A few months ago, I wrote a letter to the editor warning of the need to address what was a developing crime problem before we ran the risk of becoming a mini-Trinidad and Tobago, or Jamaica. I had said that having lived in Trinidad for many years, I saw many similarities with how the runaway crime situation there started to develop and what I am seeing now happening in Saint Lucia. I begged the authorities to act with extreme prejudice to get this under control before it got out of hand and became a runaway train.
That was in March, and clearly my warning went unheeded by the authorities. I was horrified to get a video from a surveillance camera on my WhatsApp a few days ago, and while there was no footage of the crime, we heard the roar of a sub-machine gun as a young man was gunned down, hit by 40 bullets and then had two more pumped into him for good measure. I swore I was in Trinidad or Jamaica, or even in Ukraine. My blood ran cold.
It now seems like almost every day someone is being killed in Saint Lucia. People, we need to wake up and smell the coffee because it gets worse, not better!
I used to boast to my friends back in Trinidad that the most important thing for me when I moved to Saint Lucia was peace of mind – now we have a higher per capita murder rate than even Trinidad and Tobago. Let that sink in!
These are very serious times, and they call for drastic action. The Prime Minister seems to recognise the problem, and I applaud the step taken to impose stiffen penalties for firearm possession etc. – but that is not good enough. You cannot legislate violent crime away; you need to fight it head on. And we cannot argue that it is just certain people involved. It spreads, believe me. That’s what they did in Trinidad, until the list of ‘collateral damage’ started growing longer. Until the kid who robs you at gunpoint gets itchy finger because he has a brand-new gun and has never fired it, and so a robbery becomes murder – and any one of us; our parents, kids or siblings could be the next victim.
The authorities cannot pretend that they do not know of what the situation is on the streets – because if the majority of people know, and the police and security officials do not, then they need to go find something else to do because they cannot protect us.
And let me share with you that violent crime can only thrive when those who are responsible for our security are also part of the problem. The talk on the street is that the guns being offered for sale are not coming through some dark coastline – but through our ports. Criminals are boasting that they have friends, relatives or contacts who will ‘clear the barrel’ or ‘clear the container’ with the guns – and this is a real thing. I urge the government that along with stiffer penalties for possession, also impose very heavy the penalties for any security, customs or other officials found to be facilitating these crimes.
It is when your security forces become infected that crime thrives. Please, let us focus on this now.
I will share with you that I recently learned that a big corporate partner in the communications industry is now considering bringing in security for its staff, and there are even members of its senior staff who have expressed the desire to leave Saint Lucia for security reasons. That’s when you know it’s getting bad. Is this our beloved Helen of the West? That means word is getting out beyond our shores, and that means that one day we may wake up and see the US State Department or the Commonwealth Travel Advisory in the UK put our warnings about travel to Saint Lucia because of risks associated with violent crime. Is that what we want?
Where is the voice of the Chamber of Commerce? Where is the voice of the Hotel Association?
Crime needs to be our sole focus right now, because rampant crime affects everything and everyone. Our young men are being targeted and inducted by the gangs, if we don’t save them, we are going to lose a generation and their blood will be on our hands.