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.