Fellow Saint Lucians,
It has become necessary for me to address you tonight on certain matters
relating to the National Security of our country.
A Changed world
Ever since September 11, 2001 the matter of National Security has received
greater attention than usual from Governments and people all around the world.
Since that dreadful day we have all come to accept that the world has changed
dramatically and perhaps forever, and this realization is particularly acute in
respect of air travel.
For example, we have all come to accept the necessity of new and more lengthy
procedures – the earlier check-in times, the more detailed and rigorous
searches, the questions which seem to invade our privacy, and the ever present
and probing metal detectors. In short, we have all come to accept the necessity
for the inconvenience and discomfort that are rooted in concern for our security
The world has certainly become a different, more dangerous place and we are
required to adapt almost daily to changing circumstances and emerging threats.
We have also come to accept the reality of our interconnectedness. We came to
understand in an instant, that events in any part of the world could have major
consequences for us. Similarly, we came to understand that events and
circumstances here in Saint Lucia could also have international implications.
This explains for example, the necessity for us here in Saint Lucia to improve
upon the security arrangements at our air and sea ports.
Government came to realize also that even while we understood the need for
improving the security arrangements at our ports, and were prepared to undertake
these improvements voluntarily, Saint Lucia would have had no choice in the
matter. Improved security at Saint Lucia’s points of entry and exit was now no
longer an option, but a clear and immediate requirement of the international air
Point of Weakness in Global Network
The reality is that because of the relaxed manner in which we are accustomed to
going about our daily lives, countries like ours are seen as points of weakness,
potential launching pads for acts of terror or other mischief, targeted at other
countries and their associated interests. We must ensure, through our vigilance,
and concerted and deliberate action that our country serves no such purpose. The
recent terrorist acts in the tourist resort city of Bali in Indonesia, and those
against tourism facilities in Kenya should serve to alert us to the striking
similarities between our circumstances and those of the countries which were so
The notion that countries like ours are points of weakness in the global
security network is not limited to air travel arrangements, but also applies to
other areas such as international financial services. International terrorism
and criminal networks require quick, smooth, and undetectable flows of large
amounts of money from country to country, and so you will understand why it has
also become necessary for us to pay particular attention to ensuring that our
country remains a clean financial services jurisdiction, free from the spectre
of money laundering.
Abuse of Relaxed Passport Control Regime
Ladies and gentlemen, St Lucia is one of very few countries in the region
without a regime of full passport controls. For example, whenever a Saint Lucian
travels, he or she is not required to fill out and submit immigration forms
either upon entry into, or departure from the country. Many Saint Lucians admit
to a certain pleasure upon having to turn down a flight attendant’s offer of an
immigration/landing card for entry into Saint Lucia.
It has been quite some time since full passport controls were removed as a means
of eliminating some of the hassles associated with overseas travel. Sadly
however, there have been numerous of instances where this small but useful and
welcome convenience has led to serious breaches of security.
The most recent example of this is the situation involving the escape of an
inmate of Her Majesty’s Prisons to Barbados. The absence of immigration controls
at our ports made it possible for this individual to leave the country without
official record of his departure, and without the opportunity for his
apprehension through this means. Fortunately, he was picked up by Barbadian
I referred earlier to countries like Saint Lucia being viewed as points of
weakness, facilitating the easy movement of drug traffickers from the region and
Central and South America as well as becoming potential launching pads for acts
of terror or other mischief. There is indeed a perception in both official and
unofficial circles that countries like ours constitute the soft underbelly of
the US. Because of our close proximity to the US and Canada, criminal groups and
others seeking entry into those countries are actively utilizing St Lucia as a
jump-off or transit point. It is clear that without outgoing immigration
controls, it is easier for outgoing passengers who engage in criminal activity
to avoid detection.
Threat to Integrity of the St Lucia Passport
The St Lucia Passport has come to be regarded as a travel document of the
highest integrity. Mercifully, we have been spared the scandals and the
uncertainties associated with the passports of some countries in the region, and
holders of St Lucian Passports are seldom, if ever, required to defend the
authenticity or integrity of the document when traveling abroad.
Ironically however, it is this high international regard that has now led to a
situation which should cause grave concern to us all. It appears that the Saint
Lucia Passport has found special favour with persons who wish to use it
illegally for entry into countries like the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Already, the authorities have uncovered and disrupted the operation of certain
groups intent on facilitating this kind of activity.
We have seen therefore, the remarkable convergence of a set of normally
beneficial circumstances, working in concert to our disadvantage. The close
proximity and easy air access to North America and Europe, the absence of full
immigration controls, and a travel document of high international repute, have
all combined to make Saint Lucia a favourite departure point for persons from
within the region and elsewhere seeking to enter North America and Europe;
persons who are of questionable character, and whose motives are suspect.
Because of the absence of outgoing immigration controls, a heavy burden has been
placed on airline officials to detect fraudulent passports. In pursuance of this
responsibility, airline officials and security personnel have discovered a
number of instances where attempts have been made to use fraudulent Passports,
including Saint Lucian passports, to secure admission to countries in Europe and
North America. Some of the fraudulent passports have betrayed extraordinary
skill and sophistication on the part of the persons preparing them, and are not
I wish to take the opportunity at this time to remind everyone, Saint Lucians
and non – Saint Lucians, that the Saint Lucia Passport is the special property
of the Government of Saint Lucia. Possession of this document is a special
privilege, and it is bestowed only upon persons who meet certain specific
criteria. The possession of a St Lucia Passport by a person not meeting these
criteria is a criminal offence. The alteration, defacing, and trading in the St
Lucia Passport is a serious criminal offence. I wish also to make it abundantly
clear that the Government of St Lucia will deal firmly and without pity with
persons found to be engaged in such activities.
St Lucia simply cannot afford to have its passport lose its value, integrity,
and respect in this way. If this were to happen, then St Lucia could be
subjected to the imposition of restrictions, including visa restrictions similar
to those that have been imposed on a number of countries in the region for
travel to places such as Canada and the United Kingdom.
Let me take the opportunity therefore to caution Saint Lucians to treat their
passports with special care. This document should always be kept in a safe
place, out of the reach of others. We should all remain extremely vigilant in
this matter. Failure to do so could lead to disastrous consequences for us all.
The concerns of which I speak are real. In recent months some of our Missions
have had numerous enquiries, some of which may well be intended to test our
immigration rules. There is now a surge of people applying for visas for the
purpose of entering St. Lucia. The general openness of our country is a cause of
The pace of world events requires that we be ever alert and adaptive to new
circumstances. There is today in the world, a heightened state of alert, tension
and anxiety, brought about by the threat of war in Iraq, the ongoing conflict
between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the renewed threat of
international terrorism. This situation demands that we act in a pre-emptive
manner, and put in place measures that will further enhance our security,
especially at our ports, and particularly in relation to the movement of persons
in and out of the country. In this regard, tighter controls, some of which are
already in effect, will be applied in respect of residents and nationals of
selected Middle-Eastern countries with a high propensity for terrorist activity.
Government’s Response – The Measures Instituted
In the light of the state of affairs that I have described, the Government of St
Lucia has found itself compelled to embark on the following measures:
1. The purchase and installation of security equipment for the air and sea
ports. Approximately EC$2 Million has been spent so far on such equipment,
including hand-held and walk-through metal detectors, X-ray screening machines
for both carry-on and checked baggage, and security patrol vehicles (both air
2. The implementation of :
(a) a passenger tracking and watch list system, and
(b) ID Badging and tracking systems.
3. The purchase and installation of communication and video surveillance
equipment at the air and sea ports.
4. The purchase and installation of electronic equipment for the detection of
5. The strengthening of institutional capacity for delivery and maintenance of a
secure environment at our ports, through the training of all levels and
categories of personnel, and the review and upgrade of operational systems.
6. The physical upgrading of facilities including airport terminal buildings,
fencing, barricades, and internal peremeter roadways.
A further EC$ 9.5 million is expected to be spent on these programmes. It will
be appreciated that certain of the systems and equipment to be installed cannot
be made public because of a very real risk that this could compromise overall
In addition to the above-mentioned initiatives, the following systems-based
measures are to be instituted:
(1) Passport control – full passport controls are to be reinstituted at our
ports from 17th March 2003 and will be applicable to all persons departing from
St Lucia. Incoming Saint Lucians will not be required to submit immigration
forms upon arrival.
(2) Visas – tighter controls will be instituted in relation to the processing of
applications for visas for travel to St Lucia. This would involve more thorough
screening and investigation of applications, and would be applicable
particularly to persons originating from countries with a high propensity for
terrorist activity. The Government is in the process of reviewing its bi-lateral
arrangements with a number of countries whose nationals do not require visas to
enter Saint Lucia.
(3) Replacement Documents – Applications for replacement passports will be more
thoroughly investigated, and this would necessarily involve an increased fee and
a lengthening of the processing time for such applications. It is expected that
this should exert sufficient pressure on persons to be more careful in the
handling of passports entrusted to them by the State.
(4) Uniformity of Procedures – Greater insistence in uniformity of rules and
procedures particularly in respect of our overseas missions.
I am sure that you appreciate the need for these new measures. While they will
obviously cause some inconvenience, it is my hope that we will all appreciate
that their intention is to make our lives safer and more secure, and as a
result, lend our support to their successful implementation.
As many of you retire for this evening, I am aware that the apparent
inevitability of war in Iraq is weighing heavily on your minds. This war will
unleash serious consequences for our island and the Caribbean. I hope, soon
again, to address you on this issue.
I thank you, and wish you a very good night.
March 6, 2003