Counting down on 12 weeks into the New Year, the country has recorded a total of 12 homicides.
However, the crime statistics are not only being played out on the streets but among opposing politicians as well who have taken up this issue as upcoming general elections draw nigh.
This week, during a recent sitting of parliament, Castries Mayor Peterson Francis took offence to comments made by the former prime minister and district representative for Vieux Fort South Dr. Kenny Anthony concerning the competence of National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis, brother to the Mayor.
Dr. Anthony alluded to the increasing homicide rate in Saint Lucia as a consequence, in part, of the ‘poor performance’ of the National Security Minister.
Mayor Francis took objection to Dr. Anthony’s outburst, questioning the former leader’s tenure in government and the steps Dr. Anthony took to help deal with the crime issue.
He said that while Dr. Anthony was “bloating in the house about the number of homicides, he has not mentioned how many murders were committed in his constituency.”
Taking a further jab at the Vieux Fort South MP, Francis said Dr. Anthony should have been in a position to consult with residents from the wider community.
“What is he doing as a leader of his constituency to bring people together?” Francis asked. “Is he working (with) the police … the churches, community groups, and young people?”
The mayor argued, “What is he doing? He has not done anything.”
Stating that he was not speaking in defense of his brother, the mayor said it appears to be a ‘fashionable’ trend of tabulating the number of homicides committed in the country, while opposing political figures offer no solution to help solve the situation.
“Never, for once in the 60 murders that he’s been gloating about did he offer sympathies to the grieving families,” Mayor Francis said.
National Security Minister Hermangild Francis has been endorsed as the United Workers Party (UWP) candidate to take on the St Lucia Labour Party’s (SLP) Dr. Anthony for the Vieux Fort South seat.
The two Francis brothers were former staunch members of the SLP, before they defected to the UWP prior to the 2016 general elections.
There has been ‘no love lost’ between the warring factions and with the impending general elections, the tension has increased to an ‘all out’ slandering and tarnishing of each other’s reputation. And as the pundits say, these situations occur all in order ‘to gain political mileage’.
Dr. Anthony cited a number of issues he claimed had not been resolved by the current administration to effectively deal with the crime situation on island, even going as far as questioning the proficiency of Security Minister Francis, stating that, “There is no greater indictment of a sitting minister of national security.”
Taking a critical review of the two opposing regimes over a four-year period, he recalled that during the period from 2013 to 2016 under the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration, there were 128 homicides; while for the period 2017 to 2020 under the United Workers Party (UWP) 208 homicides were recorded.
Referring to the 60 homicide cases in 2017, Dr. Anthony declared, “That is the highest number for any minister of national security we have ever appointed in this country.”
Meanwhile, President of Raise Your Voice St Lucia, Catherine Sealys has criticized the security minister for placing more attention on his political aspirations than solving crime in the country.
According to Sealys, the security minister has earned a ‘failing grade’ for his handling of the ministry as he seeks to advance his political career.
“What is it that he has that he feels so confident in his success when it comes to crime when it comes to justice …security in St Lucia that he feels that he should be a full-blown politician to become a minister,” she contended.
Speaking to the murder of Hermia Lorde, a mother of three that was gunned down last Saturday, at the Gros Islet bus stop, Sealys said, it was ‘very frustrating’ that this incident occurred during the celebration of International Women’s Month.
She blamed the home affairs ministry for being neglectful in their efforts to deal with the crime situation, and especially a pattern of ‘horrific crimes’ that has befallen women over the past years.
Sealys said it appears that her pleas are falling on deaf ears and questioned whether anyone was listening to the constant lamentations and protests being made on behalf of fallen female victims.
She argued that the government’s inaction is empowering criminals, and thus: “People don’t care , people are bold and they will do whatever they have to do because the government is not doing what it has to do.”
Sealys complained that the government has not provided the police with adequate resources and training in order to carry out their duties. Additionally, she said, there is need for overall improvement of functions in other areas, such as: upgrading the capacity of the forensic laboratory, establishing social infrastructures, rehabilitation of young offenders, the family court, department of human services and including human rights issues at the Bordelais Correctional Institute as “all these things are connected.”
National Security Minister Francis has refuted the criticisms saying that he should not be held solely responsible for the issue of crime in the country.
He noted that his ministry covers a wide portfolio, which includes; Ministry of Justice, Home Affairs, the OECS courts, judges and magistrates courts, the forensic lab, and other matters vital to implementation of criminal justice measures.
Francis said that crime should not be politicized and that it would require a ‘holistic effort’ between community leaders, social groups, politicians and civil society working in collaboration with the police and security forces to ‘take a bite off crime’.