THE long awaited address by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony on the IMPACS investigation into the conduct of the Royal St Lucia Police Force was delivered this past Sunday. Because of the important nature of that statement and the whole issue dealing with the Police Force, THE VOICE is publishing the entire address by the Prime Minister, unedited. The second and final part follows:
NO JUDGEMENT OF INNOCENCE OR GUILT
I have already said and I repeat it here that it is not for me personally, or the Government collectively, or any Minister individually to make any judgment about the innocence or guilt of anyone who may be implicated by the findings of this report.
The question whether anyone is to be prosecuted is solely for the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine after evaluating and assessing the probative value of the evidence placed before her. Likewise, it is for the courts to pronounce on the innocence or guilt of any person who may be charged. The most that the Executive Arm of the Government can do is to provide the resources to the Director of Public Prosecutions to carry out the duties and the responsibilities assigned to her by our Constitution. A copy of the report has now been made available to her.
For the above reasons, save for some administrative adjustments that have now become necessary in the High Command of the Police Force, I am not here to nor will I order that police offices be charged or dismissed or offered packages to retire from the Police Force.
THE WAY FORWARD
The most fundamental question that faces us at this juncture is perhaps the most simple and obvious one: where do we go from here?
There can be no question that our relationship with the United States is vital both to our security and to the security of the United States. We cannot allow a situation where the chief custodian of our national security and other senior police officers in the High Command of the Police Force cannot travel to the United States for discussions on our shared security interests. Equally, it cannot be in the interest of our Police Force and I daresay, our country itself, that the skills of our officers cannot be improved because they are denied access to training once American sponsorship or funds are involved. More fundamentally, we cannot continue in a situation where we are viewed as a pariah State by our partners in the fight against crime and lawlessness.
There is perhaps no subject of co-operation between states that require “trust” more than co-operation in security matters.
Clearly therefore, we need to address the issues that arise from the application of the Leahy Law and I do so now.
Firstly, the Government has decided that the training of police recruits will henceforth include a module in Human Rights Law. All current police officers will be required, in rotation, to attend training to sensitize them to the Human Rights provisions of our Constitution.
Secondly, in order to strengthen the pool of Gazetted Officers, the Government, in consultation with the Police Force and our partners, will organize and conduct an accelerated training programme for potential promotion to the ranks of Gazetted Officers. Admission to this programme will be done on a competitive basis.
Additionally, we will augment the institutional capacity of the Police Force by increasing the Assistant Commissioner positions by one, increasing the number of funded sergeant positions by five and the number of funded corporal positions by ten.
Thirdly, we will make provision in this year’s Estimates of Expenditure for the appointment of Special Prosecutors to assist in the prosecution of any cases should the Director of Prosecutions so decide to prosecute.
Fourthly, the Cabinet will appoint a joint committee under my chairmanship, to oversee the implementation of the report of the investigators. The Committee will include representatives of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and civilians.
Finally, the substantive Commissioner of Police, Mr. Vernon Francois, who is currently on leave will continue on leave until his current period of leave expires. Mr. Errol Alexander will continue to act as Commissioner during this period.
I wish to make it clear however, that there will be personnel adjustments within the Police Force as we seek to effectively manage this transition and ensure optimal functioning of the Police Force. It is vital that this transition is orderly, peaceful and in accordance with our laws and practices.
DISCLOSURE OF REPORT
Earlier, I made it clear that it is neither the place nor the occasion for this Government to pronounce the innocence or the guilt of anyone.
Accordingly, after consideration of the contents of the report, the Cabinet of Ministers has decided that it is not in the public interest to make this report public at this time. Already, there has been some unwarranted and outrageous speculation and commentary on the contents of the report.
Disclosure of the report would compromise continued investigations, place the lives of potential witnesses at risk and prejudice unfairly those who could face prosecution. The report relies on information provided by persons who spoke on condition of anonymity and we must, at all costs, protect the identity of the witnesses who spoke to the investigators. Though these witnesses are not identified in the report, the evidence contained therein could give clues of their identity. Further, disclosure would mean that those who may have done wrong will have advanced warning of who said what to whom about what, when, why, and where. It is best, therefore, that disclosure awaits the filing of charges, if any, and the ensuing legal processes.
HEALING THE WOUNDS
The wounds arising out of this investigation will be deep. For nearly five years our police officers have been the subject of intense scrutiny, locally, regionally and internationally. Our police officers are human beings and they will feel deeply hurt and distressed by the findings of this investigation. They would wish for this to come to an end at the earliest. So, too, will the relatives of the victims want closure and if the results warrant this, justice for their loved ones. The investigators have advised and we concur that
“There is a strong need for victims to speak about their experiences. A credible national process in the form of transformative justice is required. Justice for victims, accountability and punishment of the perpetrators are essential elements of such a process.”
In all of this, we must remember that the vast majority of the men and women in our Police Force are decent, dedicated and committed Police Officers. Now more than ever, we need to rally around them as we all manage the outcome of this investigation.
THE RULE OF LAW PREVAILS
Those who believe that they can take advantage of this situation will be disappointed. I wish to assure all of our citizens that our Police Force will implement measures to ensure that the rule of law prevails and is respected. The criminal elements should not feel encouraged or emboldened by this report or any actions that may be taken as a result of the investigations. Our Government remains resolute in its pursuit of a safer and more secure country and we will employ all necessary lawful measures to ensure the security of our state and its citizens.
My fellow Saint Lucians, ladies and gentlemen!
As I stated at the commencement of this address, this was a distressing issue to confront. Its complexity was compounded by the fact that our government knows that there are many among us who welcomed the actions taken during “Operation Restore Confidence”, as they saw these actions as being largely responsible for the abatement in violent crime that followed. But we are a people and a government governed by laws and no matter how serious the problem may appear, we must never abandon our responsibility to do what is legally and morally correct. As a former Commissioner of Police once said, “we cannot commit a crime to solve a crime.”
My Government has done its part and in the words of Lord Mansfield, which words were once echoed by former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Allan Louisy, “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”
Let us pray for God’s guidance and blessings as our nation faces our challenges, continues on its journey of peace, development and enlightenment.