EARLIER in the week, our attention was drawn to a Facebook posting by the founder of a group Citizens for Accountability and Progress, in the wake of the bloody start to the New Year when we recorded eight killings in a 10-day period.
We refer to this posting because we concur with much of what the writer had to say. In fact we have said pretty much the same things ourselves in different ways over recent months: that it is time the people of this country begin to own up and take responsibility for the turmoil we are going through. As recently as October we suggested that St Lucia was badly in need of a social transformation and that the government ministry tagged with that portfolio should be in the vanguard of a revolution to bring about the new social order that this country so desperately needs. We said then: “Social transformation in the context of St Lucia today requires a shift in the collective consciousness of our country to re-energize it and restore civic and social pride, values and habits that we once held as sacred.”
The day before we received the Facebook posting mentioned above the crime situation was one of the topics of discussion at one of the regular meetings of the editorial team of this newspaper. Here too, there was consensus that our people must take responsibility for the crime situation in the country and for bringing it under control.
We hear a lot of talk all over about what the government is not doing, what the police ought to be doing and how broken and wanting the justice system has become but few of us are prepared to point fingers at the real culprits in this scenario: we, the people. All the crime that is being committed, all the killings, the gang violence etc. are committed by ordinary men and women of this country, many of them who live in family settings and whose criminal activities are well known to their relations, their friends and neighbours. These are the people we should be appealing to to help curb crime. We also need to devise strategies to target those people and families that are the beneficiaries of the drugs and crime that is wreaking havoc among innocent people, to get them to give up these criminals to the police when they commit their crimes. Some of those people have the gall to come out in the news media demanding justice when their loved ones become victims of their own criminal adventures after they have themselves turned a blind eye to such activities over time.
In every community in this country that have become hotbeds of crime and havens for criminals, the residents know full well who these persons are. Sometimes they are gunmen in their teens, who mete out their own justice by executing even their very friends for whatever reason in the most brutal fashion, as we have seen repeatedly in recent times. We the people need to stop encouraging these criminals by sheltering them. What about the parents and guardians who harbour these criminals in their very homes, knowing full well, the illegal activities that they engage in?
But these major crimes that are rocking our country at this time are being committed by young men and women whose tendency to deviance we were aware of for some time. Instead of nipping their activities in the bud when we should have, we pretended that their little misdemeanours were not that serious. We all did the blind eye thing: parents, relations, families, teachers, friends, neigbours, even the authorities.
The weapons exhibited by the police this week as having been collected from, students, should not surprise anyone, because it was not the first time that the police had put on such a display. It is obvious that the authorities, beginning with the Ministry of Education, have done little to bring about discipline in our schools. The prevalence of students in uniform all over the streets after school, especially in the city of Castries, misbehaving and engaging in all kinds of questionable behaviour testifies to the slackness which we the people, the authorities, tolerate and encourage by our inaction.
And for our parents and guardians, when are we going to begin to hold them responsible for the children under their care? When are we going to take an interest in the whereabouts of our children, their friends, the company they keep, the way they dress, the possessions they have that we did not give to them? When girls are becoming sexually active even while in school, when students in as early as Form One are frequent users of drugs, when primary school students are consuming alcohol, when our country is on a year-round diet of fete to entice mainly the young with all kinds of offerings, what kind of society can we expect to have?
We are now reaping what we have sown over many years. The problems and their beginnings are constantly being highlighted, but who is listening or paying attention? Who is taking up the mantle and leadings the charge to change course?
The saying that crime is everybody’s business is not just another tired cliché. It is reality that we the people must face if we are to stop this madness in our midst.