In the wake of the deadly violence which has gripped the nation since the beginning of this month, the saying; “Who feels it knows” has never had more significance.
It is with this in mind that The VOICE reached out to one of the persons affected by the ongoing bloodshed which to date has been concentrated around a notorius area of Castries…Wilton’s Yard.
The area which is more commonly known as The Graveyard is now living up to its alias as the spate of shootings which claimed the lives of three individuals and sent one other to the hospital, has turned the tiny community just off the Chausee Road into a ghost town.
The affected individual who spoke to The VOICE about the growing issues was raised in the Yard, visits the area on a daily basis, has a number of family members residing there and is closely affiliated with the grieving families who recently lost loved ones as a result of the violence.
Not wanting to become a target himself, he only identified himself as “Jim Jones”, and gave an in depth look at the other side of Wilton’s Yard…the Yard that many see only as a violent danger zone as opposed to a community with regular law abiding citizens and families.
The VOICE: How do you feel about the current spate of violent crimes taking place which has seemingly left the Yard looking like a target?
Jim: Well no one likes or supports useless acts of violence. But violent behaviour often stems from less fortunate communities. So with that said, the recent uprising of violence has saddened the community and has placed it on a state of alert.
The VOICE: Apart from being in a state of alert, what are the genuine feelings circulating among the residents of the area?
Jim: Most times when John Public hears Wilton’s Yard aka “Grave Yard” they seem to be under the impression that this is a spot where people…kids and grown folks alike hang out cleaning their guns, rifles, smoking weed and planning to rob anything that moves on the Chaussee. This is not the case. Wilton’s Yard is a community like any other with young kids going to school, honest people earning an honest wage and of course clients/customers who frequent the bars/night time dancehalls. So in light of all these things people of Wilton’s Yard will always feel targeted whether it be from other ‘ghetto neighbourhoods’ or the ordinary Joe who watches the news and is made to believe that Wilton’s Yard is a place where the devil sits with his minions plotting to destroy all the good people of Castries. All in all, most residents are very saddened by the loss of life especially now as it looks like these young bandits have no respect for their peers or elders.
To strengthen my earlier point when these bandits first came, in the yard one evening they shot two persons in the hand/arm area. One of the persons residing in Wilton’s yard went to make a report the police and the officers laughed and commented; “Grave Yard men coming and make reports now?” So with that in mind you can see why these people feel cornered at every turn
The VOICE: Having your eyes and ears on the ground, have you heard of any talks of anger and retribution? (I know you might not want to say but…)
Jim: Well, if I said I did not, I would be lying to you but it’s a bit of mixed emotions because when a lion grows in the jungle its entire life it’s hard to put it in a zoo and expect it to eat cooked meat. But with that said, all killings which have been done thus far are allegedly stemming from the same place but no one of that community has been reported shot or dead. So it is my best belief that the elders of the yard are willing to work with the police on the matter. But the real questions might be does the police force truly and genuinely want to help the people of Wilton’s Yard.
The VOICE: What can you tell me about the elders working with the police?
Jim: Not that much but as you already know there is a Wilton’s Yard Association, which Peter Reynolds is the president. Mr. Reynolds has been the most vocal voice when it comes to matters of violence in the area. All his prior interviews indicate willingness of the community to co-operate with the police but as I said, the real question here is does the police genuinely want to help individuals of Wilton’s Yard?
The VOICE: Is that the general feeling among the residents?
Jim: Well, I can’t speak for every single individual who lives in Wilton’s Yard but I’d say I believe that is the general consensus of the community. I’d like to point out that the majority of persons who were born, raised and still reside in Wilton’s Yard are law abiding citizens. You would not have asked me your last question if you were talking, say, about Rodney Heights or Cap Estate.
The VOICE: Ok, as for the family of the deceased…what’s next?
Jim: Well, who knows? Burial, reflection, forgiveness, regret, turmoil, anger…who knows? Everyone deals with the loss of a loved one differently. All I can is say that the entire community is saddened by the loss of Mrs Clarke’s husband and we all share somewhat in her pain. On a side note *most of these violent acts often start or stem from what’s next for these grieving family members. It’s a vicious circle of death and violence which only exists within ‘ghetto communities’ like Wilton’s Yard. Some people will seek revenge for their slain loved ones when the law fails them. Let’s just say this mentality resides strongly among the youth, hence our gang culture with teenagers and young men killing each other in St. Lucia.
The VOICE: So what do you think should be the way forward if you had any say?
Jim: The way forward? Damn, that’s a whole new article in itself. Let’s just say it cannot start with the people in Wilton’s Yard because if you fully review this situation or go to its root it stems from boys who grew up roughly in the same neighbourhood surrounded roughly by the same environment. There is no single approach to this issue of crime we face in this country but the way I see it we need to tackle the issue on multiple fronts… Firstly, why do these areas tend to spawn, breed or attract criminals? The answer is simple; it is a place where the less fortunate in our society are housed and people who have been struggling from birth to survive in a country with no welfare not even for young pregnant mothers, are in itself breeding a problem in which they chose to profit off of instead of solve.
The VOICE: Why do you think that Wilton’s Yard has for so many years been a main target in this sense?
Jim: Wilton’s Yard aka Grave Yard is probably the most notorious ghetto in St. Lucia…but why? Some say it’s because the guy who was once thought of as the “baddest” man in St. Lucia got gunned down there in a snow storm of bullets. This occurred when I myself was still very young. In recent past and future they have been known to have running with the police. I’m sure we all remember a burning police vehicle and the comments which were aired on DBS by Jacob (Jules). Now firstly Jacob’s comment was misunderstood. What he was actually trying to say and do was alert the general public and officials that the people of the yard was tired of their random searches which often felt like police abuse of power. You may ask how a random search may feel that way but the search becomes random when no warrant is presented to search any specific area and police abuse their authority by undermining and roughly searching different individuals.
I have no care for what a reader who sits in the suburbs, comfortable in his house says about “bring back ORC”, “kill all of them people in the Grave Yard” and the most annoying of all ignorant comment, “where is Mary Francis?” One should not fear to be misunderstood or ridiculed because of the ignorance of others.
Another thing is this, on many TV stations, if there is a vague report of shootings in Castries they always tend to show footage of Wilton’s Yard even…though the actual incident happened in La Pansee. That is subconsciously disturbing and embedding a message in the ordinary person’s mind
The VOICE: If I was to walk around near the Grave Yard, what vibe would be picked up right now?
Jim: I can tell you the recent crime wave has brought the commerce in that area to a full stop. Police have already placed persons in custody including most of the names which have been allegedly connected to all deadly shootings from both sides. But it’s not fun to walk in a place which looks like a ghost town only to swing around a partition and see endless people “coblay” on a side in fear just to enjoy each others company in their own community.