Did Police Execute Bage & Company?

Ronald Sylvester aka ‘Bage’ was shot by police during “a routine traffic check” in February last year. Left: Director of Public Prosecutions Victoria Charles-Clarke.

While the current administration, like its immediate forerunner, has to date refused to acknowledge—for different yet similarly self-serving reasons!—an unprecedented American interest in Saint Lucia’s lawbreakers, it is hardly this nation’s best kept secret that in the last several months preceding the November 2011 general elections visiting U.S. embassy officials had attempted to investigate widespread reports of executions carried out by certain local police officers.
With escalating violent crime the foremost public concern—opposition politicians, predictably preoccupied with their campaign to unseat the government, had, wittingly or otherwise, reinforced the popular suspicion that there was more to the 21 February 2011 fatal police shooting of one of the nation’s more notorious sons than had been officially reported.
Like icing on the opposition party’s cake was the public perception of a close connection between the not so dearly departed and a particular government minister, if based solely on their having together participated in the minister’s weekly call-in radio program—during which the garrulous guest had volunteered audience-boosting revelations about his own less than savory activities.
Another reported fatal police shooting barely three months later of four more individuals, allegedly during an aborted robbery in Vieux Fort, served further to convince many Saint Lucians, whether or not supportive of such action, that the police had indeed been acting on official orders to eliminate crime suspects by whatever means possible, in the political interests of the day’s government.
That a large section of the population believed the propagated allegations without the smallest proof was evinced by the countless calls to the nation’s talk shows, the greater number placed by suitably outraged individuals famously opposed to the suspiciously reticent government. Only Stephenson King and his Cabinet knew for sure why they saw no need to defend their administration collectively or the particular minister targeted by the opposition party. (Acting police commissioner has in more recent times assured news reporters that details of the still unresolved police shootings have for some time now been at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Meanwhile, no inquests!)
Several weeks before Polling Day, a new rumor surfaced. At a particular watering hole regularly patronized by opposition activists the word was that at least one incumbent politician might at election time be off-island. More pointedly, that before the big day’s announcement he would be picked up by the FBI, charges long under investigation having proven valid. (There were similar assertions from the same mouths at the time of the 2006 general elections that never panned out!)
Less than three months before the 2011 polls another campaign got underway, this time centered on a rumored intervention at a U.S. border, Puerto Rico or Miami, depending on the storyteller, when the targeted government minister had been found to be transporting in his briefcase some US$400,000. He had escaped arrest only “because he flashed his diplomatic visa!”
Not all the rumors had proved baseless. Shortly before the November 2011 elections it was bruited about that the minister’s diplomatic and personal visas had been revoked and that his arrest was imminent. We know now that the last rumor later materialized, if only in part.
As previously reported, several weeks before the visa revocation visiting U.S. officials had to no avail sought information regarding the earlier mentioned homicides from police officials and from at least two members of government, one of them the prime minister himself. Was the revocation of the minister’s visas a consequence of the former government’s demonstrated lack of cooperation with the American authorities? We can only speculate. Repeated requests for justification were dismissively answered: “We are not at liberty to tell you why!”
Meanwhile there is the 800-pound gorilla in the Cabinet room that keeps the Grynberg gorilla company: the “senior police officer” whose visa, in keeping with the then opposition’s “more to come” prediction, was revoked last December. Is the present government’s silence on the issue that won’t go away related to its garrulousness when in opposition? Did self-interested and disgruntled UWP muckamucks, acting on the Machiavellian premise that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ aid and abet the then opposition in bringing down one of the government’s own? Or is it simply that in his turn the previous prime minister had spoken nothing but the truth—that he had been unfairly dubbed “the lyin’ King?”
Then again, perhaps the current government has good reason to know all there is to know about the already revoked visas and revocations still to come. Considering the security risks daily underscored during the weeks leading up to the elections, how curious that the administration seems hell-bent on pretending the latest revocations—rumored to be seven, with more to come—never happened!
Meanwhile, Saint Lucians appear to have lost interest in the homicides that initially had not only left them suspicious of the police and attracted unusual attention from the U.S. Embassy but may also have contributed to the praise heaped on
Vernon Francois for bringing violent crime in Saint Lucia under control. There have been no calls for inquests related to the aforementioned February 2011 shooting in Castries or that of May the same year.                 And while the government had made the appropriate noises in opposition, since taking office it has remained silent on the unexplained Marchand and Vieux Fort homicides. For that
matter, one cannot recall the last time in this country that an inquest followed an officially determined unnatural death.
Last week there was a hue and cry, with the usual dollops of righteous indignation, over the butchering of a barely teenaged pregnant female and her 18-months-old daughter. The girl’s live-in boyfriend is reportedly in police custody. Oh, but that, too, will pass as this nation that believes in nothing heads at warp speed toward the abyss!

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