On Thursday January 14, 2016 three Ambassadors representing the 28 member states of the EU convened an unprecedented press conference here, to discuss a meeting with the prime minister in relation to IMPACS. While the diplomats were typically tight-lipped, they nevertheless let out that they had given the prime minister a 3-month deadline to put in place a new police commissioner and a functioning DPP’s office (which even now remains seriously understaffed with no relief in sight!), among other things, so as to facilitate “due process.” More than once the diplomats had described the island’s justice system as “broken.”
The delegation comprised Mikael Barfod, Ambassador/Head of EU Delegation based in Barbados, Victoria Dean, British High Commissioner based in Barbados and Eric de La Moussaye, Ambassador of France (based in Saint Lucia). At the January press conference Ambassador de La Moussaye told reporters that even without IMPACS Saint Lucia’s justice system was a matter of concern.
“I have had many meetings with the prime minister and with the minister of home affairs and justice,” he added. “My president has had meetings in France with the prime minister. The issue is a problem not only for the French. I think that if we succeed on behalf of our French citizens we will succeed for others who are for many years in prison.” One French citizen named Eric Sommier has been incarcerated here without trial for more than four years following a boating incident. The French ambassador said at the press conference that his government could “no longer sit idly by and do nothing.”
On Thursday TALK host Rick Wayne revealed he had been reliably informed that the crew of the French frigate “Ventose” would not be participating in this year’s Independence Day celebrations. It has been common for French military vessels and personnel to participate in the Independence parade and other activities including football. According to Wayne the French have boycotted this year’s event in protest against the treatment of some six fellow citizens including Sommier. The frigate Ventose will instead be in St. Kitts. According to ZIZ News, St. Kitts, the Ventose will make a call to St. Kitts and Nevis between 19 and 23rd February 2016. “This call is an indication of the regard which the French government shows to friendship and co-operation with the authorities of St. Kitts, despite budgetary constraints which limit the increase in these types of operations,” the report says.
As we go to press we have been reliably informed that the EU may have already have imposed its own sanctions against the government. Moreover, that following a September meeting with U.S. officials, the Taiwanese government has decided to reconsider economic assistance to Saint Lucia. The United States, meanwhile, is expected to turn its own sanctions screws even tighter following the prime minister’s New Year Message that he had hired two Washington law firms to lobby the State Department instead of keeping his pledge to place the IMPACS report before the courts. At press time we were also informed by a trusted source that a French colonel, Damien Vauthrin, will attend at least one of the Independence activities.