P.M. Says His Fate In Hands of P.S.C.
THE fate of Police Commissioner, Vernon Francois, now rests in the hands of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said on Thursday.
Francois was sent home on leave March this year, within days of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on the findings of the IMPACS report into alleged human rights abuse by police during the police crack-down, “Operation Restore Confidence”, between 2009 and 2011.
During that crack-down, twelve police shootings would later attract the attention of the United States which cited them as “extra-judicial killings”, leading that country to cut Saint Lucian police officers from training programmes it funds and organizes.
Since being sent home six months ago, Francois has repeatedly been asked to extend his vacation leave, even after showing up to work upon completion of his stated leave period.
Responding to questions about Francois’ employment future, Dr. Anthony said the Public Service Commission has written to the Commissioner of Police advising (him) that they intended to retire him in the public interest. Francois, he said, has since replied.
“The Commissioner of Police responded to the Government of Saint Lucia indicating that he wished to exercise the option available to him, that is, to retire on his own accord; the Prime Minister said, “He qualified for early retirement because he had passed the qualifying period. He asked the Government of Saint Lucia to consider an agreement with him to allow him to proceed on early retirement consistent with the lwas of the country.”
The Prime Minister said he was aware that that process was ongoing, adding that he has no knowledge as to where exactly that process is at currently.
“Normally, when a public officer requests early retirement and exercises his options for retirement, the officer has to write to the Public Service Commission (which), in turn, advises the Governor-General to proceed, that the officer has requested early retirement,” Dr. Anthony said. “What I can say is that I’m aware that such a letter was written to the Governor-General and the Governor-General, in accordance with the Constitution, had to redirect the letter to the Public Service Commission.”
Asked whether a reported $5 million offer was made for Francois’ early exit, Dr. Anthony referred to the quoted figure as being untrue. However, he failed to indicate what financial package Francois would receive for an early exit.
“But I want to assure you that $5 million is astronomical. I’m Minister for Finance and I can’t recall that kind of figure at all. It’s a little adventure in absurdity and falsity,” Dr. Anthony said.
According to the Prime Minister, every item of expenditure needs to be made public, since “these are not things that you’re going to hide”. He said more information on the matter will be made in due course.
“So at the right time, when the process is completed, I’m certain that whatever the terms and conditions of the agreement are between the Commissioner and the government to facilitate his retirement, will be made public,” Dr. Anthony told reporters at a press conference in the Cabinet Room.
But why should Francois’ exit be predicated “in the public’s interest”?
In his March 8 address on the IMPACS findings this year, the Prime Minister said the report alleged that “all the shootings reviewed were ‘fake encounters’ staged by police to legitimze their actions” and that members of the police high command may have been involved in a “cover-up”. The report also alleged that “wilful blindness” on the part of the Police Commissioer and certain members of his leadership and management team existed. Francois has since denied these allegations.
However, the Prime Minister said he could not qualify why the “in the public’s interest” term was cited for Francois’ likely departure from the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF).
“That I’m not at liberty to disclose at this stage because you would realize that this is highly prejudicial to him and, of course, to the Public Service Commission where that process has not been completed,” he said.