Perhaps the prime minister had 1998 in mind when in a televised speech on 8 March 2015 he said: “The issues touch a raw nerve—our battle against crime, violence and lawlessness in our midst. It is, therefore, ironic that I am addressing you on this subject at this juncture when, for the first time in more than a decade, we have not had a homicide in January or February.”
By “the issues,” the prime minister referred to particular incidents connected to the controversial IMPACS investigation that centered on alleged extra-judicial executions by members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.As for the comparison of the atmosphere on the evening of 8 March 2015 with that of “more than a decade ago,” this was what the prime minister had said in March 1998: “After the carnival is over and the Lenten season begins, a Christian society is usually expected to begin a process of reflection and recommitment. It is the quiet season where each of us seek [sic] to build upon our human strengths and address those weaknesses which afflict us throughout most of our lives. But there are those among us who instead see the Lenten season as a time to kill; a time to terrorize our peace-loving community and to play out their internal quarrels in our streets.”
He referenced the killing on 4 March that year of Michael ‘Gaboo’ Alexander who was shot dead as he rode his exercise bike near the Balata community during the lunch hour.
“The killing was swift and professional and the killers made their escape through a nearby banana field,” the prime minister said. “The killers were masked and the few eyewitnesses could only provide the police with information on the number of persons involved; not detailed descriptions.”
Apart from the carnival-Lent association, not much has changed since 1998; certainly not when it comes to murder and mayhem in the streets of Castries. It turns out that while the prime minister had seen irony in the fact that January and February 2015 had proved murder-free, the unreported rapes, the knifings and the shootings continued as usual. That in two months no one had actually suffered violent death had more to do with the luck of the draw, as they say, than with anything else.
Of course, for some there was in the prime minister’s statement more than a hint of sarcasm. Was he suggesting those responsible for the Lenten-season homicides over the last decade had themselves been laid to rest? Or was the irony he sensed related to the uniformed suspects in the unlawful killings of those who considered Lent “a time to terrorize and kill?”
Only the prime minister knows for certain the message he sought on the remembered occasion to convey to the nation. Regardless of his secret intentions, however, there can be no denying he spoke a tad too soon. Over the last six days, four citizens have been shot dead in the street, the last on Wednesday morning.
Alas, there has been on the most recent fatal shootings not a word, not a word, not a word. Not from the prime minister who is celebrating with Jamaicans a visit by President Obama. Will the prime minister take the opportunity to beg for American assistance in fighting the criminality that once again has exploded in our streets, evidently beyond the depleted resources of the RSLPF? In the meantime not a word, not a word, not a word from the acting prime minister who always takes his cue from his boss, not from the people who elected him!
On Sunday I photographed the scene of the homicide that had taken place several hours earlier, near the Chaussee Road end of Morne DuDon. The victim’s blood had not yet been washed from the pavement where he had fallen under a rain of bullets. But what left me almost in a state of shock was that mere feet from where the fatal shooting had occurred, an unseeing CCTV stood guard.
My investigation uncovered another horrid fact: the CCTV at the Morne DuDon crime scene and others at the city’s so-called hotspots had been purchased by the previous government with little expert input. The cameras were “obsolete by the time they were set up” was how my informed source put it.
Additionally, a team of specially trained monitors had long ago been reassigned. Which is to say, even if the cameras had been operational it is unlikely any good would’ve come of that. Is anyone in this country of ours serious about anything?
The last official word on the unseeing CCTV came from our equally sightless Justice Minister. He has promised the cameras will soon be seeing again. Funny?