Following several overseas news reports that the US coastguard had intercepted a boatload of Cubans illegally en route to America, the prime minister’s office on Monday announced his government had “become aware” of what had been in the media for almost a week, therefore common knowledge. The statement left the impression that before the May 15 publication of the related item by the Associated Press, the government was totally unaware that of the 96 Cubans taken into custody by US immigration officials only 58 had been repatriated, Cuba having refused to permit the return of the remaining 38, all of them armed with “Saint Lucian visas.”The bulletin from the prime minister’s office seemed also to suggest the government’s sole objective was to assure citizens that Cuban visitors to Saint Lucia (unlike the other way around) do not require visas—not with how the intercepted 38 came by the visas in the first place. In any event, the Cubans were intercepted on their way to Florida, not Castries.
The release did not disclose when or how the visas were acquired, or by whose authority. It claimed the matter was “under investigation”—but not a word, not a word, not a word on how long the investigation had been going on or when it was likely to be completed.
Kenny Anthony, honored by Fidel himself several years ago with the Jose Marti award, had always prided himself on his closeness to his Cuban counterparts past and present: they both operate embassies in their respective territories. The suggestion that his Cuban friends would keep from Saint Lucia’s prime minister such vital information as last month’s American interception, keeping in mind his long dicey relationship with the US State Department, is a pill difficult to swallow.
Not so long ago Wikileaks released a hacked cable that said it all, as far as the United States government and our prime minister are concerned. Citing a visit by US Ambassador Mary Kramer “to dedicate two SOUTHCOM-constructed projects and meet informally with Saint Lucia’s prime minister Kenny Anthony,” the cable revealed the ambassador’s cold assessment of her host: “PM Anthony is considerably less committed to, and less capable of, managing St. Lucia’s diplomatic and security responsibilities than he claims . . . A former professor, PM Anthony seems more interested in pontificating on what others should be doing in the international arena than in becoming a responsible leader at home, in the region, or globally.”
The relationship has not improved with time: despite IMPACS, the US government has for almost two years suspended all assistance—economic and otherwise—to our police force, as retaliation for what the State Department has described as “gross human rights violations.” The way the prime minister explained it on 20 August 2013, Saint Lucia’s earlier close relationship with the United States had soured after “twelve individuals were shot and killed by police officers in 2010-11, during the tenure of the government of the United Workers Party.”
Prior to the killings, the prime minister explained he had seen “a hit list of targeted persons deemed criminals.” Moreover, following the previous government’s 2011 launch of Operation Restore Confidence “some twelve persons met their deaths.” These killings had attracted, he said, the attention of the United States who in its 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Saint Lucia had noted “there were twelve potentially unlawful fatal police shootings during the year, some reportedly committed by police officers associated with an ad hoc task force within the police department.”
It was this issue, the prime minister observed, that had pre-occupied the United States and which had led to the actions taken against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, in accordance with the Leahy Law that says “the US shall not furnish any assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country, if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”
By the prime minister’s account during his 20 August 2013 televised address, “the prohibitions shall not apply if the Secretary determines and reports that the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring responsible members of the security unit to justice.” Additionally: “In the event that funds are withheld from any unit, the Secretary of State shall promptly inform the foreign government of the basis of such action and, to the maximum extent practicable, assist the foreign government in taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces to justice.”
The prime minister went on: “When the provisions [of the Leahy Law] are scrutinized against the actions of the United States, it becomes clear that the United States believes it has credible evidence that the officers of the RSLPF committed gross violations of human rights.”
Shortly before the prime minister delivered his address his justice minister had publicly dismissed STAR reports regarding the existing US-Saint Lucia relationship.
Importantly, in his cited 2013 address the prime minister acknowledged “it is undeniable that it is in our vital interest to maintain close ties of cooperation with the United States in security matters”—which returns us to US ambassador Mary Kramer’s earlier stated observation that Saint Lucia’s prime minister “is considerably less committed to, and less capable of, managing St. Lucia’s diplomatic and security responsibilities than he claims.”
Having underscored what was possible under American law but not under our own legal system, the prime minister announced his decision to invite the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) “to identify three senior investigators from the region to investigate the so-called extra-judicial killings.” The trio would be asked to “evaluate all available evidence and determine whether or not these matters warrant further action.”
Nearly seven months later, on 8 March 2015, the prime minister announced his government’s receipt of a report from the IMPACS team that comprised not three investigators, as earlier stated, but eight—including a ballistics expert, a legal advisor, a data entry specialist, a cyber-crime analyst and detectives.
While he did not intend to reveal the full content of the report until it had been properly examined by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the prime minister nevertheless declared the result of IMPACS’ investigations “extremely damning.” He said the findings related “not only to those officers who were involved in the operations but additionally members of the high command of the police force who may have been involved in covering up these matters.” He confirmed “the blacklist or death lists referenced by the media, human rights organizations, victims’ families and citizens alike did exist.”
He neglected on the occasion to mention his own public declaration in 2011 that he had seen the so-called death list with his own eyes!
He also revealed that according to the IMPACS report “all the shootings reviewed were fake encounters staged by the police to legitimize their actions.” Moreover, that the weapons supposedly found at the scene of alleged judicial killings “were from sources other than the victims . . . that they were planted.”
Additionally “a number of shootings were done by police officers and are listed on the murder statistic as being done by unknown assailants.”
Perhaps most shocking of all: “The crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians and government officials, business persons and police officers.”
The prime minister also revealed IMPACS had recommended “all police officers involved in the unlawful killings of citizens in respect of the files reviewed must be prosecuted.” Nearly three months later, there has been not a word, not a word, not one official word on the status of the IMPACS report. Meanwhile, police commissioner Vernon Francois and at least two other officers have been sent on extended leave, with no date set for their return to work. The once vocal, take-no-prisoners Frances Henry has effectively been demoted and gagged.
Revelations relating to the Lambirds affair have done nothing to disprove US ambassador Mary Kramer’s evaluation of Saint Lucia’s prime minister. The nation remains to be told how the operators of Lambirds Academy were able to process in a matter of days some three hundred passports and visas for individuals from India, Nepal, the Philippines and other countries. A recent statement before parliament by the commerce minister, including references to due diligence in the Lambirds matter, has given the nation more cause for pause. And now there is the matter of the Cubans with Saint Lucian passports, ostensibly “under investigation,” as is the Lambirds fiasco.
Particularly disturbing is that at least one of the individuals at the heart of Lambirds also contributed to the Economic Citizenship report that has evidently convinced the government our only hope for economic survival rests in the pockets of multi-billionaires with a particular penchant for poverty-stricken zones with declared corrupt government officials and business people (see prime minister’s earlier cited references to IMPACS), killer cops and other such societal spirochetes.
Considering what we know passes here for security and due diligence, the following from the January 2015 Economic Citizenship Report makes interesting reading: “As a key ingredient in every global residence and citizenship program, the process of background and verification of the applicants is an essential part and integral element of the due diligence process. When it comes to global residence and citizenship programs, this is of particular importance of their integrity and is key to public support of the program . . . It is worth noting that the due diligence and background verification is also critical for the average processing time of each application. As one of the factors with heaviest weight from the investors’ perspective, it is therefore important to search for the proper balance between processing times and efficiency and accuracy in this process.”
Was that “proper balance” achieved by the departments responsible for the licensing of Lambirds’ activities? Evidently not from the police perspective. They have shut down Lambirds Academy of “Dauphin Street, Gross Islet, North America.” Its former operators are now on bail and facing charges of human trafficking, money laundering and fraud!
During his most recent budget presentation the prime minister seemed to gloss over the subject of economic citizenship: “Mr. Speaker, in respect of new investment possibilities, the government has already indicated it will proceed with a citizenship by investment program . . . We believe the program, properly managed, could yield significant investment.”
He promised “enabling legislation will be presented at the next House sitting,” when doubtless the ayes will have what the prime minister and Vaughan Lewis, not to mention Invest St. Lucia, have decided the ayes must have!