PUBLIC debate is rife with concerns over the timing of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) disclosure on the IMPACS issue that appeared to exonerate police officers allegedly involved in at least five of the purported ‘extrajudicial killings’.
The argument is that the announcement is seen as an ‘election ploy’ by the government to sway voters in its favour on the eve of the July, 26 polls.
And now the defense lawyer for the 15 accused officers is having a say in the matter.
Attorney –at-law Lorne Theophilus is calling for redress in the matter involving the officers that were implicated in the Operation Restore Confidence strategy that occurred about 10 years ago.
“While we appreciate that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is an independent unit …but we found the timing rather unique because police officers are going to the polls tomorrow (Friday) and elections are on Monday,” Theophilus declared.
“We know it was always part of the promise of the United Workers Party (UWP) and there were numerous online interviews, which suggest that the matter had to be dealt with in some shape or form before the elections were called,” he added.
Alternately, the defense lawyer feels that this matter, which will go down in the annals of Saint Lucia’s history is far from over.
“Even if some of the officers appear to be exonerated…we do not know who these officers are. No formal statement or missive has been given to them.” Theophilus continued.
He noted that all the officers involved in that matter were arrested and brought in and subsequently released, pending further investigations. “They were not communicated with … in this matter. Similarly, I do not believe that the families of the persons who were adversely affected by this as well were communicated with,” said Theophilus.
The defense lawyer recalled that it has been more than 10 years, since this matter is unfolding “and it is only fair that after 10 years that there be some resolution to this matter.”
Theophilus said one of the things that the incumbent UWP regime campaigned upon, especially within the ranks of the police force “is that this matter would be dealt with, with some measure of expedition.”
However, he declared: “It’s clearly unresolved.”
Theophilus questioned the investigative process and the fact that no substantial evidence was relayed to the DPP by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
“Similarly, their information is absent in matters that he (DPP) has retained, and similarly there has also been the fact that the Coroner’s Inquest has given certain determinations with respect to some of the matters that have been retained,” he explained.
Theophilus added, “In the interim those officers involved in that matter are suffering and after 10 years, these gentlemen cannot be promoted …these gentlemen lives are at a standstill and every day they wake up, having hanging over their heads the fact that one day, one of them could be arrested and charged for either murder or conspiracy to murder. It is unfair. ”
He continued, “We are in the dark as to what has happened with the JCF. I find it even more curious that the officers were arrested and I do not know what efforts were made to recover statements from the Jamaica Constabulary, who were enlisted to perform a particular function.”
Meanwhile, Human Rights Advocate Felicia Dujon questioned the timing of the statement, taking into account that the police were due to vote in the advanced poll on Friday.
“It is a matter of deep concern that the DPP has chosen to publish an interim report on the ORC matter. After five years, the DPP seems politically motivated to provide a dubious report on the eve of an election,” Dujon told reporters, following the DPP’s statement.
Dujon expresses the view that the DPP’s statement constitutes a manner of disrespect to the police officers and the affected families.
“Having waited nearly ten years to bring closure to families affected, including those police officers, the DPP chose at this critical time to make such proclamations,” she added. “In essence, he is indirectly alluding that officers and affected families should re-elect his government if they are to receive any further clarification on the matter.”
She feels that the DPP is compromised and has brought his credibility into question.
Prior to this latest disclosure and in effort to bring some clarity to the matter, National Security Minister Hermangild Francis had hinted that if the officers were exonerated in this matter, they would be entitled to compensation from the government.
“If the police officers are vindicated, this Government, if we are still in office, will make sure that they get the compensation required,” Francis declared.