Crime fighting demands new Civility

In his third State of the Union address last evening, United States President Barack Obama announced a new bipartisan era of civility. For the first time in recent history both Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and Congress sat together, eschewing the traditional apartheid-like seating arrangement. Although the president had in 2008 campaigned for “changing the way Washington works,” he took credit for the latest change, but instead acknowledged commonsense, rationalism and reality had made it possible.
The recent mass murders in Tuscon, Arizona and the attempted assassination of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during one of her regular Congress on your Corner events, prompted immediate calls for a new civility in America. There was the expected sprinkle of reservation from insignificant dissenters, but overwhelmingly the majority of the people’s representatives agreed that it would serve the nation’s best interests to sit together and in the process signal the powerful message that the times had changed and now demanded a turning down the heat of political debate.
Some have described the call for a new civility as a cynical political ploy to silence opponents of the president’s agenda. Others have hailed it as a symbolic gesture that will accomplish nothing and that come election time the daggers and knives will reappear. Still the optimists remain firm in their belief that only good can come of the new togetherness in Congress.
I believe the time has come for a new attitude in St. Lucia’s war on crime—and by that I do not only refer to strategies. It is unbelievable that in a small country of about 160,000 people the murder rate continues to rise yearly. Clearly much is wrong with the way we live. It would appear the crime-fighting methods have undergone little modernization these last hundred years. It is alarming that in the first two months of the year we have already registered five murders that no one really expects the police to resolve.
As usual, we have resorted to national days of prayer And while I am not about to speak against unceasing prayer, I take the opportunity to remind believers that prayers without action never solved anything, let alone the problem of almost daily murders. In the best interests of the country, I have been insistent in my call over the last several years for the ushering in of a new political dispensation. I have been consistently critical of the way our politicians behave towards each other on and off the stump. I have argued persistently that we cannot continue to debase and tear down each other in our public discourse and then expect our vulnerable young people to resolve their own differences peacefully. As adults we have over the years exhibited the worst traits in our political discussions, then turned around and demanded peaceful coexistence among rival gangs. This is a hypocrisy preached and practiced—the bricks and mortar of disaster!
In my most recent article, I defended my friend and fellow journalist Rick Wayne, who is obviously capable of defending himself, on the ground that he is right in his call for the nation to see crime as its common enemy. The population must see crime fighting, not as a battle against United Workers Party or the St Lucia Labour Party, but a a united resolve to take back our streets from the murderous hooligans who profit from a politically divided St Lucia and are evidently beyond the reach of our local police. It is time for opposition leader Kenny Anthony, whose minions consider him the prime minister in waiting, and Stephenson King, the sitting prime minister to appear and speak as a united front for a national initiative in the fight against crime. The politicians, from all parties, by appearing united will set the tone for the entire country. The message will not be lost on the criminals. As things now stand, our politicians accuse each other of fraternizing with criminals. The politicians must demonstrate the opposite: that they want nothing better than to have all lawbreakers behind bars—and I refer not to the bars at Rodney Bay.
It is amazingly ignorant and mischievous, cynical, too, to interpret this call for unity as a ploy to keep Stephenson King in office. To compound it with the view that Kenny Anthony and the St Lucia Labour Party are on the verge of winning the next election and that there is no need for him to meet with the current prime minister is not only naïve and selfish but also insane. What breed of political hack is prepared to use a killing crime wave to score cheap political points? Have we completely lost all sense of right and wrong in the interest of ‘de party?’ What kind of political advisors will push for a political leader to use the deaths of innocent citizens as stepping stones to the office of prime minister? Who would be stoop so low as to rationalize and use crime figures for political gain?
It is dumbfounding, indeed painful that the people’s party, the St Lucia Labour Party, the party of the great George Charles, has allowed itself to be hijacked by unconscionable individuals whose lives evidently depend on access to the political trough. And what does it say of Kenny Anthony, if he should continue to take their obviously suicidal advice and refuse to unite to save innocent lives.
Prime Minister King has the constitutional responsibility to call the next election. He can decide to go the long haul and announce the election in December 2011 and provide 90 days for campaigning, as required by the Constitution. That would mean the election would be held in March 2012. It would be unprecedented but not unconstitutional. One thing is clear, the coming election will solve nothing unless our leaders decide collectively to denounce the insanity that passes for political advice and instead place the security of the nation ahead of their respective political ambitions.
If Prime Minister King lacks the courage to act boldly and decisively by taking the initiative to invite the leader of the opposition to sit with him perchance to find a solution to the murderous crime wave, and should Dr Anthony can see no wisdom in accepting the prime minister’s invitation, then it will be left to we the
people to save ourselves by any possible means from further disaster. The ballot box is still our post powerful all-purpose weapon!

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