For the better part of 2013, both Home Affairs Minister Philip La Corbiniere and Police Commissioner Vernon Francois had denied having any information supporting the STAR’s assertion that the US State Department had suspended aid to local police. Then on August 20, 2013 Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, in an address to the nation, validated our story. The United States had indeed withdrawn assistance to the Police Force, over alleged human rights violations that included some twelve police killings committed between 2010 and 2011.
“It is in our vital interest to maintain close ties of cooperation with the United States in security matters,” Anthony said during his televised address. He went on to inform his viewers that he had invited CARICOM to identify three senior investigators to probe the killings.
“The investigators will be asked to evaluate all available evidence and determine whether or not these matters warrant further action,” the prime minister said. New legislation would also be drawn up to investigate extra-judicial police killings, he added.
During a House sitting last November, the prime minister announced the Government’s enlistment of the Jamaican police to investigate the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF). This was a follow up to one of the recommendations in addressing the actions taken by the US against the local police. The House was told that the government has been in touch with the regional authority responsible for crime, CARICOM’s IMPACS, through which the services of police officers from Jamaica had been sought.
“The initial group of officers visited Saint Lucia to get a sense of the terrain and the issues. They have now asked that the investigating team be strengthened and the team will arrive formally in Saint Lucia on or about November 29,” said the PM. During that same sitting The Police Complaints (Amendment) Bill, which allows for a new unit to investigate complaints against police officers, was passed in the house.
No details were given as to the scope of the work of the Jamaican police. A report was expected to be presented to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs after three months, meaning February 2014. To date there has been no such report.
The move by the Saint Lucian authorities has not inspired the United States to lift their ban on assistance to the RSLPF. Further, a number of local police have been denied US visas and have been barred from travelling to US territories, even after the announcement of the investigations by Jamaican cops who have to deal with their own allegations of human rights violations.
Then, as if to pour more salt into the gaping wounds, last week the local police were denied participation in a
US-sponsored human trafficking workshop for regional officers convened here.
The STAR sought to contact Police Commissioner Vernon Francois on Monday, perchance to hear from him about his interaction thus far with the Jamaican investigators. It turns out he is on vacation. RSLPF Press Relations Officer Anel Innocent was also out of town. We spoke to a very cheery ACP Frances Henry who directed us to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
We pressed on. “There is not much I can say right now on that matter,” Henry said. “Have you been interviewed by any of the Jamaican investigators?” I asked. She chuckled. “I wouldn’t say interviewed. I have had an engagement. So yes there has been some contact but there is nothing much I can say on that.”
The STAR also contacted the DPS in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Valerie Leon, on the status of the investigation. “Well,” she said, “the investigation is still ongoing and it is very close to an end.”
Asked about a time-line, Leon would only say that the public will be made aware when a report had been handed to her Ministry.
Meanwhile, in April of this year the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption will take place in Jamaica. Ahead of that convention a number of Jamaican police reportedly took lie detector tests last year. At least 95 of the 200 tested failed.
Amnesty International last week referred to The Jamaica 2013 Human Rights Report, in which data supplied by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) had revealed this information.
AI has also been highlighting the absence in Jamaica of anti-corruption laws. There are three promised laws yet to reach the Jamaica Parliament. The Anti-Corruption Commission is one of them.
Interestingly, a number of Saint Lucian police officers also failed the lie detector test in 2013.