I am reliably informed that an inquest scheduled for Wednesday this week into the May 5, 2011 deaths of five men in Vieux Fort proved a nonstarter. An earlier attempted hearing last Wednesday, also presided over by the magistrate Robert Innocent, barely got underway. This week the principals claimed pre-trial publicity threatened their right to a fair hearing.
Last Sunday Saint Lucia’s prime minister announced at an SLP rally that UWP leader Allen Chastanet had “threatened” to make public the so-called IMPACS report, at the risk of making it near impossible to prosecute associated suspects. Contrary to the Police Complaints Act, even before the Director of Public Prosecutions had been afforded an opportunity to peruse its content, the prime minister had himself made public much of the report he initiated nearly three years ago.
When in self-defense she addressed the report at a press conference shortly before setting out on pre-retirement leave, the DPP revealed that while it contained allegations of the worst kind, recommendations and shocking accusations, there was nothing in the document that could usefully be taken to court. Ahead of the DPP’s statement the prime minister had cited large sections of the report by eight Jamaican investigators during a March 2015 address to the nation.
At the time he spoke of “fake encounters” staged by the police and planted weapons at the scene of fatal shootings. He also pointed an accusatory finger at the then police commissioner, personnel from the previous administration and business people he claimed facilitated criminality in Saint Lucia. He said the report was “damning,” to the extent the Jamaican investigators had strongly recommended suspects be prosecuted.
Since then the prime minister has openly accused identified members of the Stephenson King administration of “responsibility” for all that led up to IMPACS. Recently the former Home Affairs Minister Guy Mayers announced he had instructed his lawyers to take legal action on his behalf following a particular announcement by the prime minister.
This week an EU delegation met with the prime minister for the second time in five months to be updated on his efforts at prosecuting the IMPACS report. Afterward the ambassadors issued the following press release: “The meeting was agreed with the prime minister in January on the basis of expectations to have the vacancies of the police commissioner and the director of public prosecutions filled by this time. It was a joint understanding that these recruitments are necessary to launch a proper investigation into the serious allegations of extra-judicial killings of 2010-2011 and the IMPACS investigative report, so that due process can be guaranteed.”
Moreover: “The European diplomats noted that the vacancy of the police commissioner was officially filled from 1 April. They also noted that the recruitment of the director of public prosecution, though delayed, is now underway with interviews scheduled for May. The European delegation reiterated the importance of the new DPP, when appointed, taking up allegations of extra-judicial killings as a priority and for the government of Saint Lucia to provide all the necessary resources that the due process will require, in full respect of the independence of the judiciary branch.”
The release underscored the proper resolution of the IMPACS issue would “boost the country’s international reputation as regarding the upholding of the general principle of the rule of law, an intrinsic part of democratic governance.”
The EU delegation repeated its offer of support with the general backlogs in the justice system in Saint Lucia . . . through interventions financed under the Regional Indicative Program from the 11th European Development Fund.
Finally: “The European and member states will continue to monitor the follow-up given to serious accusations of extra-judicial killings in Saint Lucia.”
The EU release, if only in part, generated its own questions—for instance, its reference to the vacant post of police commissioner. Was Saint Lucia ever without a police commissioner, if only in an acting position—as has been the case since the “voluntary” retirement of Vernon Francois?
Did the prime minister not say several weeks ago that the prosecution of IMPACS had more to do with an uncooperative DPP than with money?
Doubtless, the prime minister will be required to say a word or two on the status of IMPACS before Polling Day!