Can a nation long divided against itself effectively tackle its worst enemy? Take a good look at the pictures above.
Now imagine the people in both photographs lying dead on the ground, their bullet-riddled bodies oozing. How significant is it that one picture shows 48 corpses while the other shows 42? If you are a normal human being—that is to say, you are not a campaigning politician at election time—it’s a safe bet your primary concern at this point will be that the killers of the pictured 90 individuals be tracked down and quickly brought to justice. It is unlikely that your first reaction will center on which political party was in office at the time of the murders.
It is high time we quit aiding and abetting killers, whether by sheltering them from the law or by turning crime figures into a political numbers game, in the process drawing attention away from crime itself. While we engage in pointless finger pointing, while we blame the current or the previous administration for the escalating murder rate, while we demand miracles of our egregiously handicapped police, unabated goes the killing spree by obviously emboldened criminals.
Meanwhile we continue to live in fear for the lives of our loved ones and for our own. Our beaches and other relaxation sites have turned, seemingly overnight, into killing fields. We are no longer safe even behind our own locked doors. What to do?
Pointless sticking to failed remedies. Equally pointless suggesting crime solutions that are themselves criminal. No more buck-passing. We have no other choice now but to confront the monster. We must acknowledge that while we, yes you and I, may be part of the problem, perhaps more importantly, we can quite easily be a big part of the solution. Time is definitely not on our side. We must choose now between encouraging crime, if only tacitly, and being an enemy of crime. Crime in our time says as much about you and me as it does about the perpetrators, for the inconvenient truth is that crime cannot exist for long in a society absolutely intolerant of criminals. The final solution to our nation’s most pressing problem demands we stand together, united against the scourge.
Obviously, the unity initiative of which I speak depends to a large extent on our elected House representatives—in particular, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. Can Stephenson King and Kenny Anthony put aside their political ambitions long enough to concentrate instead on the nation’s well being? Whether or not they can muster the courage to admit it, their respective parties had much to do with the murderous dog-eat-dog environment on which crime in our time thrives. For over fifty years our politicians have encouraged in this country—where friends and enemies have little choice but to shop together at the same supermarkets, worship together at the same churches and travel together on the same transit buses—a kind of them-against-us atmosphere that is tailored for crime, in particular crimes of violence. We have all stood by while the situation worsened before our eyes, seemingly oblivious of the fact that we were destined to be victims sooner than later. We looked on uninvolved as angry words and expletives gave way to sticks and stones that gave way to the cutlass (remember the law against carrying them unsheathed in public places?). And now it seems even the most minor of arguments must be settled by guns more often than not in the hands of citizens barely in their teens who couldn’t care less who gets caught in the crossfire.
It is an indisputable inconvenient truth that the first container of guns to enter illegally into this country were brought in by the leaders of one of our two main political parties. I speak of the period 1979 through ’82, when MPs threatened in parliament to shoot each other and the House Speaker was forced to demand parliamentarians check their artillery with the sergeant-at-arms before entering the chamber. That for the most part the firearms were unlicensed was never addressed, not even when certain politicians depended for their personal protection not on the police but on specially recruited private bodyguards illicitly armed to the teeth. Unforgettably, at the height of the 1979 general-election campaign a politician was widely rumored to be responsible for a fire that burned down a shack and took the life of its sleeping occupant, himself a reputed strong supporter of the then government. No one was ever arrested. Then there was the episode that included the surreptitious training in Grenada and Libya of so-called young Saint Lucian revolutionaries loyal to one faction of Allan Louisy’s suicidally split Labour government.
An unforgettable time it was indeed. Hate hung in the local atmosphere just waiting to be ignited by the smallest spark, and inevitably it arrived on the unforgettable evening of 17 June 1979. The explosion echoed around the world and all but destroyed Saint Lucia’s fledgling tourism industry. Afterward, politics as we knew it would never again be the same. Could we be paying today for our father’s tacitly endorsed sins? No matter, we can begin to turn back the tide by requiring the leaders of our main political parties to set aside their personal animosities and stand shoulder to shoulder in a united fight against crime. We can demand they sit down and together consider where their respective administrations went wrong, perchance to arrive at new and effective solutions to our killing crime problem.
What is to be done about our police department? Why were there 42 murders in the year Kenny Anthony left office, a record at the time? Why did that figure dip to 27 in Stephenson King’s first year before shooting up again to its current 48? What percentage of murders over the last ten to fifteen years was satisfactorily resolved? What were the provable results of our two gun amnesties? Where are the guns for which taxpayers paid a small fortune?
The state of our court and prison systems also requires urgent and serious examination—as does our police force. It would appear our whole justice system is in need of readjustment. But that is unlikely to occur unless Stephenson King and Kenny Anthony together decide to take the first necessary steps, most important of which is their pledge to quit pointing fingers at each other whenever the crime question pops up. The irreducible truth is that both have failed to have salutary impact on the murder rate. It is imperative that both gentlemen now appear as one against the plague. They must together call on their respective supporters to close ranks against murder, rape and other crimes of violence. They must underscore the importance of a popular effort to modify personal behavior in the best interests of a law-abiding society. It serves only the devil’s purpose to say one party promised to solve the crime problem during its 2006 election campaign. The undeniable truth is that opposition parties give such undertakings as a matter of course, as did the winning party in 1997 and 2001!
We must endeavor to quit committing the commonplace misdemeanors that are nevertheless criminal offences: tossing garbage from moving vehicles, beating the red light, passing bad checks, stealing phone calls at the expense of our employers, whether in the public or private sectors. And yes, we have no choice but to be our brother’s keeper. Our lives depend on it. When known criminal elements and the police collide with deadly consequences, let us for a change give the benefit of the doubt to our sole protectors of life and property—at any rate, until we can establish good cause to side with the criminal elements. If we must rush to judgment, let us not be too quick to jump into bed with the common enemy!
Is all of the above too much to ask in an election year? Maybe. Still I say both parties have enough to criticize—whether in relation to Tuxedo Villas or the Ramsahoye Report—without also pointing accusative fingers at each another when it comes to our current pot-calling-the-kettle-black murderous scenario. Already we know our contending parties on their own are powerless against the nation’s main enemy. Let us for once admit we are all, to one extent or another, to blame for the overwhelming crime. The writing is on the wall: either we come together now and deal with the killers once and for all or, count on it, the killers will wipe us out!