Castries Mayor Peterson Francis held a ‘fiery’ session with reporters this week, where he touched down on some pertinent issues affecting the overall operations of the Castries Constituency Council (CCC).
Among other issues, Francis questioned the performance of the City Police and indiscriminate vending in the city centre.
In light of the horrendous homicide act committed, last Saturday, resulting in the death of Hermia Lorde – secretary of the Gros Islet Minibus Association, the outspoken mayor took a swipe at the city constables, who he claimed had been delinquent in the execution of their duties.
“That also brings into question the crime situation, because as long as you are trying to do something in Saint Lucia orderly, people have a problem with that,” he said.
Francis took the city constables to task for them not being present at the Gros Islet bus stop, last Saturday, during the time that a gunman shot and killed Lorde in full view of commuters and other passersby.
The mayor admitted that the Council has agreed to provide regular officer patrol at the bus stop, substantiating claims made by the GIMA (Gros Islet Minibus Association) President Danny Edward.
Edward had told reporters that though the city police made occasional visits to the bus stop, the current situation necessitates more regular patrol at the Gros Islet bus stop which is the busiest of all the bus locations.
He requested “more police presence, especially at nights …and with the amount of people that frequent that bus stop, we should have police presence.”
While noting that regulations had been put in place for the police to provide regular beat patrol at the bus stop, the mayor queried as to the whereabouts of the officers at the time of last Saturday’s shooting incident.
“But where is the city police …where are they?” Francis commented. “But these are the things that we put in place. So we have to have a radical change …as far as the city police is concerned.”
Francis alluded to the indiscipline and errant behavior of the officers as a direct result of the actions undertaken by trade unions to provide representation for those CCC workers. He felt that such erratic behaviour by the city police only served to undermine the tenacity of the authorities
In the wake of this brazen homicide act, the mayor disclosed that the CCC is looking to ‘up its game’ in an effort to beef up patrol duty at the bus stop.
“They will (be at the bus stop),” declared Francis. “My instructions were for them to be there …but here again we dropped the ball.”
While imploring the citizenry to support the police officers and city police in the fight against crime, he also noted that such peak times in the busy city life would require greater police security at the bus stop.
Taking into account the errant behaviour of vendors, Francis vowed that the CCC would do all within its power to bring some level of order and discipline to the issue of indiscriminate vending in the city.
The Mayor told reporters that when the authorities try to do the right thing, people accuse them of fighting the less fortunate.
“But we have to do it right and we are going to see that it is done right,” he said.
Francis noted that there is a very serious matter regarding vending on the road, though the authorities have gone to lengths to uplift vending.
“We are trying to uplift vending in St Lucia …and especially the Provisions Market,” he said.
He recalled that though government has spent money on a new Provisions Market for vendors, however the vendors refuse to occupy that location to ply their trade.
Instead, he said, on any given day some 70 stalls in the facility are empty.
Francis said that while many vendors chose to sell their produce by the roadside, the authorities will not tolerate this situation.
He observed that trolleys have also appeared ‘all over the place’.
“It’s a very serious matter,” Francis lamented.
Noting that Saint Lucia is currently in the ‘silly season’, referring to impending general elections, Francis contended, “When we take action and especially now, we are going to be threatened, we are going to be threatened by what? By votes: “I am not going to vote – I am waiting’.”
But the Castries Mayor explained that’s not the issue.
“They have all the facilities and we are helping them,” he added. However, he questioned the competence of the Vendors Association in seeking redress for its members.
Said Francis: “There is an association, Vendors Association …but nothing is happening with that association. Vendors are just on their own and when you try to go in and speak to the vendors, you are encroaching on the rights of the association.”