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Alva Baptiste Challenges Hermangild Francis on National Security

Image: Parliamentary Representative for Laborie, Alva Baptiste

PRESS RELEASE – THE Opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) wishes to distance itself from the untenable remarks made by Senator Hermangild Francis that he “personally does not believe that the Leahy Law was put on Saint Lucia for the twelve homicides.”

The question is, why would Senator Francis convey the impression that the US Government is using Operation Restore Confidence (ORC) as a pretext to impose the Leahy Law on Saint Lucia, when this same Mr. Francis was quoted by the press as saying that, “The US government has made its position clear that it wants the matter of the twelve deaths resolved in a court of law.”

Image of Parliamentary Representative for Laborie, Alva Baptiste
Parliamentary Representative for Laborie, Alva Baptiste

The chronology of events is as follows:
1. Operation Restore Confidence (ORC) was implemented in 2010 under the administration of the UWP, ostensibly to curb the high level of crime at the time. During the operation, 12 people were killed.
2. The US raised queries about circumstances under which these individuals died.
3. The UWP was voted out of power in November 2011.
4. The US continued to raise concerns to the Saint Lucia Labour Party government about circumstances surrounding the deaths and threatened to take action if a proper investigation was not undertaken.
5. During that time, police assistance from the US continued, including staging of the Trade Winds exercise.
6. The SLP Government informed the US that any action had to be in accordance with legal processes in Saint Lucia. A Coroner’s inquest was initiated.
7. The US then informed the Saint Lucia Labour Party Government in 2014 that since what they deemed as appropriate action had not been taken against persons involved in the alleged murders, then Leahy Law sanctions would be imposed.
8. The Leahy Law sanctions were then imposed.
9. The SLP Government then went to CARICOM to undertake an independent investigation into the circumstances that lead to the deaths.
10. This investigation led to the IMPACS Report.
11. The US has made it clear that unless appropriate action is taken, Leahy sanctions will remain in place.

Hence, Senator Francis must explain to the people of Saint Lucia what extraordinary events he believes transpired in 2014 between the Government of Saint Lucia and the United States Government to cause the US Government to impose the Leahy Law on members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police.

Senator Francis attempted to argue that it was as a result of our membership in ALBA that the Leahy Law was imposed. This argument has been destroyed by self-combustion as surely it cannot be membership of ALBA as other countries have been and remain members of ALBA and the Leahy Law has not applied.

This is not the first time Senator Francis has made bizarre and absurd connections between the US Government and ORC. Sometime in 2016, Senator Francis said to the effect that, if the Coast Guard Unit was dismembered from the RSLPF, then US funding would become available to the said unit. This statement instigated a prompt rebuke from the US government.

Further, the law covering State Department-funded aid is found in Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended most recently in January 2014). It states:

(a) IN GENERAL. – No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

(b) EXCEPTION. –The prohibition in subsection (a) shall not apply if the Secretary determines and reports to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committees on Appropriations that the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.

Image of National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis
National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis

Instead of Senator Francis engaging in innuendo and subterfuge, he should tell the nation what steps are being taken by his government to conclude the suspension of military assistance to our police department. The resolution of this issue is too urgent and the stakes are too high to simply trivialize this matter in order to impress the unsuspecting masses that the UWP government is standing up to the mighty USA. We are not going to resolve this issue by grandstanding.

Senator Francis should engage the USA in a responsible manner to end the imposition of the Leahy Laws and work together to confront the security problems of our hemisphere.

Despite the desperate but futile attempts by the current UWP government to interfere with our rights to free speech, the opposition will continue to place the issues in conversation with the nation.

• We cannot remain silent on the security risks posed to our country by this UWP government’s failure to engage in proper due diligence regarding the sale of our passports;
• We cannot remain silent when this government’s actions and utterances are jeopardizing our chances of getting security assistance from strategic partners like the USA;
• We cannot remain silent when in 2017 there were 60 homicides in Saint Lucia and there was an increase in all categories of crime;
• We cannot remain silent when political power is abused by the UWP government to intimidate and victimize opponents of the government;
• We cannot remain silent when the police are used to enter private premises to intimidate innocent citizens and to carry out unwarranted searches.

In closing, I reiterate that Senator Francis would do well to desist from making such absurd and farfetched statements and concentrate on reducing the level of crime in Saint Lucia, which has reached unprecedented levels.

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