Crime Victims Cry Out: Bring Back Operation Restore Confidence!

According to what purports to be pages from the ostensibly classified IMPACS report handed the prime minister in February 2015: “During the period 2008-2010 Saint Lucia experienced a period of criminality in the country that rocketed the homicide rate for that period and which showed a high index of gun violence in the northern half of the country which includes the capital city of Castries. This culminated in a series of activities, one of which involved the formation of a task force consisting of members drawn from the Special Service Unit and other police formations across Saint Lucia.

“The aim was to restore confidence in the police and to provide a safer environment for the citizenry of Saint Lucia. In May 2010 there was a change in the command structure of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force; then Commissioner of Police Ausbert Regis was replaced by Assistant Commissioner for Crime Mr. Vernon Francois. Under the command of Mr. Francois the task force became fully operational, with direct control by Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations Mr. Moses Charles. Fatal shootings by the police increased significantly, with heightened concerns by human rights groups, family members of the deceased persons and the international community that the activities of the task force referenced, to a large extent, incidence of unlawful killings.”

 While government and opposition pretend, for wholly self-serving reasons, Operation Restore Confidence never happened, more and more crime victims are clamoring for its return.

While government and opposition pretend, for wholly self-serving reasons, Operation Restore Confidence never happened, more and more crime victims are clamoring for its return.

Moreover: “The major issues uncovered [by the IMPACS investigators] will be addressed in sections of the report. In spite of challenges the team achieved its mandate and was able to gather sufficient details to satisfy the requisite terms of reference, get a better understanding of what transpired during the period, and be in a position to make appropriate recommendations that may strengthen the operational framework, protocols and practices of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, especially with respect to the use of force.”

First among the recommendations: “The Commissioner of Police is to take ultimate responsibility for the unlawful killings and must be made to account as to why these killings continued unabated . . .” Recommendations two and three also speak negatively of the commissioner who resigned “voluntarily” not long after the prime minister made public crucial sections of the report that had not yet been perused by the Director of Public Prosecutions. In seeming contradiction of the report, the prime minister also declared at a rally on March 13 that former home affairs minister Guy Mayers should shoulder full responsibility for everything leading up to and following the IMPACS investigation!

The 18th recommendation: “The state should (a) investigate allegations concerning past and recent violations of the right to life . . .” [In March 1988 the Kenny Anthony government launched Operation Restore Peace following the fatal shooting of Michael ‘Gaboo’ Alexander and Aldophus ‘Bonnie’ Clarke. On the occasion the prime minister referred to “various hit lists” (yes, he’s been talking about hit lists for some time!) and egregious criminality. Additionally: “I do not wish to exaggerate the situation. The fact is people engaged in these dastardly acts are small in number, and all their acts are directed against each other. The police have assured me that the shootings which have taken place in the last few months are all linked to this small group of persons allegedly engaged in the illegal drugs trade. I want you to rest assured that this is not some widespread national crime wave assaulting every person in our community. In essence it is a struggle among rival gangs determined to wipe out each other.”]

Nevertheless lives were lost. So, might IMPACS recommendation number eighteen be referring to the unresolved violent deaths? The prime minister had himself, at the 30 January 2003 launching of A Nation-wide Survey on Fear of Crime and Community Policing, stated: “The first issue relates to public confidence in the police. A survey of residents across the country reveals 70 percent of the Saint Lucian population are not satisfied with the performance of the police . . . the lack of confidence is particularly evident in Castries and Vieux Fort.”

He claimed that complaints “received confirms the view that there is widespread corruption in the police force.” Remember, that was back in 2003! It remains conjectural why, despite the expensive pressures on the people of this country, from sources local and extra-regional, the prime minister continues to ignore IMPACS recommendation number eight: “All officers involved in the unlawful killings of citizens in respect of the files reviewed must be prosecuted.”

Late last year the U.S. Embassy in Barbados issued a release that read in part: “Despite the significance of the IMPACS report for human rights, national security concerns, and Saint Lucia’s international reputation, the government of Saint Lucia has made no meaningful progress towards criminal prosecution in ten months. We are concerned that four years have passed since these allegations of human rights violations first surfaced and due process is yet to be served. We respect Saint Lucia’s separation of powers, but emphasize the entire government’s role in guaranteeing that each branch has the tools and resources to fulfill its commitments to the rule of law.

“That said, the Director of Prosecutions made a disappointing announcement in November that her office was not provided sufficient resources or the report’s investigative files, thus precluding furthering criminal prosecution. We encourage the government to activate the promised implementation oversight committee under the prime minister’s chairmanship.”

More recently the State Department reminded Saint Lucia’s prime minister that “we continue to coordinate our response on the lack of progress with other countries who are committed to supporting the rule of law and the investigation and conviction of those who have been credibly alleged to have committed extra-judicial killings across the Caribbean.”

While it may be difficult to tell who is more desperate to avoid any serious discussion of IMPACS—the current government or its accused predecessor—there is one irony that cannot be ignored. More and more victims of rape, rampant domestic violence and child impregnation—not to mention daylight stabbings in full view of the public—are calling, louder and louder, for the imminent return of ‘Operation Restore Confidence!’”

In the next STAR: A Review of some of the cases investigated by IMPACS!

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