Letters & Opinion

Soufriere’s Gang Violence

Microcosm Of A Bigger National Problem

By Clement Wulf-Soulage
By Clement Wulf-Soulage

LEST we want to experience the ragged edge of social chaos, urgent steps need to be taken to address the high unemployment and gang warfare now crippling the community of Soufriere. The once tranquil town, redolent of age and history is fast becoming synonymous with a stigma of drug abuse and social disorder. On that note, it is therefore safe to suggest that the Soufriere youth are not receiving the spiritual and social leadership that they desperately need.

The recent gang violence is perhaps the best illustration of how broken Soufriere society is. The rise in gang affiliation and activity shows a need for immediate, effective action. I have been shocked at the lack of clarity around the problem not only with regard to Soufriere but with many other communities in the island. Clearly it’s not only a Soufriere problem, it has indeed become a national scourge.

As a particular news source reported last week, “The police said the gang violence began on Sunday, March 22 in the wee hours of the morning when rival gangsters from Bridge Street (The Gulf) and Market Road, Soufriere began pelting stones and bottles at each other. A vehicle was damaged but no one was injured.

“The war intensified on Tuesday, March 24 when gangsters continued to throw missiles and shoot at each other. Police said a stone struck two French tourists who were having lunch at a restaurant in the town. One of the tourists was treated at hospital and discharged for a minor head injury”.

I am appalled at the chaotic nature of the approach to what is glibly referred to as gang violence. We need to better understand what is really happening on our streets, otherwise we as a society stand in danger of losing yet another generation as they plunge through violence and criminality to hopelessness and despair. Action on strengthening families, tackling educational failure, reforming welfare, ending drug and alcohol addiction is foundational to mending Soufriere’s broken society.

I’m afraid that without concerted action to mend our broken society more violent and appalling disorder will rear its ugly head. Without a reversal of the social breakdown and disorder that characterises too much of life in Soufriere and other deprived communities, we will continue to see wasted generation after wasted generation. And countless other young people will lose their lives to this tragic and pointless violence.

When we look at the great number of young people who roam the streets aimlessly with nothing to do, we must begin to ask ourselves whether we have really put our best foot forward in addressing the real socio-economic needs of our young people. The desire to acquire wealth expeditiously is now causing our youth to experiment in drugs and gang warfare.

Alas, the effects of social neglect and economic despondency are spilling over into other areas. The tourism sector is now seriously imperilled by the constant visitor harassment and panhandling. The problem is a lingering phenomenon threatening to destroy the gains made over the years in employment and international marketing. I believe that officials have dragged their feet on this issue for too long. We should remember that regardless of the many natural endowments of the town, tourism can never bring about significant benefits to the people if visitors are continuously harassed and abused by a particular group of mendicants hell-bent on tarnishing the town’s touristic image. Why aren’t there more street patrol officers?

Critically, stamping out gangs and other social scourges should become a new national priority. Thus, the political process really matters if we’re to break through our “gangs crisis” on a national level. Any action to address that problem must be guided by the fact that these gangs are the product of social breakdown and are found in the most deprived and marginalised communities burdened by high family breakdown, addiction, unemployment and worklessness.

Understanding social issues in St. Lucia is the first step toward a serious discussion about them. Those serious discussions, along with the provision of meaningful social and economic opportunities can help lead to big changes. In the final analysis, I have no doubt that the availability of job opportunities and effective leadership are inextricably linked to the level of social order in any community.

For comments, write to Clementwulf@hotmail.com – Clement Wulf-Soulage is a Former University Lecturer, Management Economist and Published Author.

5 Comments

  1. It’s akin to monkeys fighting in the jungle. Throwing sticks and stones.
    Police need to deploy the “beanbag” shotguns to dispurse this garbage.

  2. So you prefer them to be men and fight with guns in the City? Better to be monkeys in the Jungle then, that way everybody lives.

  3. The writer articulated the sociological factors quite well> Moreover he alluded to the bleak future vista for the belly of of our natural splendor (if the map of St. Lucia is viewed as a woman, then the Soufriere, Choiseul area is its very promising pregnant belly)
    Extending, this metaphor, we have a polluted MOU
    TH (Castriies harbor) and wobbly feet (a VFort that is denied its proper respect and esteemed role as the INTERNATIONAL GATEWAY that can give St Lucia a SOLID FOOTING). Lately our luckless energy consortium distance itself from modern global thinking by proposing a NASTY coal plant for VFort.)
    Imagine placing your child in a 10feet by 12 feet room with 10 cigarette smokers and 5 cigar puffers. That’s the equivalent second hand smoke that children will receive 24-7-365
    Yes what Mr Solange is alluding to about this unchecked social malady has a very powerful reference in the situation in an even larger version of tropical heaven [San Pedro Sula] The gang violence there is #! on the planet. Sadly, it is part of the most beautiful land and regular folks on the planet. How could such beautiful places ran aground because of gang violence?
    Not even vigilante style policing could put a dent into it.
    So, brace yourself mateys the ship of state can be scuttled by this scourge. Didn’t Attila sack Imperial Rome?

    The only alternative is not more Moses (Laws) but Noah. Flood the country with zero tolerance. Then, take all violators off island to a distant (cell phone free Super Max penal Colony -the Belize or Brazil jungles could be long termed leased for a farthing if not granted fre outright as part of a negotiated OAS pact)..

    Now that you have the Bad Juhns off island and isolated from their comfort and power bases, they are ripe for reeducation , job skills, training/subsistence living that promotes sustainability, mental / medical care, etc.

    I am convinced , after reading the transcripts of an interview with a notorious African America Class A Felon: He was a federal prisoner who caused mayhem in every federal prison he was transferred to (too problematic). He was particularly robust physically (a rare specimen of raw well built towering Mandingo in the true essence of the trait). He quickly dominated all prison populations and made havoc for the authorities, till…. The Super Max in the Colorado mountains vista.
    Isolation and sensory deprivation humbled him to the point where he refused visitation rights from family members because he did not want them to see how pious like a Franciscan monk he had become. Ironic, nest pas?

    My enhanced model would immerse all the necessary training and related medical / rehabilitative services necessary to return a MAXED OUT prisoner back to productive civil engagement- as a tax payer!
    This is the only corrective model that can return our streets to the acceptable commands and controls of civil authority.

  4. Zero tolerance is the only way. The island is too small and badly equipped to be tolerating bad apples. they need removing at the earliest opportunity. Amnesty for guns and knives, minimum sentences henceforth. More training at school, tradesmen level. More organised sport. More civic participation (other than fete).

    More birth control awareness – too many of these jackasses have come from broken homes. Good kids start with good parents.

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