause any prej­u­dice to the process of as­sess­ment of the find­ings of the in­ves­ti­gat­ing team.” (How does one “openly” en­gage “un­der cover?”)

Is he sug­gest­ing the po­lice may have in their pos­ses­sion ma­te­rial that could prove em­bar­rass­ing to gov­ern­ment min­is­ters if made public? What ex­actly does the prime min­is­ter mean, in the cir­cum­stances, by “em­bar­rass?”

His last quoted state­ment cer­tainly con­tra­dicts the ver­i­fi­able truth that the prime min­is­ter had openly re­ferred more than once to cru­cial de­tails of the re­port, in some cases im­pli­cat­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois, Stephen­son King and busi­ness­men un­named.

In pri­vate life a lawyer, the prime min­is­ter is also on record as hav­ing de­ter­mined much of what he claimed to have read from the re­port amounted to “ex­tremely damn­ing” ev­i­dence, at any rate by his own mea­sure.

More­over, that the po­lice com­mis­sioner had en­gaged in “will­ful blind­ness” while gross hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions were car­ried out by a spe­cial po­lice task force put to­gether on the in­struc­tions of the prime min­is­ter’s im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor. Per­haps most dis­turb­ing to the na­tion was the prime min­is­ter’s tele­vised rev­e­la­tion that the IMPACS re­port had con­firmed his 2011 elec­tion-time pro­nounce­ment that he had seen “a death list” closely linked to ex­tra-ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions.

It is con­jec­tural whether there would have been an IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the first place with­out the then leader of the House op­po­si­tion’s public an­nounce­ment, let alone the crip­pling re­lated ac­tions taken by the US State Depart­ment against the gov­ern­ment of this coun­try.

Re­fer­ring to a re­cent public state­ment by Camron Laure, pres­i­dent of the Po­lice Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion, that IMPACS was hav­ing neg­a­tive im­pact on the force, the PM told SLT: “The is­sue will not go away un­til we deal with it. What does Mr. Laure have to say about the of­fi­cers whose visas have been can­celed and can­not travel to the United States, whether on busi­ness or plea­sure?

“Mr. Laure should an­swer this sim­ple ques­tion: Is it in the public in­ter­est that the com­mis­sioner of po­lice in Saint Lu­cia can­not travel to the United States to rep­re­sent Saint Lu­cia to dis­cuss se­cu­rity mat­ters with the US gov­ern­ment? Even when the com­mis­sioner of po­lice trav­els to coun­tries other than the US, more of­ten than not the US would be a transit port. Mr. Laure should say whether the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia should al­low a sit­u­a­tion where an en­tire po­lice force is de­nied train­ing by the US be­cause of a cloud hang­ing over the heads of a few of­fi­cers.” The prime min­is­ter stopped short of say­ing who had po­si­tioned the hang­ing cloud.

He added that the record will show that his gov­ern­ment has not threat­ened any po­lice of­fi­cer “but has taken ac­tion in the in­ter­est of the coun­try when such ac­tion is mer­ited.” At least three of­fi­cers would prob­a­bly say oth­er­wise!

It should be ac­knowl­edged, how­ever, that no of­fi­cer has been charged with an of­fense re­lated to the prime min­is­ter’s com­ments on travel by lo­cal po­lice­men to the US. So what does the PM mean when he says that all his gov­ern­ment has done is “taken ac­tion in the in­ter­est of the coun­try when such ac­tion is mer­ited?” By whose au­thor­ity was such ac­tion taken? Who de­cided such ac­tion was “mer­ited?”

More hang­ing ques­tions: Why is the com­mis­sioner barred from trav­el­ing to the US? Has a de­ci­sion been taken re­gard­ing his fate lo­cally? Who made the de­ter­mi­na­tion? A court? The PSC? Was jus­tice served? Might the dif­fi­cul­ties ex­pe­ri­enced by wannabe po­lice trav­el­ers be con­nected with what re­port­edly the prime min­is­ter told the Lon­don Times, in re­la­tion to the Ol­lie Go­bat mur­der (still un­re­solved nearly two years later), that our po­lice “have a cor­rup­tion prob­lem?” A short time ear­lier he had promised Go­bat’s par­ents “an ar­rest is im­mi­nent.”

Are our be­witched, bat­tered and be­wil­dered cops, and by ex­ten­sion the na­tion, pay­ing the price of our prime min­is­ter’s per­sis­tent dis­re­gard for the Leahy Law?

Ms Veron­ica Charles-Clarke: If PM can sack “the Queen’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive,” then

why not a jus­tice-re­tard­ing Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions?

Mr Claudius Fran­cis: What the se­nate prez said about the po­lice two weeks ago

was stale news to at least one other pow­er­house citizen!

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