Letters & Opinion

Time for a Reality Check

By Reginald Andrew

While it may  still count as yet ‘early days’ into the reign of the current St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration—nonetheless, social, health and economic issues that have unfurled over the past months do require urgent attention.

Prime Minister Phillip Pierre is now faced with having to take a ‘reality check’ to dig in and find ways and means to sort out these pressing matters of state, especially in these crucial times compounded by the Covid pandemic.

Three weeks or so into the New Year, PM Pierre and his crew are straddled with a very difficult and challenging task to bring about social order, health and safety protocols, and economic equilibrium to the country.

But even more vexing, is the worrisome issue of the crime scourge that has been plaguing the country and the seemingly ruthless manner in which criminal elements have resorted to settling their disputes. There appears to be a certain type of ‘Barbaric’ conduct, which is steeped in all kinds of violent and fatal consequences that the bandits inflict as a mark of their ‘badness’ personification.

This once-thriving sub-regional state of ‘Fair Helen’, not to imply that the country has hit rock bottom lawlessness, has seen a disturbing transformation with the bandits and gunmen showing no discretion or intent to resolve disputes differently; as they leave behind a trail of terror and countless grieving lives of victims’ families who have been left traumatized and devastated.

Reeling from the effects of a record year, 2021 – with a reported 75 homicides committed – the already stretched police force has to grapple with curbing criminal activity, while simultaneously, having to keep citizens in check, lawfully, to adhere to the Covid-19 protocols.

PM Pierre has called on the police to step up their operations in an effort to help curtail this imploding crime spree and apprehend the culprits for speedy and efficient prosecution.

Noting the urgency of the situation, with the country having recorded two homicides for the year (2022), the prime minister in expressing his concerns to reporters, this week, said that he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the incidence of crime and particularly violent upheavals.

In utter desperation, PM Pierre declared that Saint Lucia has seemingly transformed into a country that is ‘consumed with anger and rage’.

He lamented: “As a country, we must return quickly to having respect for life. That respect comes with recognising the rights of others and giving to every citizen what is their due. Our young people cannot be settling their differences with the power of the gun. There are just too many guns in the hands of citizens who should not be carrying them.”

PM Pierre reiterated his government’s commitment to supporting the police in their fight against crime, declaring that the SLP administration continues to provide resources to law enforcement despite limited finances.

And while acknowledging that the root cause of serious crime may stem from dysfunctional social conditions, the Castries East MP said short-term measures could alleviate the scourge of violent crime.

“We need to get those unlicensed firearms off our streets,” the prime minister stressed. “In the coming weeks, I am expecting to see some police initiatives to bring the level of crime under control. We cannot have another year of so many homicides.”

Pierre assured that his administration would continue plans to change the social structures that drive young people into anti-social behavior and criminality.

He called on all citizens to support the police in their efforts to fight crime, explaining that everyone stands to gain if violent crime is under control.

“The social and economic cost of crime is becoming a heavy burden on our country. We can do more – the government, the police, and the citizens, to correct this growing problem of violent crime,” asserted PM Pierre.

“To bring the crime situation under control, my government will be providing the resources and the police will be expected to make effective use of these resources and the rest of us must lend support to the work of the police,” Pierre said.

It appears that at this critical juncture, a National Task Force on crime prevention and management is needed – all hands on deck in an effort to eradicate or lessen this crime scourge plaguing the country.

A similar initiative was conceptualized by the former administration, with the opposition occupying a seat at the head table and with other key stakeholders involved. But not much came out of this intervention, and after some brief reports, the Task Force committee members appear to have been obliterated.

Now the ball is in the court of the current administration and how they sort out these worrisome matters, at the soonest, will definitely define the measure and competence of their governance and stewardship.

From the northern region to the southern belt and spreading its tentacles to other communities, island-wide – the ‘ugly head’ of the criminal monster appears to instill fear and terror into the heart of the impacted residents.

According to official reports, the southern town of Vieux Fort appears to be the most notable community impacted by the rampant gun violence. Other districts in the rural Castries area, such as Jacmel, and within the urban and even suburban areas of the city have become prone to this violent upsurge in criminal activity, albeit, sometimes with deadly and dire consequences.

What is needed most urgently, at this time, is a holistic approach to the matter. Government and opposition forces, respective members of parliament (MPs), religious leaders and groups, legal practitioners, community elders and leaders, teachers, the NYC, corporate entities, and concerned citizens among others will have to support the law enforcement officers in the long and arduous task of restoring law and order, pride and dignity, peace and tranquility to the sub region’s ‘Fair Helen’ of the West.

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