WILL the government please make a formal statement on the alleged human trafficking scam that has been unfolding in our country? The decision by the police on Tuesday to charge one of the persons arrested with money laundering adds a new dimension to this matter that demands a thorough statement by someone in the government.
We say “alleged human trafficking” because the way we understand the term, human trafficking is defined as the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation. It is thought to be one of the fastest-growing activities of trans-national criminal organizations, as well as a human rights violation. If what we have here fits the bill, then we need to hear from the government.
We worry about the statement by the deputy Police commissioner Frances Henry to the effect that some persons– foreigners who came to St Lucia to get an education at an offshore school—were living in “a controlled environment”. Does that mean they were brought here and were being held against their will? All of this makes us ask the obvious question: exactly what has been going on in our country? The public has a right to know the full story.
There have always been concerns about the operations of offshore schools in St Lucia, some of which have been known to cease operations quite suddenly, leaving their students in limbo, not to mention, a string of unpaid bills. Only last year, the National Security Minister Mr.LaCorbiniere revealed that the government was preparing legislation on the issue of licensing and regulating medical schools and the offering of incentives to attract such institutions. Presumably, the intention would have been that such measures would apply toALL offshore schools.
Until the institution that is at the heart of the current police investigation, known as Lambirds Academy, St Lucia had attracted only medical schools, at least five of them, in the north and south. One would have thought that after 35 years in the offshore school business, we would have made an effort to create a system that was regulated, stable and reputable. But the Lambirds incident is a sharp reminder that this has not been the case.
Granting a licence to operate a school must be followed by a system of monitoring at intervals to ensure that the student visitors who come here, guests in our country, are comfortable and happy.
If one should ask the various authorities whether the required due diligence was carried out before welcoming the operators of Lambirds, we would be sure to get an affirmative response, but the very fact that the school is now at the centre of a criminal investigation is evidence that we fell short in screening this operator.
Anyway one looks at it, this week’s developments represent a serious wake up call for our country, rendered more telling by the fact that we are currently considering an economic citizenship programme. We can never be too careful about the people who come to our country ostensibly to set up one kind of business or another. It behoves us always to ensure that such “investors” are above board, untainted by any sort of criminal tendencies. While we are not here prejudging the Lambirds operator, the mere fact that he has found himself in this mess, implicated in allegedly illegal activities, sends a very worrying signal.