OFFICIALS of the Castries Constituency Council and the Chamber of Commerce met this week to discuss plans for the revitalization of the capital and the numerous issues that have rendered it dysfunctional, untidy and ridden with all sorts of problems over the past few years.
Tuesday’s meeting follows separate earlier discussions between the new Mayor and the Police hierarchy on the one hand and the Minister of Internal Security on the other. We are happy to see that these discussions are taking place because it indicates an appreciation of the complexity of the problem and the need for a coordinated plan to achieve the desired results.
Earlier, Mayor Peterson Francis, had indicated his own personal grasp of the situation when he spoke at length on what the issues were and the various factors that contributed towards the massive problem that Castries has become. It was interesting to note that Mayor Francis tied the potential success of what was being contemplated to the issue of security and we could not agree more.
Part of the problem facing Castries is the result of what happens when we begin to ignore basics and choose to look away when wrongdoing is being committed right before our very eyes. It is the price that must be paid for lethargy, for wilful neglect and lack of accountability and resolve. Like the loafers on the Boulevard extorting money from motorists for parking spaces that are not theirs. If we see wrongdoing being committed and do nothing about it, when we can, then we become complicit in the consequences.
But let no one doubt the enormity of the task at hand. It involves a lot of physical work, but equally a lot of persuasive work among people who for too long have been allowed to run riot in the city: criminals, vendors and small business people, minibus operators, vehicles blaring music, nuisance cyclists, beggars, male and female insufficiently-clad vagrants, etc. The city of Castries has accommodated them all and what a time they have had.
We will wager a bet that there will be resistance from those who see nothing wrong with defacing and destroying the city’s environment to those who believe that their right to earn a living should not be compromised under any circumstances. So the current plan to engage all the players in discussions about the imperatives facing the city is a wise one.
Several years ago, we experimented with Litter Wardens. The move seemed to be working until some people decided to humiliate, denigrate and stigmatize those workers. Today, it looks like an option that will have to be revisited, because so many have simply not got the message that throwing trash around the place and in gutters is wrong and unacceptable. So if we need the arm of the law to bring offenders to heel, then so be it.
Then there is the problem of crime. Thieves mingling with decent folks going about their business in the city, snatching bags, jewellery and assaulting visitors; burglars breaking into business places at will or would-be killers shooting each other to settle scores, cannot continue to be tolerated. The fact that so many are committing such crimes and getting away with it should not deter our resolve to bring such perpetrators to justice. A lot of these crimes take place in the heart of the capital and this is the clearest indication yet how badly off we are where security is concerned.
So Castries must be made safe again, both for our people and for visitors. It must return to the basics of round the clock surveillance by policemen on foot, armed if necessary, to provide the deterrent to those who contemplate crime. The Police Force cannot shut down on afternoons and sub stations, especially in Castries and Gros Islet, must be equipped with men and equipment to fight crime.
Like we said earlier, restoring the capital will be no Sunday afternoon picnic but it is an assignment that must be undertaken, one issue at a time, until the job is complete.