Des­per­ate rel­a­tives of crime vic­tims want re­turn of OP­ER­A­TION RE­STORE CON­FI­DENCE!

For­mer po­lice com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois: Will the peo­ple next be call­ing for him?

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

Ac­cord­ing to what pur­ports to be pages from the os­ten­si­bly clas­si­fied IMPACS re­port handed the prime min­is­ter in Fe­bru­ary 2015: “Dur­ing the pe­riod 20082010 Saint Lucia ex­pe­ri­enced a pe­riod of crim­i­nal­ity in the country that rock­eted the homi­cide rate for that pe­riod and which showed a high in­dex of gun vi­o­lence in the north­ern half of the country which in­cludes the cap­i­tal city of Cas­tries. This cul­mi­nated in a se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties, one of which in­volved the for­ma­tion of a task force con­sist­ing of mem­bers drawn from the Spe­cial Ser­vice Unit and other po­lice for­ma­tions across Saint Lucia.

“The aim was to re­store con­fi­dence in the po­lice and to pro­vide a safer en­vi­ron­ment for the cit­i­zenry of Saint Lucia. In May 2010 there was a change in the com­mand struc­ture of the Royal Saint Lucia Po­lice Force; then Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Aus­bert Regis was re­placed by As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner for Crime Mr. Ver­non Fran­cois. Un­der the com­mand of Mr. Fran­cois the task force be­came fully op­er­a­tional, with di­rect con­trol by Deputy Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice in charge of oper­a­tions Mr. Moses Charles. Fa­tal shoot­ings by the po­lice in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly, with height­ened con­cerns by hu­man rights groups, fam­ily mem­bers of the de­ceased per­sons and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that the ac­tiv­i­ties of the task force ref­er­enced, to a large ex­tent, in­ci­dence of un­law­ful killings.”

More­over: “The ma­jor is­sues un­cov­ered [by the IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tors] will be ad­dressed in sec­tions of the re­port. In spite of chal­lenges the team achieved its man­date and was able to gather suf­fi­cient de­tails to sat­isfy the req­ui­site terms of ref­er­ence, get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what tran­spired dur­ing the pe­riod, and be in a po­si­tion to make ap­pro­pri­ate rec­om­men­da­tions that may strengthen the op­er­a­tional frame­work, pro­to­cols and prac­tices of the Royal Saint Lucia Po­lice Force, es­pe­cially with re­spect to the use of force.”

First among the rec­om­men­da­tions: “The Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice is to take ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for the un­law­ful killings and must be made to ac­count as to why th­ese killings con­tin­ued un­abated . . .” Rec­om­men­da­tions two and three also speak neg­a­tively of the com­mis­sioner who re­signed “vol­un­tar­ily” not long af­ter the prime min­is­ter made pub­lic cru­cial sec­tions of the re­port that had not yet been pe­rused by the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions. In seem­ing con­tra­dic­tion of the re­port, the prime min­is­ter also de­clared at a rally on March 13 that for­mer home af­fairs min­is­ter Guy May­ers should shoul­der full re­spon­si­bil­ity for every­thing lead­ing up to and fol­low­ing the IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tion!

The 18th rec­om­men­da­tion: “The state should (a) in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions con­cern­ing past and re­cent vi­o­la­tions of the right to life . . .” [In March 1988 the Kenny An­thony govern­ment launched Op­er­a­tion Re­store Peace fol­low­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of Michael ‘Ga­boo’ Alexander and Al­do­phus ‘Bon­nie’ Clarke. On the oc­ca­sion the prime min­is­ter re­ferred to “var­i­ous hit lists” (yes, he’s been talk­ing about hit lists for some time!) and egre­gious crim­i­nal­ity. Ad­di­tion­ally: “I do not wish to ex­ag­ger­ate the sit­u­a­tion. The fact is peo­ple en­gaged in th­ese das­tardly acts are small in num­ber, and all their acts are di­rected against each other. The po­lice have as­sured me that the shoot­ings which have taken place in the last few months are all linked to this small group of per­sons al­legedly en­gaged in the il­le­gal drugs trade. I want you to rest as­sured that this is not some wide­spread na­tional crime wave as­sault­ing ev­ery per­son in our com­mu­nity. In essence it is a strug­gle among ri­val gangs de­ter­mined to wipe out each other.”]

Nev­er­the­less lives were lost. So, might IMPACS rec­om­men­da­tion num­ber eigh­teen be re­fer­ring to the un­re­solved vi­o­lent deaths? The prime min­is­ter had him­self, at the 30 Jan­uary 2003 launch­ing of A Na­tion-wide Sur­vey on Fear of Crime and Com­mu­nity Polic­ing, stated: “The first is­sue re­lates to pub­lic con­fi­dence in the po­lice. A sur­vey of res­i­dents across the country reveals 70 per­cent of the Saint Lu­cian pop­u­la­tion are not sat­is­fied with the per­for­mance of the po­lice . . . the lack of con­fi­dence is par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent in Cas­tries and Vieux Fort.”

He claimed that com­plaints “re­ceived con­firms the view that there is wide­spread cor­rup­tion in the po­lice force.” Re­mem­ber, that was back in 2003! It re­mains con­jec­tural why, de­spite the ex­pen­sive pres­sures on the peo­ple of this country, from sources lo­cal and ex­tra-re­gional, the prime min­is­ter con­tin­ues to ig­nore IMPACS rec­om­men­da­tion num­ber eight: “All of­fi­cers in­volved in the un­law­ful killings of citizens in re­spect of the files re­viewed must be pros­e­cuted.”

Late last year the U.S. Em­bassy in Bar­ba­dos is­sued a re­lease that read in part: “De­spite the sig­nif­i­cance of the IMPACS re­port for hu­man rights, na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns, and Saint Lucia’s in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion, the govern­ment of Saint Lucia has made no mean­ing­ful progress to­wards crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion in ten months. We are con­cerned that four years have passed since th­ese al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions first sur­faced and due process is yet to be served. We re­spect Saint Lucia’s sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, but em­pha­size the en­tire govern­ment’s role in guar­an­tee­ing that each branch has the tools and re­sources to ful­fill its com­mit­ments to the rule of law.

“That said, the Di­rec­tor of Pros­e­cu­tions made a dis­ap­point­ing an­nounce­ment in Novem­ber that her of­fice was not pro­vided suf­fi­cient re­sources or the re­port’s in­ves­tiga­tive files, thus pre­clud­ing fur­ther­ing crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion. We en­cour­age the govern­ment to ac­ti­vate the promised im­ple­men­ta­tion over­sight com­mit­tee un­der the prime min­is­ter’s chair­man­ship.”

More re­cently the State De­part­ment re­minded Saint Lucia’s prime min­is­ter that “we con­tinue to co­or­di­nate our re­sponse on the lack of progress with other coun­tries who are com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing the rule of law and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and con­vic­tion of those who have been cred­i­bly al­leged to have com­mit­ted ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings across the Caribbean.”

While it may be dif­fi­cult to tell who is more des­per­ate to avoid any se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion of IMPACS—the cur­rent govern­ment or its ac­cused pre­de­ces­sor—there is one irony that can­not be ig­nored. More and more vic­tims of rape, ram­pant do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and child im­preg­na­tion—not to men­tion day­light stab­bings in full view of the pub­lic—are call­ing, louder and louder, for the im­mi­nent re­turn of ‘Op­er­a­tion Re­store Con­fi­dence!’”

While govern­ment and op­po­si­tion pre­tend, for wholly self-serv­ing rea­sons, Op­er­a­tion Re­store Con­fi­dence never hap­pened, more and more crime vic­tims are clam­or­ing for its re­turn.

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