Wanted: Cleaners for our Augean stables!

From left: Prime Minister Stephenson King, acting Police Commissioner Vernon Francois, former Police Commissioner Ausbert Regis and Opposition Leader Kenny Anthony.

During an episode of En Hall La (according to host Juk Bois, Creole for In the Hall) shortly after the 2006 general elections, the new home affairs minister Keith Mondesir announced imminent changes in the operations of the Saint Lucia police force. It was hardly classified information that the previous administration had been less than happy with its police department, with Police Commissioner Ausbert Regis in particular, on whose watch the island’s murder rate had soared to levels unprecedented. More than one disappointed Labour candidate had blamed an uncaring Regis for their party’s shocking defeat at the polls.
Based on common knowledge about Mondesir’s own personal relationship with leading members of the police force, few Saint Lucians were surprised to hear him say he had ordered Regis and at least two of his most senior officers to take accrued leave totaling several months—despite that the much anticipated ostensible tourist magnet World Cup Cricket was around the corner and would certainly require special police surveillance.
No need to worry, Mondesir had reassured concerned callers to En Hall La. He said he was more than confident John Broughton and his six or seven UK colleagues, all imported by the previous government to perform specific duties regardless of sustained opposition criticism, would do for law and order in Saint Lucia what Regis had promised but never delivered. As if further to underscore the effeteness of local talent, Mondesir quoted damning passages from what he claimed were the findings of an investigation of Regis undertaken by the Kenny Anthony government. Shocking as were the detailed revelations, more surprising was that the ousted police commissioner, though he complained privately to friends and certain members of the press, chose to otherwise ignore negative public reaction generated by Mondesir’s statement and quietly slipped out of sight.
For his part, the former home affairs minister Calixte George confirmed his government had initiated the investigation of Police Commissioner Regis but regretted Mondesir’s reckless decision to release the result. He said Mondesir was way off base when he claimed the Kenny Anthony government had proved too chicken to act against the commissioner. On the contrary, George told reporters, it was because the Kenny Anthony government wished to be fair to Regis, not to mention it feared possible retaliatory legal action, that it had chosen to remove all evidence of the investigation.
George revealed that at Cabinet’s direction he had himself ordered the shredding of all four copies of the investigator’s report, on the ground that she had not given the commissioner an opportunity to defend himself with respect to the serious allegations leveled at him by fellow cops. Obviously, the minister’s orders had fallen on unhearing ears. His successor at the home affairs ministry had not only acquired the report but also acted on it, albeit controversially.
In any event, Broughton and Company having done little to ameliorate the rate of crime in Saint Lucia and returned under a cloud to the UK, Regis had resumed his positions as police commissioner and scapegoat for all the afflictions of the force—until seeming relief arrived in the public announcement that he had been transferred to a previously unheard of “special services” unit attached to the prime minister’s office. Meanwhile, his second in command Vernon Francois would for six months man the fort as acting police commissioner.
This time Regis left little room for public speculation. Within hours of the government’s announcement the well placed among the press community had learned of his decision to sue the government, according to the popular word, “for wrongful dismissal.” By informed account, Regis had secured the services of Tony Astaphan, especially famous in Saint Lucia as Kenny Anthony’s lawyer for all seasons. As had been the case at the Ramsahoye Commission of Enquiry, Astaphan would be assisted in his latest effort by the firm of Peter Foster & Associates. Shortly before the matter came to court last year, Regis took the opportunity to set the record straight: true, he was taking the government to court, but not for wrongful dismissal as had been widely bruited about. Rather, his suit centered on whether the Saint Lucia constitution authorized governments to transfer a police commissioner to another job.
A judge heard the matter several months ago and now the public, with less than bated breath, awaits the result. It need be said that with elections around the corner, the reinstatement of Regis (he has yet to show up for work at the prime minister’s office) is for the respective political parties hardly the big issue. What matters a great deal more is who emerges egg-faced: Stephenson King or Kenny Anthony? In the meantime, Francois’ original six-month trial period has been further extended.
During the most recent budget debate the senator Everistus JnMarie pleaded with the government to confirm Vernon Francois as police commissioner, on the curious ground that in his present state of uncertainty Francois may not be as focused as his job demands. Evidently, the senator gave little thought to the government’s predicament: What if Regis should win his suit and decide to resume his job as commissioner of police with the present government still in office? Would Francois then accept his consequent automatic demotion? What about the other officers promoted along with Francois in the absence of Regis?
On the other hand, considering his own administration’s history with Ausbert Regis, how will a reelected Kenny Anthony explain the commissioner’s return, bearing in mind the no longer secret findings of the earlier cited investigation that had effectively denied Regis his right —in the name of natural justice—to refute the allegations against him? And if Regis should retire following a successful court appearance, what then will be the relationship between an incumbent Kenny Anthony and the current earlier criticized hierarchy of the force?
From my vantage point, regardless of the court’s decision, Saint Lucia yet again stands to lose both on the swings and on the roundabout!

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