The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) says permission for a scheduled island-wide motorcade last Sunday beginning from the Castries Market Steps was not sought prior to Sunday, therefore the convoy was deemed illegal.
There were some dramatic moments prior to the start of the vehicular parade, one such moment being the withdrawal, at the scene in Castries, by police of a former government minister, Richard Frederick whom police claimed was one of the organisers of the event.
Frederick was not arrested. He abided by requests from police to remove himself from the scene so that the crowd could disperse. Frederick, that very day, said he was not arrested and that he complied fully with whatever the police wanted from him.
However television and radio talk show host, and acute critic of the government, Christopher Hunte was not so fortunate. He was arrested by police yesterday on the West Coast Road. The vehicle he was in was part of a convoy heading down the West Coast Road. Police at the time said Hunte was the organizer of the convoy.
Hunte was taken to Custody Suites where he overnighted. He has yet to be charged and is still in police custody at the time this article was posted. Efforts to get police to speak on the Hunte matter were futile.
However the Saint Lucia Labour Party, this morning called for Hunte’s immediate release. Party Chairman Moses Jn Baptiste said police have yet to charge Hunte with any unlawful activity.
“The fact that Mr. Hunte, and no one else, out of the hundreds who were in the motorcade, was arrested, clearly indicates that this was a deliberate attempt by the authorities to muzzle and intimidate a known critic of the Government and the Prime Minister. This is very dangerous. The Saint Lucia Labour Party vehemently condemns this oppressive and dictatorial action by the Government,” Jn Baptiste said.
The Royal St Lucia Police Force claimed it was made aware of an unauthorized motorcade scheduled for Sunday, June 14, 2020, commencing in the city of Castries, at 11:00 a.m. The procession was advertised with stops in all constituencies around the island, as per a clip from the “Can I Help You” talk show, hosted by Mr. Richard Frederick, titled “Moving on an Anti-Chastanet Drive”.
“As per the clip, he called on various members of the opposition, Saint Lucia Labour Party, disgruntled supporters of the United Workers Party and all other interested persons to join the cause. The said procession was also advertised by other individuals purporting to be organisers, via various media,” stated a release from the police.
The release further stated that “at the end of office hours on Friday, June 12, 2020, the office of the Commissioner of Police, had not received any application for such a motorcade, which is a requirement under the Public Order Act Chapter 14.05 latest amendment of December 31, 2014. This Act relates to the maintenance of public order, with reference to public meetings, marches, motorcades, processions and for connected matters. Under the interpretation section, “public marches” is defined as, any march, or procession in a public place comprising (whether wholly or partly) pedestrians, vehicles (however propelled or drawn) or bicycles (however propelled except a march or procession”. The act authorizes the Commissioner of Police, upon receipt of an application, to deny or approve such an activity; again no application was submitted. The act makes it an offence to lead or participate in a procession, without the prerequisite approval. If permission is granted, it is then the duty of the police to ensure that during the conduct of the activity, law and order is maintained.”
The release went on to state that “on the morning of Sunday, June 14, 2020, Mr. Frederick contacted Mr. Milton Desir, Acting Commissioner of Police, via telephone, and there was a conversation reference to the said motorcade. Mr. Frederick agreed to call off the motorcade, since he did not apply and therefore did not have permission to hold such an activity. Later that morning the officers present confirmed that Mr. Frederick made an announcement, on Jeremie Street, Castries, where persons had assembled for the commencement of the procession, stating that permission was not granted for the motorcade. He also urged persons to leave the area. A video of Mr. Frederick making that announcement to the attendees, was also circulated on social media.
“Later during the day, there was information that the motorcade left Castries and proceeded in the direction of Anse La Raye, despite the announcement of the non-approval, at the apparent behest of one individual. That individual was later detained on suspicion of contravention of the provisions of the Public Order Act.
“The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force respects and supports persons’ rights to participate in, and or organise public protests, marches, meetings or motorcades, however, we encourage persons to adhere to the laws governing such processes. We also take this opportunity to remind persons that if they insist on leading or proceeding with these unauthorized activities, they will be committing an offence under the Public Order Act. Notwithstanding the provisions of the Public Order Act, we wish to remind the citizenry that we are currently in a State of Emergency, with Statutory Instruments, which regulate the congregating of individuals. The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force wishes to encourage all people in Saint Lucia to continue adhering to the laws and protocols as we continue in our fight against COVID-19,” ended the police release.