Edi­tor’s Let­ter

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

Ican­not say for cer­tain how many read­ers want to be re­minded of 2016 but there it is, nev­er­the­less, all wrapped up for your re-ex­am­i­na­tion! One thing for cer­tain, there is no way many read­ing this were un­touched by the events of the past year. Chances are you based your New Year res­o­lu­tions on what it de­liv­ered at your door. Here’s hop­ing you’ve not al­ready bro­ken too many. At least you’re alive. Un­like too many who just gave up, con­vinced any­thing was bet­ter than what they were go­ing through. Others lost rel­a­tives and close friends be­cause med­i­cal bills were be­yond their means. And then there was the un­ceas­ing, sense­less vi­o­lence.

Alas, the new year opened with more demon­stra­tions of self-hate and ha­tred for others, while most of us looked on help­less and frus­trated, won­der­ing what could lead one hu­man be­ing to take the life of an­other. In too many cases the ag­gres­sor and vic­tim had never met be­fore their deadly en­counter. A silly rum-shop dis­agree­ment had ex­ploded into a mur­der­ous at­tack. Or some­thing some­one said to some­body else had re­sulted in a deadly shoot­ing or knife at­tack.

And then, this week, as if to prove all was not lost, that good peo­ple still ex­isted in Saint Lu­cia, there was a Good Sa­mar­i­tan story on the ra­dio: a 21-year-old woman whose sick and frus­trated mother had taken her own life early in the week, who had lost her fa­ther last June, was given good rea­son to hang on re­gard­less. A to­tal stranger had come to her res­cue with a job of­fer at a law firm. That af­ter the per­sis­tent failed ef­forts at job-hunt­ing through­out 2016.

“Saint Lu­cians are the most kind-hearted peo­ple in the world,” said some­one, re­act­ing to news of the young woman’s turn of luck. The usual com­ment goes like this: “Peo­ple here are so self­ish; we don’t care about one an­other. We don’t even talk to our neigh­bours.” Ac­tu­ally, the quoted words were spo­ken in ref­er­ence to the 21-year-old’s de­ceased mother. The speaker went on to say: “We need to be will­ing to help peo­ple while they are still alive, not when it is too late.” She ap­plauded the Good Sa­mar­i­tan but could not re­sist spoil­ing it: “We need more peo­ple like that but there are many peo­ple in sim­i­lar or worse con­di­tions, peo­ple who can­not af­ford to eat or send their chil­dren to school.” Could she have been re­fer­ring to her­self? Was she so close to the end of her own rope that she could not ac­cept an act of kind­ness to some­one else with­out neg­a­tive com­ment?

A flood of sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments fol­lowed—in­dica­tive of what may have over­pow­ered the week’s sui­cide. It is ob­vi­ous that we are a na­tion in even more trou­ble than we re­alised. While some re­luc­tantly ac­knowl­edged the good that had been done by the law firm, there was the un­spo­ken “Why her? Why not me? My fam­ily is also suf­fer­ing.” Hope­fully, there will be re­lief, how­ever small, be­fore 2017 is half­way over. We can­not con­tinue like this. Those who cam­paigned so as­sid­u­ously for the op­por­tu­nity to make mean­ing­ful changes in the way we live must be seen to be do­ing ev­ery­thing hu­manly pos­si­ble to keep their prom­ise. The new year can­not be per­mit­ted to be worse than the year just ended!

The year be­gan with news good and not so good— but mainly bad. With much of the cit­i­zenry, the preg­nant par­tic­u­larly, con­cerned about the wors­en­ing word on the Zika virus, and with news fake and oth­er­wise of con­firmed cases in neigh­bor­ing Mar­tinique, Venezuela, and Mi­ami, na­tional epi­demi­ol­o­gist Nahum JnBap­tiste de­clared Saint Lu­cia spared. Nev­er­the­less he ad­vised that all steps be taken to elim­i­nate breed­ing grounds for the Aedes Ae­gypti, the mosquito blamed for spread­ing the virus. JnBap­tiste also rec­om­mended sleep­ing un­der bed nets, us­ing in­sect re­pel­lents and wear­ing at­tire that cov­ered as much skin as pos­si­ble. On the other hand there was the fall-out from IMPACS, from which there seemed to be no es­cape. By of­fi­cial ac­count, the is­land’s gov­ern­ment had re­peat­edly turned a deaf ear to the State Depart­ment and the Euro­pean Union’s de­mands that re­ported “gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights al­legedly car­ried by the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice in 2010-11” be brought to a “cred­i­ble ju­di­cial res­o­lu­tion.” Cit­ing ar­range­ments un­der the Leahy Law, the U.S. gov­ern­ment had in re­tal­i­a­tion ceased eco­nomic and other as­sis­tance to the po­lice force in 2012. The con­se­quences on the RSLPF and the cit­i­zenry were quite ob­vi­ous.

Also in Jan­uary a del­e­ga­tion of am­bas­sadors from the UK and France, fol­low­ing a meet­ing with the Saint Lu­cia gov­ern­ment, had con­vened an un­prece­dented con­fer­ence with the lo­cal press at which the of­fi­cials re­vealed the prime min­is­ter had pledged to re­solve not only the IMPACS prob­lem but also to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to ame­lio­rate the sit­u­a­tion at the Borde­lais Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity, where sev­eral peo­ple had been in­car­cer­ated for over a decade with­out even a trial date. The Saint Lu­cia-based French am­bas­sador was es­pe­cially con­cerned about a cit­i­zen of his coun­try charged with mur­der, who he said had been treated shab­bily by the jus­tice sys­tem. The am­bas­sador re­vealed that his gov­ern­ment had run out of pa­tience with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. More­over, that the prime min­is­ter had been given what amounted to an ul­ti­ma­tum: pros­e­cute Eric Som­mer or set him free!

The Kenny An­thony gov­ern­ment was un­der fur­ther pres­sure lo­cally af­ter it came to light that the ad­min­is­tra­tion had in 2015 se­cretly ap­pointed a UK-based Saudi bil­lion­aire named Walid Juf­fali as the is­land’s diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the board of the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion, head­quar­tered in London. The mat­ter came to light via on­line rev­e­la­tions about the Arab’s mar­i­tal prob­lems: his sec­ond wife, an Amer­i­can model named Christina Estrada, was seek­ing a di­vorce set­tle­ment of sev­eral mil­lion pounds. But Juf­fali’s lawyers claimed their client was be­yond the reach of the Bri­tish courts, thanks to im­mu­ni­ties af­forded him as Saint Lu­cia’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the IMO.

Estrada would pre­vail. A judged ruled that the Saudi Ara­bian’s pre­sumed diplo­matic im­mu­nity was in the cir­cum­stances ir­rel­e­vant. With lo­cal elec­tions im­mi­nent, the fall-out from the Juf­fali trial would gen­er­ate a po­lit­i­cal sand­storm in Saint Lu­cia— es­pe­cially af­ter it emerged Juf­fali had ab­so­lutely no ex­pe­ri­ence with mar­itime mat­ters, and had never once at­tended a meet­ing of the IMO. Nei­ther did he set foot at his di­vorce trial in London. It emerged he was too sick to leave his bed at a Zurich hos­pi­tal. Weeks af­ter the court awarded his ex-wife sev­eral mil­lion pounds and real es­tate that Juf­fali owned in Eng­land, the Saudi bil­lion­aire suc­cumbed to cancer.

The month ended as it started, with still more fall­out from IMPACS. While the is­land pre­pared to mark No­bel Lau­re­ate Day, a rit­ual go­ing back to the late 80s, the prime min­is­ter grabbed the na­tional spot­light in an at­tempt to “clar­ify the U.S. po­si­tion on the pros­e­cu­tion of those al­leged to have en­gaged in ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings dur­ing the ten­ure of the for­mer [sic] United Work­ers Party,” on the premise the so­called clar­i­fi­ca­tion would “help the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia and the of­fi­cers of the RSLPF bet­ter un­der­stand the po­si­tion of the United States in this dif­fi­cult and com­plex mat­ter.”

It seemed an un­nec­es­sary ex­er­cise. On Jan­uary 12, just two days be­fore the ear­lier cited meet­ing of am­bas­sadors here, the U.S. Em­bassy in Bar­ba­dos had com­mended “the gov­ern­ment’s ini­tial step in 2014 by invit­ing IMPACS to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that mem­bers of the RSLPF com­mit­ted ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings from 2010 to 2011.” The em­bassy had also stated in a press com­mu­niqué its in­creas­ing con­cern that since the is­suance of the IMPACS re­port in March 2015 “progress on pur­su­ing jus­tice in th­ese killings [of 12 cit­i­zens deemed to be crim­i­nals, ac­cord­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony] had halted . . . De­spite the sig­nif­i­cance of hu­man rights, na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns and Saint Lu­cia’s rep­u­ta­tion, the gov­ern­ment has made no mean­ing­ful progress to­ward crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion in ten months.”

The em­bassy de­scribed as dis­ap­point­ing news the re­cent pub­lic state­ment by the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions that her of­fice had not been pro­vided with the files re­lat­ing to the IMPACS re­port, nei­ther nec­es­sary re­sources, “thus pre­clud­ing fur­ther pros­e­cu­tion.” Also of con­cern to the U.S. Em­bassy was that “four years have passed since th­ese vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights first sur­faced and due process is yet to be served.” In short, there was noth­ing about the U.S. Em­bassy’s po­si­tion so fuzzy as to re­quire clar­i­fi­ca­tion. From the start all the State Depart­ment had ever wanted was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the al­le­ga­tions against mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force and a fol­low-up cred­i­ble ju­di­cial res­o­lu­tion.

Mean­while there was the DPP’s own pub­lic state­ment at a press con­fer­ence shortly be­fore she set out on pre-re­tire­ment leave in De­cem­ber 2015, at which time she re­vealed that the IMPACS re­port—much of which the prime min­is­ter had read on TV be­fore it had been re­ceived by the of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions— con­tained noth­ing ca­pa­ble of stand­ing up in court.

Jan­uary saw the pass­ing of beloved sports­caster Brian McDon­ald, even as Gryn­berg and IMPACS con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate the news. But there was a small dis­trac­tion: the un­nec­es­sar­ily con­tro­ver­sial ap­point­ment of for­mer HTS news pre­sen­ter Jade Brown. An­other pleas­ant note: St. Kitts­based Jus­tice Lor­raine Wil­liams was de­clared STAR Per­son of the Year! Alas, the Nepalese stu­dents, lured here by al­legedly false prom­ises, con­tin­ued to com­plain about our snail­paced le­gal sys­tem. But there was the good word that Derek Wal­cott had been de­clared first knight—an ac­co­lade of not much sig­nif­i­cance, at any rate, in the coun­try where the or­der was cre­ated.

The year was half­way over, with lit­tle change for the bet­ter. IMPACS con­tin­ued to drop its rot­ten eggs all over He­len’s “sim­ply beau­ti­ful” face. Con­tribut­ing to the trans­mo­gri­fi­ca­tion was news of yet an­other sui­cide, this time of a 25-year-old woman. The prime min­is­ter took time to meet Raise Your Voice sec­re­tary Cather­ine Sealys and di­rec­tor Pe­tra-Jef­frey Nel­son, a group ded­i­cated to fight­ing for the rights of

Few ex­pected what fol­lowed the fall-out from the June 6, 2016 gen­eral elec­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.