For several years now Saint Lucians and their only security force have endured a relationship that can best be described as ambivalent. The police have been accused of brutality, rape, and several other serious crimes. But not by the authorities. Most of the complaints almost daily heard over the airwaves have come from distressed citizens.
No surprise that the politicians have not helped. Incumbents can be counted on always to crow about the “wonderful work” being done by the same police that from the opposition perspective had been incapable of doing anything right.
Especially at election time, the police always take it in the neck from all sides.
During the 2011 election campaign, opposition candidates or their surrogates leveled all varieties of shocking allegations at then acting police commissioner Vernon Francois and his force—especially after four citizens of ill repute were reportedly fatally shot by cops during an aborted burglary. It was alleged that certain members of Stephenson King’s Cabinet controlled not only criminal street gangs but also criminals in police uniforms.
Meanwhile the British and U.S. authorities were keeping close tabs on the whole scene, including the cops themselves, via the surveillance equipment they had supplied as part of their weaponry in the so-called war on drugs.
British and American operatives often visited Saint Lucia to express their concerns to our political leaders, often with disappointing results.
It is worth recalling that among the Wikileaks cables famously hacked from the State Department’s files were some that commented on at least one member of the King government. Much was made of that by the campaigning then opposition. But to date no publicity has been given the cables relating to an American ambassador’s assessment of one of our prime ministers when it came to walking the walk, including where the police are concerned.
There were egregiously negative remarks by the ambassador concerning the misuse of cops imported from the UK to assist the local police.
All hell broke loose when one MP’s diplomatic visa was without explanation revoked. The then opposition broadcasted all over the country that the day’s prime minister and his travel-restricted MP were saying less than they knew about the visa revocation. Additionally, Saint Lucians were led to expect full disclosure, not only the MP’s activities that had resulted in the pulling of his US visas but also in relation to several police officers destined to be barred from entering the United States.
Hardly a day passed without Newsspin callers predicting the imminent extradition of at least one candidate in the 2011 elections. The unspoken message seemed to suggest the “better days” package would include the hides of former MPs as well as several “criminals in police uniforms.”
There were, too, broadcasted stories about election candidates allegedly in cahoots with an infamous Jamaican drug baron. The disseminated word was that he had been the guest of one local politician, even as both the U.S. and Jamaican authorities sought him here, there and everywhere.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department was silent. But that did not mean its operatives were inactive. They listened to all the stories, approached certain politicians who were only too pleased to supply information, some of it taped, some of it nothing but dangerous self-serving rumor.
And promises were made. Promises that were not kept, at any rate, for the most part.
I wrote several related stories that were cleverly sidestepped by government ministers and leading police officers—including that the U.S. had quit funding some special police operations here that impacted the U.S. and elsewhere. The press tacitly endorsed
the denials by its refusal to carry out its own investigations. Reporters, talk-show hosts and others in the media took at face value whatever they received from the PR departments of the government and the police—and forgot that the State Department, with eyes and ears everywhere, never sleeps.
One police officer who had countless times been linked to a particular minister
was sent home on accumulated leave following the coincidental revocation of his U.S. visa.
Meanwhile I informed the nation that the prime minister had full knowledge of what was going on. But there was no acknowledgement of the serious implications of what I had diplomatically reported about the police, that the American authorities considered bothersome. No matter, the time bomb continued to tick, albeit unheard by ears that refused to hear.
It came to a head last weekend when the STAR’s 2011 Man of the Year, the popular police commissioner Vernon Francois, was prevented from attending an ACCP meeting in Philadelphia. Uninformed reporters were quick to say his visa had been revoked. I tried to shed some light on the matter via Timothy Poleon’s televised Hot Button Issue but insisted it was the responsibility of the prime minister to clear the air that was starting to poison the atmosphere.
On-camera, Francois rightly denied the story that his visa had been revoked. Wrong questions seldom produce answers sought. On Thursday evening the still popular commish was a little more forthcoming.
He admitted he had been prevented from boarding an aircraft at Hewanorra but that this had nothing to do with his visa.
He said his inability to keep his Philadelphia appointment had something to do with his ticket that he didn’t quite understand. He also admitted the State Department’s continuing interest in
human rights violations involving the local police. He actually referred to the supposed interrupted burglary and its unresolved consequences.
Yesterday, after a well known empty-headed party blabbermouth called RSL to question my credibility on the latest police controversy, I called to repeat what I’d earlier told Timothy Poleon on TV, including that it was an
insult to the people of this nation that despite the wild speculations the government had said nothing useful on the issue.
Minutes later RSL issued the following bulletin from the prime minister’s split-toothed constant companion on overseas visits, also his press secretary.
According to the release, the suddenly peripatetic prime minister (who is not in Saint Lucia and could be anywhere as I write) “will, on a date to be announced early next week, issue a statement to explain and address the issues of concern and in particular the reasons for the actions of the United States against officers of the Royal Police Force.”
All of that because the government finally “is
aware of the concerns and anxieties expressed by the public over the decision by the United States to disallow officers of the Royal Saint
Lucia Police Force
from participating in several training programs arranged or financed by the United States . . . The reactions are understandable . . .”
Conceivably the prime minister will say other than Vernon Francois has already said. Hopefully he will expand on what Francois revealed about the suspected police executions. It would be icing on the cake if the PM also addressed the American ambassador’s comments
on his own handling of the force before 2006 and its consequences.
I would be especially interested in learning why those visas were famousl pulled.
As for the failed polygraph tests and their relationship with the earlier mentioned police executions (touched on by Francois on Thursday evening), it would be useful to hear the prime minister’s take. I, for one, can hardly wait to hear the extent to which the actions of the police have affected the arrival of “better days!”