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Address to the Nation on the Crime Situation in Saint Lucia and Government’s Response by Prime Minister the Honourable Stephenson King – 30 May 2010

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Address to the Nation on the Crime Situation in Saint Lucia and Government’s Response

by Prime Minister the Honourable Stephenson King

Sunday, 30th May 2010


I address you tonight at a time of unprecedented challenges for our small country. Some of these challenges are obviously beyond our control, but too many, I fear, are of our own making. The good news is that, what we do to ourselves, we also can undo. We can stop, take stock and shift direction in our individual and national interests. Challenges are not new to us. We are a famously resilient people. Our history tells us so. What is new and different now, and especially disturbing, is that too many of us appear to have lost all respect for human life, including our own and the lives of our families. We turn on each other like rabid wolves at the slightest disagreement. Never before have we seen such senseless violence, such anger and manifested self-hate. It is wholly unnatural; and uncharacteristic. Could these new and shocking traits be a fall-out from the so-called drug culture? Whatever the cause, it must be eradicated. It will be eradicated by whatever legal means at our disposal. My Government is determined to put an end to the atmosphere of fear, now threatening certain parts of our country.

Despite numerous handicaps, mostly economic, St. Lucia can be proud of its achievements over the last three decades. I promise that my government, with the help of right-thinking St. Lucians at home and abroad, will not sit back and allow a relative handful to reverse the successes for which we fought so hard and long. Every homicide, every single criminal act, wherever it might occur in St. Lucia, is like another nail in our nation’s coffin. We will not be buried alive. The rotten apples will be removed in the best interests of those not yet contaminated.

Already my Government has invested heavily in such innovative programs as HOPE. In a determined effort to enhance the quality of life for our citizens, the marginalized and deprived in particular, we have targeted interventions at the community level, utilizing both local resources and funds supplied by friendly governments and organizations. Inner city communities and rural areas have benefitted from such programs. And while in our pursuit of a better quality of life for our people, we have incurred significant expenditure, in health and in the provision of social and community infrastructure, we have always kept in mind that law and order and the nation’s security are of paramount importance.

Some have argued, correctly, that poverty is a contributor to crime. And certainly, this Government has sought to reduce poverty throughout our country, despite our limited resources, and an environment not immune to the fallout from the worst recession in living memory. With much assistance from the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) we have gone a long way in providing employment for many young people around the island, so as to counter the effects of deprivation. Contrary to what some who seem to specialize in negativism would have others believe, all for selfish purpose, we have done much to improve the effectiveness of the Saint Lucia Police – both in terms of human resource and equipment.

In successive Budgets presented by this government since December 2006, the allocation to the Ministry of Home Affairs and National security has been increased. Through the acceleration and intensification of the training programme, 58 additional recruits have been provided to the Police Force last year and a further 60 are about to embark on a new training cycle in the next few weeks. In addition, government has reinstituted the regular annual training programme at the Police Training School. Additional equipment, including vehicles and other facilities to support the work of the police, have also been provided. Generally, expenditure on national security has increased significantly. For this financial year, the proportion of the budget allocated to the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security has increased to over $90 Million on the recurrent side and over $18 million on the capital side, the highest ever over the last 10 years. Moreover, there has been a steady increase in the financial resources allocated to that Ministry since 2006.

The increasing level of criminality, the impact of which we have all experienced in the last several months, cannot be blamed solely on unavailable resources. If it is true that our police are not as well equipped as other police departments, in countries far more affluent than Saint Lucia, it is also undeniable that the people of this country have every justification for disappointment with the performance of our police. Saint Lucians do not expect miracles. They know, with our limited resources in these particularly rough times, what we can and cannot provide for our police force. Indeed, Saint Lucians know what we have provided. Saint Lucians know too, that what is expected of our police is not beyond them, if only they would be more dedicated to the protection of Saint Lucian life and property.

Sadly, there are among us, some who refuse to acknowledge that crime affects us all, regardless of political colour. These short-sighted individuals, politically motivated as they are, continue to see in every murder recorded, every rape and burglary, every purse snatching, another opportunity to pull down another brick from the structure of Government. Evidently, their political ambitions are to them far more important that the safety of our citizens. And so, by their public comments, by their advertised refusal to cooperate with the day’s government in our efforts against crime, they stroke the fires of rage that the authorities tell us is at the root of so much of the violence that now surrounds us and threatens our very existence.

This government however, has always viewed crime as an issue requiring a national and bi-partisan approach and has never and will never use it to gain cheap political mileage. That is why only recently, the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security invited the representative for Castries East to a Community meeting to discuss this issue and very soon we propose to convene parliament in joint session, to further discuss these problems.

My government considers the community approach to be a fundamental part of the process and will continue to use all resources to work with the Police and communities to safeguard and enhance their environment by ensuring community involvement and participation. This is not a government problem, it is not an opposition problem, it is not a Police problem, it is the country’s problem and collectively we are all responsible.

Since the escalation in criminal or gang warfare in recent weeks, during which period there were a total of four (4) homicides, government has been engaging, both at the Cabinet level and with the top management of the Police Force, with a view to refining its strategy and plan of action and making clear to the police that they are expected to tackle this issue head on. Permit me this opportunity to outline the steps taken thus far and the decisions made.
At an emergency Cabinet meeting, convened on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, the following decisions were taken and agreed for immediate implementation:

1. The creation of a Cabinet Task Force on Crime and Security to be chaired by the Prime Minister, and comprising the Minister for Social Transformation; the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security; the Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation; the Attorney General and Minister for Justice and the Minister for Physical Development and the Environment. The Task Force will meet as often as necessary initially and thereafter no less than monthly. It will keep the situation under constant review and serve as a mechanism to facilitate speedy decision making.

2. The Cabinet Task Force shall engage all social and economic partners including political organizations as part of the national strategy to address the crime issue.

3. Cabinet approved a Patrol Strategy prepared for immediate implementation by the leadership of the Royal Saint Lucia Police force. This plan will include 24 hour surveillance and patrol of troubled areas or hot spots and the police will be provided with the appropriate assets to facilitate this and associated preventative activities.

4. The immediate re-organisation of the Police Force in order to enhance effectiveness, efficiency and mobility, including the re-introduction of the Cadetship programme to facilitate succession planning. I will say more on this re-organisation later.

5. The Minister for Finance to accelerate the disbursement of the approved allocation of resources to immediately recommence the HOPE programme, for this financial year, with a view to providing social and vocational skills and employment opportunities in the short, medium and long term.

6. The Minister for Finance will approach the National Insurance Corporation, with a request that the organization makes a one time contribution towards assisting in addressing the key social challenges, including the provision of employment opportunities in inner city communities. These programmes will be directed at our young men, women and mothers, who we believe can make a difference;

7. The opening of the Police Substation at Rodney Bay within the next three weeks.

8. The Attorney General’s Chambers is directed to take steps to accelerate the enhancement, updating and strengthening of all relevant legislation to support the law and order enforcement programme. A report is to be submitted to the Cabinet within two weeks.

9. The Ministry of the Public Service, Human Resource Development, Social Transformation, Youth and Sports is to expedite the appointment of Social Transformation Officers for deployment to serve the inner city communities especially in the Castries area.

We have also agreed to accelerate the provision of additional equipment to the police. On Tuesday May 25, 2010, I signed off on additional expenditure in the sum of more than half a million eastern Caribbean dollars to ensure that the Police are adequately prepared and equipped for the task at hand.

Our present situation is one that I consider to be serious in nature, and I am not about to take it lightly. To this end I have made formal approaches to two of our international friends who have expertise and tremendous experience in inner city violence and crime intervention to provide training, technical assistance and equipment for our Saint Lucia Police. In addition, at the last meeting of the OECS Authority, Saint Lucia requested the placement of the issue of Crime and Security in the sub-region on the agenda, in an endeavour to adopt a regional approach to crime in the OECS countries.

The Police Patrol Strategy which I spoke to earlier, will entail 24 hour surveillance and patrol in the most vulnerable areas. This is a campaign that will be institutionalized and sustained to confront, disarm, and arrest the criminals and bring them to justice.
To further strengthen our resolve, the police will work jointly with the Inland Revenue Department and the Customs, to ensure compliance of all laws governing the importation of restricted and controlled items, licenses, the operations of commercial establishments, together with laws dealing with operating business hours, liquor and noise abatement.
To halt and eradicate creeping roadside “blocks” that facilitate criminal activity, support will be provided to the police by the Ministry of Physical Development, to destroy abandoned buildings which often serve as havens, or points of assembly under cover, to launch criminal acts. There are a number of areas where it has been noticed that persons gather on the “block”, idling and loitering. These assemblies, which often are the beginnings of the gang culture or “creeping ghettos”, will be confronted early, eradicated and disbanded.

The justice system must be supportive of the efforts of law enforcement officers and apply the full punishment allowable under the law for criminal acts especially those involving the use of firearms. There must be consistency in the meting out of fines and sentences. There should not be any disconnect in the justice system, and as a consequence all efforts to address these anomalies will be made, to correct these sooner, rather than later. A strong witness protection programme is being implemented, so as to guarantee the safety of witnesses and to give the courage and confidence to those who may be in possession of information, to come forward and share it with the police.

The Police will engage communities with a view to building trust and confidence, as we continue our efforts to promote and support Community policing.

There is also a need to expedite aspects of the Castries urban renewal programme, to renew certain parts of the City, that have been paralyzed and seized by elements, who harbour criminality. In some instances there are urban communities that require pedestrian and vehicular accessibility for security and emergency purposes. Such areas require adequate vehicular access. The communities most affected will be opened up, through the compulsory acquisition of lands and properties required to provide necessary vehicular and pedestrian access. This initiative has been placed on an accelerated path and the Ministry of Physical Development has been directed accordingly.

Fellow Saint Lucians, you will appreciate that the operational details of any strategy must be left to the police to carry out, and cannot be disclosed in a national address. I assure you and them of my fullest confidence in their ability to discharge their responsibilities and to arrest this spiralling situation of lawlessness. There must be no doubt that the Police have the full support of this government in their drive to rid the society of these criminal elements. In that vein therefore, I take this opportunity to publicly thank and express government’s appreciation to all the hard working police officers across the island who continue to serve this country with distinction in the exercise of their duties. You have an unenviable task, but rest assured that government stands by your side and will give the necessary resources and support to get the job done. The job must be done now!
Notwithstanding the hard work, dedication, commitment, and the efforts of those devoted police officers, who toil night and day, in the interest of law and order and the preservation of our country, there are those corrupt ones who destroy the image, reputation and professionalism of this disciplined democratic institution of ours. In this regard, Government will review, with the intention of instituting new measures to strengthen existing mechanisms for investigating police indiscipline and corruption.

You will no doubt be acutely aware, of similar situations which our sister islands in the region find themselves, and the impact it is having on their economies and their vital tourism industry. The situation here in Saint Lucia over the past few months, begs the question whether we as a nation are headed on that path of self destruction, which some of our neighbours are currently treading? I am sure that all law abiding citizens, and all who love our country dearly are nervous about the mere thought of our country finding itself in such a precarious position.

Fellow Saint Lucians, let me assure you that this government will not sit idly by whilst criminal elements amongst us attempt to reek havoc on our society. I wish to sound a warning to all those who have unleashed these unprecedented levels of violence on this country, that this will no longer be tolerated or accepted. Let’s stop the violence now! We will not abdicate our responsibility to protect the citizens of this country and to maintain law and order. This government will not stand aside and allow criminals to trample upon the citizens of this country. There will be no refuge, no stone will be left unturned, and there will be no hiding place for anyone. By your actions you have declared war on the society and as such we will employ all practical steps to pursue and arrest you and restore normalcy to our “Fair Helen”.

I spoke earlier about the need to restore confidence and pursue a re-organisation of the Police Force to enhance its effectiveness. In any organization, leadership and the ability to inspire, to motivate others, is a pre-requisite for the successful discharge of its functions. It is clear from the comments both in the wider society and from within the force itself, that there has been an erosion of confidence in the current leadership. Therefore, government has decided that it is time to revisit the current leadership of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, in preparation for a new beginning.

Consequently, upon the recommendations of the Public Service Commission I have accepted the proposals for the restructuring of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, to take effect on Monday 31st May 2010.

Here are the recommendations:

• Mr. Ausbert Regis has been transferred from the position of Commissioner of Police to the position of Director of Special Initiatives, Office of the Prime Minister;

• Mr. Vernon Francois; Assistant Commissioner of Police, has been appointed to act in the position of Commissioner of Police, effective Thursday 27th May 2010;

• Mr. Moses Charles; Assistant Commissioner of Police, appointed to act as Deputy Commissioner of Police, with responsibilities for Administration, effective 27th May 2010;

• Mr. Pancras Albert; Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police, appointed to act in the second position of Deputy Commissioner of Police with responsibilities for operations, effective 27th May 2010.

As a result of these changes, a number of changes will be made through the rank and file of the Police Force, all of which will be gazetted in the Saint Lucia Gazette.

In conclusion, it is accepted that crime is a multifaceted issue and must therefore be tackled on many different fronts. The strong arm approach will be accompanied by other programmes in the communities, some of which are on-going, while others require acceleration. The efforts of all citizens, residents and stakeholders are required to deal with this scourge which is threatening our very existence. I implore you all to take the necessary measures to enhance and safeguard your personal safety and security. We must all be our brother’s keeper. This situation requires that we all come together and take back our country from the hands of the criminals. It has to be now, or we will live to regret our lack of action. This government will not allow this to happen under its watch.

To you I say let us save our Saint Lucia and preserve it for future generations.

Good night and god bless you all; God bless Saint Lucia.

I thank you.


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