HUMAN rights advocate, Mary Francis, says she is prepared to lead citizens in a protest march should the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Victoria Charles-Clarke, not give Saint Lucians an update on the stage of the investigations precipitated by the IMPACS report.
In an interview with The VOICE yesterday, Francis said the seemingly lax attitude from the DPP’s Office has become overbearing while a dark cloud remains over the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF).
“This thing has gotten too out of hand and the DPP cannot sit down and think she’s all mighty. The DPP cannot be stronger than the people of Saint Lucia,” Francis said.
Francis said she had earmarked a protest march for last August to voice concerns over the state of the island’s justice system. However, mobilizing efforts have been hampered since she’s been planning the event almost singlehandedly while handling court matters.
Nevertheless, Francis believes that the “deafening silence” from the DPP’s Office over the past seven months on the status of the investigations into alleged misconduct by police officers accused of extra-judicial killings during “Operation Restore Confidence” needs to end.
“I don’t even know whether she has received the report,” Francis told The VOICE. “I have never heard her make a statement that she has indeed received the report and that she’s attempting to unravel and dissect the report. The Prime Minister informed us on March 8 that he was actually bent on sending (the report) to her office.”
Francis said the DPP needs to state publicly whether the investigation is a huge task for her considering her already heavy regular workload and whether she would need additional resources. She said Charles-Clarke should be cognizant of the “confusion, anxiety and unrest in the police force all because nobody really knows what’s going on”. The DPP, she said, “is now the key to bringing this thing to an end.”
“I would also refer to the situation as a hemorrhaging of the country because people are now beginning to wonder whether they can rely on the police or whether this thing is going to shake the police force to the extent that the security of the State will be at stake. It’s just not good that the DPP keeps quiet and says nothing,” Francis explained.
During the police crackdown, twelve men were reportedly killed by lawmen extra-judicially, according to U.S. authorities who later cut Saint Lucians police officers from any training they sponsored and organized. This led to Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony launching an investigation into the charges, resulting in the findings of an IMPACS report, elements of which he made public in a March 8, 2015 address to the nation.
Francis, who for years now has called on local authorities to raise the standards in the judicial system, said the investigations into the revelations made in the IMPACS report must be done with “some sense of urgency”. She added that the government’s hands are tied now in actually implementing recommendations because the DPP has probably not shown any clear sign as to where she’s proceeding on the investigations. Nevertheless, she said, too much is at stake.
“You cannot just keep them hanging on,” Francis stated. “Because of the integrity, even the evidence gathering, and so on, time delay is never good when you have those things, especially a serious issue as that one.”
Francis also chided the Minister for Justice, Victor La Corbiniere, for not saying much on the matter that has dominated media attention and public debates for quite some time now. She believes that he needs to issue a clear statement as well since the police force falls under his portfolio.
“He said he’ll say something at the right time. When is the right time? When will it be the right time? So maybe there’s an interest, politically, for the government to sit back and rely on maybe the DPP having too much work,” Francis told The VOICE.
For now, though, Francis said she will continue to keep the matter alive in order that the wheels of justice are seen to grind. However, she said she remains committed to seeing the DPP’s Office acts speedily to resolve the outstanding matter as well as the concerns of the citizenry.
“I am hoping that we would not have to seek other means of ensuring that this matter is dealt with more expeditiously than it has so far by the DPP,” Francis said. “If necessary, the people of the country will have to decide whether they will have to have some campaign to ensure that those matters are not swept under the carpet and turned into a political football. The right thing must be done in order for justice to prevail.”