Looking for all the world like a clean-shaven, hair-dyed off-duty Santa Claus, Saint Lucia’s beleaguered, often confused and bewildering prime minister threw another log on the IMPACS bonfire during a televised interview last Friday morning. Perched within smooching distance of his red-shirted interlocutor, Kenny Anthony seemed determined to make every softball full-tossed at him appear to be a head-hunting brick. A first-time accidental viewer may well have imagined he or she had happened upon an under-rehearsed pantomime produced by the Jade of Choice and directed by the state-sponsored Shelton Daniel in lion skin.
On the other hand, in much the same way movie audiences need not be told they are viewing a Tarantino flick, so in touch residents of straight-up political Saint Lucia would’ve known, unprompted, that only the same company as had sold our Chamber of Commerce the idea that a most obvious American flimflammer was the year’s only candidate deserving of our Prime Minister’s Award for Innovation—“did you hear that, Saint Lucia? Two thousand tablets exported weekly—from scratch. Say that again!”—could have been responsible for the earlier mentioned pre-Christmas panto.
As I say, for the most part Friday’s presentation was for the hardly disinterested host and guest regular fare; stress free. Like shooting tranquilized sheep—until the gentleman in red served what conceivably he imagined was his sweetest chunk of candy floss. In effect, he asked the thrice-elected prime minister what he considered his toughest challenge to date. The prime minister smiled, lowered his head as if to check his polished-for-TV footwear, adjusted his posture on a studio bench way too low to permit him ease.
Well, he said finally, he would have to say his chief concern was IMPACS. By the prime minister’s measure the issue, with all its international implications, was far worse than Rochamel—or the unresolved 13-years-old Grynberg, presumably.
So far, so good. But then our much bitten, never shy prime minister had always been famous for not knowing when to leave well enough alone. Even though he had already answered the last question put to him—with uncharacteristic frankness, let it be said—he chose to elaborate. He blamed IMPACS on a police force he said was “in denial.” Besides, he went on, those involved were well aware of their “wrongdoing . . . their failure to come to terms with the fact that they cannot with impunity break the laws . . . they don’t accept they did anything wrong, it’s the syndrome of self-denial.”
He paused, raised a lance-like forefinger, looked his interviewer straight in the eye. “The fact that the Americans are pointing this out to us,” he said in his best school principal’s voice, “is a statement about us!” He alone knew why the unexplained “statement” was “about us” generally—and not about our government specifically.
All the same several worms wriggled out of the mephitic muck our prime minister casually dumped on viewers of last Friday’s Straight Up, among them: Who’s really in denial? The cops or their self-appointed shrink—also the nation’s chief law maker? It certainly has not been easy keeping up with our chameleonic prime minister, especially when addressing the IMPACS investigation of twelve particular shootings by police officers between 2010 and 2011. At different times the prime minister—who famously claimed to have seen during his 2011 election campaign a death list—has laid burdensome blame for the alleged “extra-judicial executions” on the shoulders of several individuals, among them the early-retired police commissioner Vernon Francois; an “ad hoc task force within the police department;” the former political directorate of Stephenson King.
At his most recent party convention in Vieux Fort the prime minister added a new name to his ever-expanding list of scapegoats: former home affairs minister Guy Mayers. As earlier noted, the finger-pointing prime minister returned on Friday to the “police-in-denial,” even as the nation awaits further news of the so-called IMPACS report, controversially submitted some ten months ago by the prime minister to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Last week Victoria Charles-Clarke left office on 60 days pre-retirement vacation—but not before revealing the report was something of a soufflé, puffed up with comment and assumptions but altogether bereft of evidence supportive of its “serious allegations.”
Earlier, that is to say, in advance of his passing over the IMPACS report, the prime minister had informed the nation via a televised address that the findings of the investigators were damning in the extreme; that the report re-confirmed the existence of a death list—a rumor he had first confirmed during his party’s 2011 election campaign; that “alarmingly the investigators report all the shootings reviewed were fake encounters staged by the police to legitimize their actions . . . the weapons supposedly found on the scene of the alleged extra-judicial killings were from sources other than the victims . . . weapons were planted at the scene of the shootings . . . the crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians, government officials, business persons and police officers . . . willful blindness existed in respect of the commissioner of police and particular members of his leadership and management team.”
The televised address containing the above-quoted revelations ends as follows: “In the words of Lord Mansfield, once echoed by the Right Honorable Allan Louisy: Let justice be done though the heavens fall!” (The original Latin maxim Fiat justitia ruat caelum signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences. Alas Lord Mansfield, like Prime Minister Allan Louisy, was himself just another echo of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus—and, to be fair, had never claimed otherwise!)
It has now emerged that while Saint Lucians have been waiting passively to hear follow-up news about IMPACS, while report after media report has been underscoring the devastating fall-out from the government-initiated investigation of the police, the Barbados-based European Union Delegation, via its ambassadors throughout the region, was keeping tabs on how the Saint Lucia government was dealing with what the US State Department had described in its 2012 Town and Country Report as “gross violations of human rights by the police.”
For some two years now the US government has withheld all assistance to our cops, barred them from setting foot on US soil and from attending US-sponsored training, whether in or outside the region. Not long ago some officers who sought to visit the US were turned away at Hewanorra. On at least one occasion the RSLPF was prevented from participating in a US-sponsored initiative right here on this Rock of Sages. Of course, Saint Lucia no longer benefits from the generosity of the Leahy Law arrangements.
Considering his office, Dr. Anthony had to have known on Friday when he conveniently dismissed the nation’s only security force as victims of Self-Denial Syndrome (SDS?), that the European Union was as eager as the local citizenry to learn something useful about the IMPACS report submitted almost a year ago to the DPP’s office. Doubtless, the EU’s ambassadors are fully acquainted with the Vernon Francois saga, his willful blindness, his “voluntary” early retirement, not to mention that recent public back and forth between the DPP and the housing minister, assisted by the ham-fisted and often lock-jawed justice minister.
The EU’s concern is clearly, not to say ominously, expressed in the following press communiqué issued late Friday: “The European Union Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission responsible for St. Lucia, following their meeting in Barbados on 1 December 2015: The EU reiterates its support and strong commitment to the development of St. Lucia, recognizing the challenges it faces as a small and vulnerable island state. Substantive support has been provided by the EU and its Member States in various areas, from health, trade, agriculture to infrastructure, and much progress has been made.
“Successful growth and development include effective legal systems and criminal justice. In this context, the public statement of 8 March 2015 by the Honorable Prime Minister Kenny Anthony on the IMPACS report is very important. Following this statement, due process must be followed. Without due process, there would be no effective criminal justice system.
“The EU and its Member States call on those responsible to ensure due process according to the St. Lucia criminal law system. Effective judicial systems are critical for a country’s Human Rights record. With much progress achieved on other fronts, it would be regrettable if this issue would undermine St. Lucia’s reputation in the international community. It is in the full interest of all St. Lucians, and of EU visitors and investors, to see this situation move forward. “The EU and its Member States stand ready to support the country’s endeavors in this critical area, including with assistance under the 11th EDF (European Development Fund) Regional Indicative program, which has 44 million EUR assigned to programs fighting crime and security.”
Did Saint Lucia’s prime minister receive the not-so-diplomatic EU directive ahead of his party’s most recent convention? Did he nevertheless determine to keep covering himself with whitewash at the expense of others? What could he possibly have been thinking last Friday when he declared the police incapable of accepting the truth of their wrongdoing? Was he seeking to make friends and influence people at police expense? Or was last Friday’s TV appearance merely another opportunity to stick his middle finger in the EU’s face, in much the same way he had in the face of the US State Department—at great cost, as it has turned out, to the nation and its police?
There has been no word from the prime minister, neither his justice minister, about the immediate future of the DPP’s office now barely manned by five hardly senior officers. Quite apart from the human rights of victims and alleged perpetrators in the IMPACS matter, also to be considered are the rights of individuals held for several years at Bordelais without trial.
Meanwhile, our politicians and their respective hacks are preoccupied with preparations for imminent general elections. The nation’s on-going war with itself has escalated. A lot will be riding on how strongly the EU and member states believe “effective judicial systems are critical for a country’s Human Rights record,” and how much they care about a country that refuses to help itself. In all events it’s not easy imagining our prime minister in his sheepherder circumstances pursuing due process—especially if such pursuit carries with it the smallest risk of his falling off his lofty perch!