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Statement Issued by the Prime Minister on the Tragic Attack at the Cathederal of the Immaculate Conception - December 31, 200...

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Today is a tragic day for St. Lucia.

Like everyone else, I awoke this morning with the news that something terrible had happened at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We have all since learned of the tragic events that took place at our nationís largest place of worship.

Having visited the scene, accompanied by most of my Cabinet Ministers, and speaking with the Commissioner of Police and others involved in the investigation of this very serious matter, and having visited the injured persons at the Victoria and Tapion Hospitals, my Government, the Catholic clergy and indeed all the people of St. Lucia share the grief and horror of this unprecedented incident.

The evidence of the monstrosity of the act was spread out inside the church. There was blood in the spots where persons were hacked, burnt bibles, a desecrated altar and other church furniture either burnt or upended in the melee.

From what we all saw inside the church, it is absolutely clear this was the work of sick, demented and demonic minds.

I am extremely saddened and unhappy to report that one person, Sister Theresa Eglin, a nun who had served as an educator for many years, died from injuries received in the attack by the individuals concerned. In addition, twelve other persons were treated for various injuries at the two hospitals.

The shock and terror witnessed by the hundreds who attended mass this morning will live with those men, women and children forever. But nothing will be like the pain and agony of those that have suffered either the loss of a beloved one or who had relatives, friends and loved ones who were injured.

I express my condolences, that of my Government and that of the people of St. Lucia to the Catholic Church and clergy and to the relatives of the deceased. I also extend all our heartfelt sorrow to the families of the injured and we wish them all a speedy recovery, as I told those whom my ministers and I were able to speak with this morning on their hospital beds.

I want to assure the families of the deceased and the injured, and indeed all the people of St. Lucia, that this incident will not be allowed to go unpunished and that the fullest measure of the law will be brought to bear on the perpetrators. You will all appreciate why I cannot disclose at this time what response will be given or what measures will be taken. But again, I want to assure and reassure the nation that this act will not go without a sufficiently adequate response which will not only be punitive but also serve as a deterrent in the future.

Citizens will be relieved to know that one person, a 20-year-old Castries resident, is in police custody after he was captured with the help of law-supporting citizens. The police have reported that another man involved in the incident is still at large.

I have instructed the Police Commissioner to ensure a complete and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this crime. In the meantime, a nationwide, round-the-clock search should begin for the other person or persons involved in the attack. Also, I have informed the families of the injured persons as well as the head of the Accident & Emergency Department of Victoria Hospital, that if in the opinion of the medical authorities, any of the injured requires medical attention outside of St. Lucia, the Government of Saint Lucia will meet the costs of such treatment.

I want to urge all of Saint Lucia that this is a time to maintain our calm, despite our rage. This is not a time for casting blame or coming to irrational conclusions. This is not about politics, but a clearly irrational attack on religion. Regardless of our religious complexion, we should all strongly deplore such an attack and the extreme intolerance that it demonstrates.

I want to congratulate the staff of the Accident and Emergency Department of the Victoria Hospital for the way they responded to this situation and for the efficiency in dealing with the injured. A special word of thanks must be said to those on the night shift who continued on well past the changing of the shift and those who came in voluntarily from their homes to assist.

It is this kind of spontaneous expression of concern and a decisive readiness to assist in such a time of national shock that will ensure that as a society we will transcend such inhumanity and brutality.

I thank you.

31st December 2000


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