Two years ago, on 12 April 2011, Saint Lucians reacted in their usual fashion to news of the shooting death of Dwight Henry by police officers: the police had every right to defend themselves.
By official account, in the course of an investigation four police officers had broken into Henry’s Marigot home about 4 a.m. When he started shooting, the cops, fearing for their lives, were left no alternative but to return fire. Dwight Henry died on his bedroom floor. The police bullets had punctured his heart and his aorta. Henry had also been shot in the left elbow and abdomen.
On 29 October 2012 the coroner Velon John, “having inquired into when, where and after what manner Dwight Henry came to his death” concluded: “The body of evidence that constitutes this inquest is replete with inconsistencies, contradictions, breaches of police protocol and other impossibilities that have led us to the ineluctable conclusion that Dwight Henry died as a result of being shot by the police.”
Moreover: “As we have stated on many occasions, at any inquest we are guided by one fundamental principle. It is this: ‘To the living we owe our respect but to the dead we owe the truth.’ And so, in terms of the ultimate question in relation to the circumstances attaching to the ultimately terrestrial demise of Dwight Henry, death was by an unlawful act.”
If at home—this not being election time—there is no longer a hue and cry about suspicious deaths involving the police, elsewhere that is not the case. I have it on good authority that the United States government that for some fifteen years had been funding SSU and drug-interdiction operations here has had a change of heart based largely on a number of unresolved bloody homicides going back several years.
According to my sources, the American authorities believe they have good reason to consider these unexplained deaths as “extra judicial police executions related to drug trafficking.”
The fatal shooting of four individuals in Vieux Fort during what the cops have described as “an interrupted” robbery is just one of several cases that have caught the U.S. government’s attention.
At least one high-ranking local officer was recently polygraphed “by the British.” He had been associated with Trade Winds, a regional exercise related to drug interdiction and comprising the RSS. Saint Lucia is the only member whose operations are no longer funded by the United States.
Until two weeks ago, the American government had paid for SSU training, basic and advanced. The U.S. had also financed the training of commanders, the supply and maintenance of the marine unit’s boats, vehicles, uniforms and so on.
The U.S. authorities believe several local deaths, reported over the years as casualties of gang-warfare, may have been planned extra judicial executions.
During a seminar in Micoud some two months ago police commissioner Vernon Francois declared that his senior officers had all undergone polygraph tests and passed with flying colors. Can the Home Affairs minister confirm this? Can the prime minister?
Among the more recent cases of prime concern to the U.S. authorities is that of Ronald Sylvester aka Baje, fatally shot in 2011 outside the Marchand Police Station, in broad daylight. To date there have been no arrests.
Another is the death of Wilton’s Yard resident Arthur Clarke. Again, no arrests. Indeed, despite the several casualties of alleged gang-warfare over the last decade or so, the police have had few suspects.
But perhaps the worst suspicions center on the justice system itself. According to my sources, more than one officer
of the court has been compromised. Then there are the politicians who, said my source, “could not possibly account for their wealth, yet no government department has required them to.”
Meanwhile, members of the SSU in particular are wondering what will happen when current funds run out in a few weeks!