Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
– Pete Seeger
I was at a tire shop around 9.30 on Saturday morning when I received word of the latest murder. A Cap Estate resident, my informant thought he had heard two shots shortly after nine the night before but that had not disturbed him sufficiently to move him to call the cops.
Besides, a recent experience had left him feeling it would’ve been a waste of his time, anyway: he had tried to report something suspicious, he said, but before he could get to the details the officer who had taken his call gruffly instructed him to call another number, then hung up. Alas, though he had followed the given instructions, he might just as well not have bothered: the phone rang off the hook.
On another occasion, when he thought the officer who took his call had been less than receptive and asked for his name and number, all he heard was the clicking sound that signaled the officer’s attitude to impertinent questioners.
By the time I arrived at the tire shop on Saturday, however, my informant had received the no longer shocking news that firemen had responded to a call and discovered in a burning vehicle what remained of a body in the passenger seat.
Though this body had not yet been officially identified, my informant at the tire shop had heard from at least three people that the dead man was a well-known Castries businessman who happens to be a long-time acquaintance of mine.
Barely thinking straight, I immediately called a friend who was also very close to the alleged deceased. He told me he had received several earlier calls from other parties seeking to confirm the identity of the body recovered from the burned-out vehicle at Cap Estate.
Said my friend: “We were together up until two in the morning, for one thing. In any case he called a few minutes ago to say the police had contacted him about the whereabouts of his car. Apparently it’s the same make as the burned-out one at Cap.”
An hour or so later I took the call from my connected friend that confirmed the dead man’s identity. I might’ve have saved myself the phone calls. Long before I arrived at the tire shop, the whole world already knew the charred body of Oliver Gobat had been discovered in a vehicle at Cap Estate, along with details of his and his family’s finances, what Oliver Gobat did for a living and so on.
It’s impossible to establish who sent out those bulletins.
What for me is remarkable is that the police seemed determinedly silent—which of course created its own new set of “social-media” news and speculations. After all, citizens of Mars must know by now that law enforcement in Saint Lucia is under investigation for its own alleged violation of human rights, a less repugnant way of saying our cops are themselves under investigation for several suspected murders.
It will not help that not long after firemen made the grisly discovery, both vehicle and passenger were removed from the crime scene. Was that a wise move? How thorough had been their search for clues in the semi-darkness of the crime scene? Many in this nation of consultants and other experts on everything you might mention say the police once again screwed up, perhaps deliberately.
Meanwhile, I can confirm that some three hours before his body was discovered, Oliver Gobat had been playing golf with his friend the politician and fellow hotelier Allen Chastanet. They’d had a couple of drinks near the golf course before they said their good-byes, neither with the smallest clue they had pressed the flesh for the last time.
I asked Chastanet what they had talked about during their game. No surprise that it was all business—and by that I do not mean to suggest they talked about the business of politics. Actually, their conversation centered on the immediate future of Landings and its undeveloped surroundings. Gobat had recently been holding discussions with the government regarding concessions for potential buyers of the hotel. Gobat and his friend also talked about next year’s triathlon. Oliver, that is, not Allen!
What happened between the time the two last saw each other and the Cap Estate fire nobody I talked with seemed to know. Typically, the police are saying nothing, at any rate, to the local press. Indeed, it wasn’t until four days after the news had gone viral that local journalists received the official word concerning the dead man’s identity.
It’s not the first time local media personnel have been so ignored. The recent incident involving a couple aboard their yacht in Vieux Fort comes to mind. Saint Lucia-based journalists were the last to receive official information. Of course, that is not to say the local media was in the dark. On the contrary, we probably knew before the police most of the details of the callous attack that had resulted in a yachtsman’s murder.
Incidentally, that particular incident was handled as if it were a public relations exercise aimed at polishing the image of the much-maligned, distrusted, suspect police. The yachtsman’s widow was interviewed by government-TV personnel, during which she spoke far more of the kindness of the police and the tourism ministry than about what had befallen her and her deceased husband.
Meanwhile, social media was having a ball all over the world with half-truths, obvious fiction and tales that challenged the best Hollywood writers.
By the way: why does the tourism ministry have to comment publicly on unresolved crime, especially involving non-nationals? Does anyone actually expect them to say about the killing of visitors anything with the potential to create a bad image for this tourism-reliant nation?
Why not leave all crime-related bulletins to the police? By which I am not suggesting there can’t be behind-the-scenes discussions between police and MOT personnel. In his time, tourism director Joe Bergasse, whenever there was an incident likely to impact tourism, would quickly get the press together for discussions on how best to report details. He never dictated what should be written. He often shared with the press all he knew, trusting in our shared concern for our country’s overseas image.
The press was never left feeling “out of it.” Joe used to say, “We all want the same thing: the lessening of crime and a thriving tourism industry.” His idea was that the media could do its work without constraints and still serve the best interest of the country.
Then again, these are different days—in so many regrettable ways. It can hardly be encouraging for relatives of the murder victims that over 400 lives have been taken in Saint Lucia without a single charge laid!
Worth keeping in mind is the following by John Dalberg-Acton: “Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.”