Operation Whitewash

Prime Minister Kenny Anthony (center) and then Home Affairs Minister Calixte George examine a weapon at the time of their 2001 gun amnesty.

Prime Minister Kenny Anthony (center) and then Home Affairs Minister Calixte George examine a weapon at the time of their 2001 gun amnesty.

One of the more enduring lines from the nationally televised 1973 Senate Watergate committee hearings: “What did the President know and when did he know it?” Howard Baker’s question is often held up as a beacon of principle, with a Republican willing to seek out the tough answers to Watergate. But it was actually part of a partisan strategy to protect Richard Nixon. All the Republicans in the congress recognized he had covered up crucial facts but they were confident the Watergate break-in and other related felonies had been rogue operations of which the President had no prior knowledge.

Alas, the best-laid plans quite often come apart at the seams. In this case the long-shot strategy was to compartmentalize the President and reframe the scandal in terms of his personal involvement. Since a dozen close Nixon advisors were going to prison, they needed a trial of the man—not of his administration. They knew nothing about his telling tapes or, as it turned out, about the man Nixon!

Several weeks ago this newspaper featured two of my articles entitled “Has U.S. Quit Funding Local Cops?” and “A Nation Shouldn’t Have to Fear its Sworn Protectors!” Both items, while they underscored the worsening relationship between our police and the United States authorities—and the consequences—also appealed to the government to urgently address the situation.

The official reaction was predictable: denial of all I had revealed, including the suspension of funding to our police under the Leahy Law arrangements, previously unheard of by most Saint Lucians.

Permit me to quote from one of the cited two STAR articles: “Let us familiarize ourselves with the Leahy Law, named for Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Department of State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.”

I went on to inform STAR readers that the Leahy Law first appeared in the fiscal year of 1997 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act—the same year Kenny Anthony became this nation’s prime minister for the first time. Additionally, that United States embassies had established a vetting procedure to review the backgrounds of military units for which assistance had been proposed. The Foreign Operations Leahy Law covers weapons funding and training, from which the Regional Security Services, including Saint Lucia’s Special Services Unit, had for over fifteen years benefitted.

I cited a recent U.S. Foreign Policy statement: “Most Americans recognize that events outside our borders can have direct and dramatic consequences for our health and safety. Isolationism is not an option in a world in which a deadly infectious disease or a terrorist attack is only a plane trip away. Senator Leahy believes that as the wealthiest, most powerful nation in history, the U.S. has wide-ranging interests and responsibilities around the globe, from promoting trade and investment to combating terrorism, reducing poverty, protecting the environment, supporting human rights, and broadening understanding between Americans and people of different cultures, religions, races and ethnicities.”

Especially relevant to the local situation was this: “The Leahy Law forbids U.S. aid to foreign military and police forces that violate human rights.” [My italics]

Referencing the Kenny Anthony government’s acknowledgment of the fact that in just ten years our country of some 170,000 had racked up a total of 400 unresolved   killings I ended one of the two mentioned articles this way: “It does not automatically follow when one gang member shoots another gang member in the head that a gang war is on. It is quite possible that the shooter had acted on the orders of people successfully passing themselves off as respectable citizens. Not all hit men are members of a gang. They need have no personal reasons for blowing away a human target, a former friend or a no longer trustworthy accomplice.”

As I say, the official reaction was to attempt to throw ice water on the firestorm that the articles had hinted at. Everything was hunky-dory with the Americans and our police, said one official mouthpiece. But now I’ve been vindicated. We know now it is our government that had lied and may still be lying in their teeth about this matter that the prime minister himself considers “exceedingly delicate and complex, involving several parties—the officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, the United States Government, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and most importantly the citizens of our country.”

You will have noticed, dear observant reader, the sequence of the listed involved parties, another indicator of how local politicians view we the people—“importantly” notwithstanding!

Another shocker from the prime minister on Tuesday evening: “It is of little value to make a statement to confirm what is already in the public domain without providing some indication of how the government plans to resolve the issues which confront us. A solution has to involve all the parties just mentioned. I shall therefore try to be as simple and as clear as possible so that all can understand the issues.”

What! No value in confirming what you previously denied? Ah, but you say, dear reader, I should consider the whole sentence, taking into account the following caveat: “ . . . without providing some indication of how the government plans to resolve the issues which confront us.”

Actually, the quoted statement is nothing more than an avalanche of non-sequiturs. For starters, what did the prime minister mean by “government plans to resolve the issues which confront us?” What issues in particular?

He offered this backstory: “The current events have their origin in the twelve individuals who were shot and killed by police officers between 2010 and 2011, during the tenure of the government of the United Workers Party. The killings occurred after the former government launched what was then described in the media and elsewhere as Operation Restore Confidence.”

Actually the credit should go to the police. Operation Restore Confidence was their invention, not the media’s. The prime minister went on: “This operation commenced with a dramatic speech to the nation by the former prime minister Stephenson King on May 30, 2010. The former prime minister warned criminals there would be no refuge, no stone will be left unturned and there will be no hiding place for anyone.”

The prime minister cited another King address on the existing crime situation, delivered on February 13, 2011. “He told them that they will be hunted down, they will be found, they will be prosecuted, they will be judged and will be made to pay the consequences for the crimes committed against our peace-loving and law-abiding people.”

At this point I found myself wondering what King’s speech might have to do with the killing of “twelve individuals” by the police. Nothing in what he was quoted as having said in the murderous circumstances of 2010 and 2011 sounded unusual, let alone sinister. Obama had quite often talked that way, whether about massacres at American schools, movie houses, shopping malls or overseas embassies.

Indeed, Kenny Anthony in his own turn had made similar pronouncements, even though the most memorable might be his somewhat desperate 2005 appeal to criminals in his constituency to “give the people a break for Christmas.”

The nation didn’t have to wait long before the prime minister made what appeared to be a connection between the quoted lines from King’s two speeches and the twelve “individuals killed by the police.”

“Many would recall that there was in circulation a hit list of targeted persons deemed to be criminals. I recall that in opposition I had seen such a list,” he said. Again I was taken off guard. I have been privy to many things some might’ve have preferred me not to know. They include damning official documents, recordings, photographs and so on. Alas, I was not among the “many” who laid eyes on “a hit list of targeted persons deemed to be criminals.”

Kenny Anthony is a lawyer and knows how to couch his words so as to avoid court action. So pointless asking who “deemed” the targeted persons criminals. In all events, the prime minister was at the time he claimed to have seen the list leader of the House Opposition engaged with his opponents in the dirtiest of election campaigns. But not once, no, not once did he ever bring up the shocking issue of citizens marked for execution.

To the best of my knowledge, even when he was blasting the King government for being “soft on crime” it had never occurred to the leader of the House Opposition—who is protected by parliamentary privilege—to raise the matter of the deadly hit list—not even in the best interests of those listed. So why bring it up now while carefully neglecting to say who had given him the list and what he did with it having received it.

Indeed, one cannot help but wonder why the hit list was presented to the opposition leader and not to then acting police commissioner Vernon Francois. Additionally, whether the opposition leader had at any time notified the police of list’s existence. Certainly that would have been the proper thing to do in the circumstances.

He went on: “In the aftermath of the launch of Operation Restore Confidence, some twelve persons met their deaths. When the killings occurred a few in our midst protested; some, on the other hand, applauded and welcomed the seeming reduction in homicides. Others largely remained silent.”

What did the prime minister mean by “some twelve persons met their deaths?” Why the apparent uncertainty? Were they the same unholy dozen marked for death on the apocryphal hit list? He did not say at the time of
the wipeout, not from his platforms, during press interviews related to crime, or when he was in full attack
mode at the House. He never mentioned once the list or the coincidence that “some twelve persons met their deaths.”

Oh, but meanwhile Timothy Poleon on Newsspin was hearing almost daily from callers convinced police executions were the King government’s method of curbing local crime. If they didn’t put it as bluntly, they certainly hinted at the possibility.

Still from the prime minister’s speech on Tuesday: “These killings, already described by some as extra-judicial killings, attracted the attention of the United States, in particular that country’s State Department.”

It would be more accurate to say frontline personnel from both the incumbent and opposition parties here contacted the U.S. officials. The particular killings did not “attract the attention of the Americans,” at any rate not until they had been supplied certain related details by a hardly disinterested local group comprising businessmen, at least one high-ranking police officer and campaigning politicians from both parties—all of them with a common goal despite their political differences. Impressively, they supplied recordings of intercepted phone calls and alleged confessions as “evidence” that seemed to validate what they claimed.

Thus were the Americans were dragged into the fray. Small wonder, then, that before long some here were predicting the imminent arrest and extradition of certain police officers and others allegedly involved in illegal assignments. The brown stuff hit the fan when an election candidate of the United Workers Party, obvious well informed, announced that a fellow party member’s U.S. visa had been revoked and directed the media where
and how to seek confirmation. That was even before the official acknowledgement by PM King.

On Tuesday evening the prime minister cited a line from the State Department’s Human Rights Practices in Saint Lucia for 2011: “There were twelve potentially unlawful fatal shootings during the year, some reportedly committed by officers associated with an ad hoc task force within the police department. It is this issue that has pre-occupied the United States and which has led to the actions taken against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.”

Potentially unlawful? What does that mean? How does a potentially unlawful fatal shooting become an actually unlawful fatal shooting? Isn’t that a little bit reminiscent of the almost pregnant woman? In any event, what happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Readers will doubtless recall a series I wrote prior to the 2011 general elections, wherein I revealed U.S. Embassy representatives had visited Saint Lucia on several occasions prior to the revocation of Central MP Richard Frederick’s visas. While at the time related choking speculations filled the air, I revealed that the American officials had questioned to no avail at least two government ministers and police personnel about the fatal shooting by cops of four individuals allegedly during the course of a burglary in Vieux Fort. There was no official reaction to what I had written. On the other hand, on Newsspin the usual suspects were insisting that the MPs problems were related to other matters involving the DEA.

Meanwhile, the campaigning opposition party concentrated its fire on Frederick,  insisting throughout that King knew only too well the reasons for the visa revocation, that the Americans would not have taken their action without informing the PM in advance. More than that, there was much loose talk that the MP controlled a force within the force and that before long there would be more visa revocations, to say nothing of extraditions. Clearly, the prime minister knows a whole lot more than he said on Tuesday evening.

As for the action he plans to “clear the speculation about these so-called extra-judicial killings: “Firstly the government has invited CARICOM’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security to identify three senior investigators from the region to investigate the so-called extra-judicial killings,” who will be asked to evaluate all available evidence and determine whether or not these matters “warrant further investigation.”

Of course, he did not say what precisely is IMPACS. As it turns out, the organization was established by the 27th meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in July 2006 as the implementation arm of a new regional architecture to manage CARICOM’s action agenda on crime and security. At the meeting the HOGs signed an inter-governmental agreement establishing the agency as a legal entity with “direct responsibility for research, monitoring and evaluation, analysis and preparation of background documents and reports, as well as project development and implementation of the regional crime and security agenda.” IMPACS is headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile there’s the Leahy law that states in part: “In the event that funds are withheld from any unit . . . the Secretary of State shall promptly inform the foreign government of the basis for such action and shall, to the maximum extent practicable, assist the foreign government in taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces to justice.”

Who could ask for anything more?

Sadly, the current prime minister’s relationship with the State Department leaves much to be desired, judging by cables disseminated by Wikileaks that quote a top U.S. Embassy official describing our prime minister as other than a friend of the United States. Moreover, that he loves position but does not deliver. The ambassador stated specifically that the prime minister had imported personnel from the U.K. to assist local police but never put in place the means by which they might carry out their mandate. Moreover, that he knew the police had leadership problems but failed to act.

Three months ago representatives of Trade Winds came to Saint Lucia perchance to discuss matters related to the police problem. Alas, their arrival here coincided with the prime minister’s visit to Cuba to collect yet another medal of honor!

Having exhausted my allotted space, I must end here. But not before asking: What did the PM know
when he took office again in 2011? And what did he do about it? I know the answers, if perchance he needs reminding!

 

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