Tragicomedy Par Excellence!

Image of Mayor Peterson Francis & Police Commissioner Severin Moncherry

If it wasn’t so serious it could easily be laughed-off. Yet, if it is a joke, it isn’t even worth a smile.

The prolonged and multifaceted public quarrel between the nation’s Police Commissioner and the Mayor of the capital city wasn’t at all necessary and could have been avoided. But it happened. The two engaged in a modern media-hyped version of a ‘Gunfight at OK Corral’. Fortunately, though, their ‘High Noon’ shots from the hip missed each other — and both are still standing.

It’s not about who started it, who said what he should not have, or which of the two is right or wrong.  This is a public spat between the nominal heads of two important security establishments washing dirty linen in public over a meeting to discuss security. As often happens, instead of telling the two men to get off their high horses and sit at the table, supporters are lining-up behind their man, pouring gasoline on fire instead of calling the fire brigade.

Sadly, in micro societies like ours where everybody knows everybody, almost everybody knows the common but different lateral and horizontal relationships between the Minister of National Security and the Mayor (on the one hand) and the Commissioner (on the other).

The plot could have come out of a play. The Mayor resurrected the City Constabulary, but ran into problems with the Commissioner after the latter refused to administer the oath to a well-known former cop. The Commissioner refuses to say why he won’t swear-in the ex-police officer, but the Mayor insists on having his man join the City Police.

There’s also the wide screenplay associated with the comparative level of press and multi-platform publicity the Mayor and the City Police have been receiving vis-à-vis the Police Force. The Commissioner’s supporters are accusing some sections of the media of going overboard to overly publicize the City Police, while the Mayor’s supporters say the Police Force can’t blame the City Council for having a more effective public relations outfit.

And then there’s the conspiracy theory involving the Top Cop’s job. The Castries Mayor sought and got meetings with his counterpart in the Trinidad & Tobago capital, Port of Spain, where he also met with the current Trinidad & Tobago Minister of National Security, who also happens to be an old friend. The Castries Mayor also met with the Japanese Ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago – all meetings involving security matters relating to city policing.

The Commissioner’s supporters accuse the Mayor of going out of his way to ‘out-shadow’ the Top Cop, while the Commissioner, who had long ago indicated his intention to vacate the post, now publicly wonders whether the Mayor may be interested in his post.

Truly, this is no laughing matter. It’s nothing less than a maxi tragicomedy of serious proportions.

While the elephants fight, the grass suffers. The two men understandably stand their ground in cases where they feel their toes have been mashed or their offices have been disrespected. But while they throw words at each other, essential answers to important questions remain unanswered.

For example: What are the major differences between the City Police and the Royal Saint Lucia police Force (RSLPF)? What are the differences between City Constables, Special Reserve Police (SRPs) and Police Constables? What powers do regular police officers have that the City Police don’t? Do they cooperate or compete on the City Beat?

The two men have both said all the wrong things that each has later tried to right with explanations that only deepen the public impression that this senseless public spat is really much ado about nothing.

Will it stop? There’s no end in sight. So, as the tenders of herds of cows would have said in days of yore to nosey bulls that went out of line, someone needs to tell the Commissioner and the Mayor: Woah Boeuf!

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