Letters & Opinion, Matters On My Mind

Help Me Understand the PM’s New Year Address. Please!

Image of Allen Chastanet

I REMEMBER the first three months of 2015, when not a single homicide was recorded. It was a real boon for the police force and the nation in general. Back then, every Saint Lucian was already accustomed to crime making headlines, especially gun crimes.

It took the Easter weekend of that year to bring homicides back into the picture with three killings. Since then, the killings have been constant, continuing up to today, on a regular weekly or monthly basis.

Just three weeks into this month and already two homicides have been recorded. Our official crime stoppers — namely the police — seem unable to lead the charge to protect and serve as the stories of police officers throwing their hands in the air when certain reports are made to them have all appeared to have several grains of truth.

It seems that the tail is wagging the dog instead of the dog wagging the tail where crime and the police force are concerned.

The police force seems more reactionary than progressive in relation to certain criminal acts.

Criminals today are so hardened that engaging in shoot-outs in broad daylight seems like a natural occurrence to them. There seems to be no fear of police officers on the part of the criminals despite some brave talk made around Christmastime by Police Commissioner Severin Monchery – and by certain members of the police hierarchy.

Administration after administration seems to pay only lip service to the plight of the police force, not understanding that the police force needs to be constantly equipped and not just once.

That kind of thinking is quite clear when a review is taken of traffic lights in the city. Several of those lights no longer glow. Why aren’t they replaced? Do not the authorities understand that time, which contributes to the wear and tear and the vicissitudes of life, will take their toll on the equipment, even on human capital, therefore timely upgrades are needed?

Providing the police force with CCTV cameras and other equipment three or five years ago does not mean that the police force will not be in need of new ones today. And this brings me to the prime minister’s New Year address to the nation, where he spoke on the subject ‘Security and Justice’.

This administration, like others before it, believes that it is doing everything it possibly could to tackle crime. These are the words of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet as contained in his New Year’s address: “From the onset of our administration, we have taken steps to combat crime at all levels, including instituting social programmes that address crime at its root.”

If the government indeed, from the time they entered office on 6 June 2016, had taken steps to combat crime at all levels then crime, at all or most levels, should be registering a downward spiral today? That seems pretty fair to me. But is that the case today? If that is not so then the steps taken have not worked.

Before being accused of bashing the current administration unnecessarily, I will await police crime analysis report for 2018, which should be out in the very near future. I look forward to the statements released not to glorify or to take pot-shots at the government. The analysis will give you, dear reader, a better understanding of the crime situation in the country.

I live in Saint Lucia and so do you, dear reader, therefore we both know about the crime situation in the country, something the prime minister cannot bluff us about, irrespective of how much he tries to spin the subject.

“We first re-opened the Forensic Lab that was closed for some years,” the prime minister said in his address, adding that as a result, “we were able to make significant headway in the investigation and prosecution of several rape cases on the island.” I am questioning this significant headway made in the rape cases spoken of by the prime minister due to the re-opening of the Forensic Lab. The prime minister gave no examples. Which rape case or cases is he talking about? What I do know is that investigators in the Kimberley De-Leon murder case had to send samples overseas to be analyzed. Why couldn’t they have their samples analyzed at the Forensic Lab?

Here’s the prime minister again from his New Year’s address:

“Strategically we have taken decisions to strengthen our police force and justice system; however we recognize we still have a long way to go in providing the basics that are vital to serious crime fighting.”

Now I am puzzled. I am in a conundrum. And as a result I will stop reading the prime minister’s address, for now. I may take it up again next week. And here’s my reason for being in the dilemma that I’m in:

Apparently, the decisions taken to strengthen the police force had nothing to do with providing the basics that are vital to serious crime-fighting because the prime minister said there is still a long way to go to do just that.

Isn’t it better to first strengthen the basics for serious crime fighting? If the basics to serious crime-fighting were strengthened at the onset, from the time the government was sworn into office two-and-a-half years ago, why then do we “still have a long way to go to serious crime fighting” as noted by the prime minister.

What exactly is the prime minister saying? I’m lost.

How could the police force be strengthened if we are still a long way to go in providing the basics to fighting serious crime?

What strategic decision(s) has/have the prime minister taken that has bypassed the basics that are vital to serious crime fighting, but has strengthened the police force?

If we “still have a long way to go in providing the basics that are vital to serious crime fighting,” according to the prime minister, how could the police force expect to solve serious crime on the island?

I will take up reading the prime minister’s address next week. Enough for one week!

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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