By Victor Girard
IT would appear that Corporal Camron Laure has misunderstood his role as President of the Police Welfare Association. As far as I am aware, the Association was established to take care of welfare matters of Police Officers of or below the rank of Inspector of Police.
Laure’s recent statements would seem to suggest he is acting on behalf of all ranks of the Police Force. In his quest to deal with matters which do not fall within his purview he repeats falsities, e.g. political maltreatment of Commissioners, in particular, reference was made to former Prime Minister Sir John Compton dismissing a Commissioner of Police, but the facts will prove otherwise.
I was Cabinet Secretary / Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs at the time and the Commissioner in question was retired in the public interest as a consequence of the recommendation of the Karl Hudson Phillips Commission of Inquiry. Saint Lucians seem to have a short memory since we have forgotten what necessitated the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry. We have forgotten the “Yamaha” incident and others—the archives of the STAR newspaper may be in a position to refresh our memories.
Since Independence we have had Commissioners Eugene Lawrence, Cuthbert Phillips, Brian Bernard, Vernon Augustin, Francis Nelson, Ausbert Regis and Vernon Francois (excluding the non-nationals). Most of these retired after they reached the prescribed age of retirement. Ausbert Regis was transferred, a decision which was challenged in the High Court, a result of which may be consistent with Laure’s allegation.
Vernon Francois, if I am to go by the Prime Minister’s statement, was in the process of being retired in the public interest. Now questions are being raised as to how or why Francois should be retired in the public interest. But the reality of the situation is that again according to the Prime Minister, Francois cannot visit the United States nor treat with U.S. officials. Saint Lucia depends on the U.S. for its arms and ammunition, and training for the Police. It therefore presupposes that it is not in the (public) interest to have a Commissioner of Police who is prevented from visiting the U.S. or dealing with U.S. personnel, re: the Police Force.
Another matter which is of concern is the recent attempt to bring Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy into political and other ro-ro. Her Excellency functions according to the dictates of Saint Lucia’s Constitution and she has done so with integrity, distinction and humility. According to a news item, Cpl. Laure and his Association, have resolved to ask Her Excellency to accept her responsibility to the Police Force as contained in Section 7 of the Police Ordinance. This implies that the Governor General has not acted as she should according to law. This injudicious approach probably arises out of Laure’s lack of understanding of the supreme law of the land.
Our Constitution specifically states that in most instances the Governor General acts on the advice of the Cabinet, a Minister or any other person or authority (e.g. the Public Service Commission, Judicial Legal Services Commission) in consultation with any person or authority as required by the Constitution or any other law. The Constitution specifically states in what instances the Governor General (Sec. 64) can act in his/her own deliberate judgement.
Ministers are charged with the responsibility for departments of government and to exercise general direction and control over the departments assigned to them (Sec. 69). The Governor General acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister assigns responsibility for any business of the government (Sec. 62). As far as I am aware the Governor General assigned the portfolio of Home Affairs and National Security, which includes the Police, to Minister Philip LaCorbinere. Permanent Secretaries under the direction and control of their Ministers are responsible for the supervision of their respective departments. Therefore, Police Forces are accountable to Ministers.
A British government representative in the 80s arranged for me to observe the operation of the Ministry of Home Affairs in the UK. One such visit resulted in my attendance at a meeting where Ministry officials and Police personnel were examining the policy with regard to the use of rubber bullets (I was most surprised to see what a rubber bullet looked like. A far cry from what I originally imagined). Our Police Force is within the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security, and as such the Minister is charged with executing general direction and control of the Force with the assistance of his/her Permanent Secretary.
As far as I am aware the departments which are not under the general direction and control of a Minister are the Director of Public Prosecutions, Director of Audit and Chief Elections Officer.
In June of this year in an article titled, “Accountability and Transparency” I drew attention to the Director of Public Prosecution’s failure to tell the public the status of the IMPACS Report. Seven months later, and yet no word from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. As indicated in June, the deafening silence is not fair to the police officers and their families. We tend to require politicians to account but should not public officers be required to do the same? All the speculation that is going on in the media could be tempered with a statement from the DPP. As is being done in other countries, the Crown Prosecution Service keeps the public informed occasionally.
Due to the misinformation on the airwaves, I have decided to write on the issues and more particularly to appeal to the powers that be to take appropriate action and to not allow the current situation in the Police Force to fester as was with the case of the Fire Service.