The prime minister’s address to the nation on Sunday March 8, 2015 in which he reported on the findings of the IMPACS investigation into alleged extra–judicial killings committed by the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force over the period 2010/2011 raises many pointed questions.It was in August of 2013 that the nation first became officially aware, via a national address by the prime minister, that the Government of the United States had taken punitive action against the Police force of Saint Lucia for reasons we are told are due to violations of human rights associated with extra-judicial killings which are alleged to have taken place during “Operation Restore Confidence”, during the years 2010/2011 under the former UWP administration. In essence these are the reasons proffered for the heightened interest by the US into the island’s domestic affairs and its application of the Patrick Leahy Law that prohibits the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.
Although the killings referenced as the reasons for the US actions had already been subjected to an inquest and a pronouncement by our judiciary that six of the twelve persons died through misadventure, it would seem that this was not satisfactory and so a further investigation was deemed necessary. Pursuant to a supposedly more satisfactory investigation, one that would probably appease the United States and its Secretary of State, the Kenny Anthony administration sought the assistance of CARICOM and secured the assistance of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security – IMPACS – in terms of the services of a team of investigators from the Jamaica Constabulary Force to investigate all instances of alleged “extra-judicial killings” that were linked to “Operation Restore Confidence”.
It is ironic and instructive that while Jamaican investigators probed the actions of St. Lucian police, the long–anticipated enquiry into the 2010 Tivoli Gardens police–military operation was fanning the flames of protests, concern and great interest in Kingston.
What an investigation overkill, some may say. It remains a troubling enigma and seems not to be resolved by the PM’s explanation for the unprecedented attention of the US to these twelve unfortunate deaths in terms of the proportionality of the action by the US when compared with other cases in the Caribbean.
Let us take into consideration that over 70 civilians were reportedly killed in Jamaica during the capture of Christopher “Dudus” Coke in 2010, largely by government forces. Yes this incident in Jamaica also occurred in 2010.
Why didn’t the United States react in a similar manner to the killings associated with the attempt of the Government of Jamaica to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke to the US? Is it because they thought there were no violations of human rights even though this incident was referred to as a “massacre” marked by bloodshed and death between police and civilians? Yet for all this, Tivoli Gardens seems not to have attracted a request for an inquiry by the US or any violation of the Patrick Leahy Law. Why then, is the US going to such great lengths to mete out different treatment to Saint Lucia which is a far more peaceful country, by most indications, to Jamaica where crime rates are much higher? Indeed shouldn’t the IMPACS team of eight investigators have been put to better use, helping in their own national efforts, particularly the ongoing Tivoli Gardens Inquiry?
Surely human rights concerns are not limited to Saint Lucia. If the US held Saint Lucia’s human rights record in such disdain, why was St. Lucia selected to host and participate in the US-funded military exercises known as Tradewinds from May 20–31, 2013? This is another fact which renders the PM’s account difficult to digest.
Was the US not aware of Saint Lucia’s so–called extra–judicial killings at that time, in this information age where most newspapers are online, and with our close proximity to the ever vigilant Barbados Embassy?
It should also be noted that there is, and had been, ongoing contact, formal and otherwise, between Saint Lucia and the US in terms of technical assistance and cooperation between the two sides.
So could this chain of events be as a result of a “Report” which the PM said “attracted” the attention of the US and prompted them to act? Notably, during the 2011 election campaign it was strongly hinted by the then opposition, according to media reports, that unnamed government ministers were well aware of, and may have supported, illegal activities by a so–called “ad-hoc” group within the local police force.
Then we have heard mention of a certain hit list which suggests a level of pre-meditation of these deaths. However, it is normal and understood that law enforcement agencies develop and keep a list of persons of high risk and interest to them. Also if a country is experiencing a marked increase in criminal activity, as was the case during the years 2010/2011, it is not uncommon for a sitting government to respond assertively through its police or defense forces to try to ensure peace and national security. Indeed, if a survey of public views on “Operation Restore Confidence” were to be conducted, there is a high possibility that it would reflect favorably on the RSLPF. The general citizenry, who lived in fear and anxiety, were very grateful for the manner in which the RSLPF was able to restore peace, safety and security to this country.
So how did we get there? One thing is certain: the revelations of the now infamous IMPACS report crucified not only the police but also deeply tarnished politicians and business persons all at once and, by extension, the reputation of Saint Lucia. The version of the story being told by the PM raises serious red flags and more questions than answers. At any rate we surmise that this version is not one that will be readily believed by intelligent, analytical thinkers in this country unless certain pertinent questions are convincingly explained.
Were these actions against Saint Lucia, namely the suspension of assistance to the RSLPF, a direct result of actions in which the Embassy of the United States in Barbados felt duped and co–opted into the malicious back channel schemes of some, in the highly adversarial local politics of Saint Lucia?
Is there a link between all this so–called US action against Saint Lucia and its police force and the revocation of the visa of a certain former minister?
Is this a reaction by the US to the impending lawsuit to the tune of US$25 million in which the US State Department is a defendant and of which the people of St. Lucia were informed by a caller to a popular television Talk show?
Is this IMPACS report, conducted by supposedly independent investigators, with all its saucy details of alleged corruption and staged killings which helps to add some credibility to the PM’s explanation, not really a case of political theatrics and a staged distraction from the true reason for the US action?
Did some parties venture too far in taking action aimed at achieving certain narrow political objectives which resulted in unintended consequences for the entire nation in terms of its security?
So has the IMPACS report, damming as the PM calls it, gone too far with its revelations hence the hot potato matter being quickly passed on to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a second take?
Moreover and fundamentally, will fulfilling all the recommendations outlined in the IMPACS report really and truly appease the US and restore normalcy to our relations with them? Yeah right.
After hearing all this and analyzing it all we are forced to conclude that it does not add up – “you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time because some will see the light”.