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Proliferation of guns into Saint Lucia and the Wider Region, a Major Problem, Ernest Hilaire

By Reginald Andrew
Tourism, Culture, Investment and Creative Industries Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire
Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire

With the nation in dire straits to address the burgeoning crime situation rampant in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire has spoken out in support of the national advocacy for stiffer measures and penalties to deal with the criminal elements creating these problems.

While addressing the meddlesome upsurge of criminal activity in Saint Lucia, and the wider region, he stated profusely that the proliferation of guns and illegal weapons into the country was a major cause of the escalating gun violence permeating throughout the society.

“We don’t manufacture guns, so the guns are coming from somewhere,” declared Dr. Hilaire, outside a Cabinet briefing on Monday.

He said there are options available to address the situation and that could involve spending money on social programmes “and this will kind of mitigate a bit …or we can spend a lot of money equipping the police and giving the police the support necessary so they frontally attack it”.

Hilaire surmised that the porous nature of the country’s borders and the inter-woven networks among criminal elements pose a problem.

“If there is a supply line of guns constantly coming into the country …we are also incapable of stopping them because of our borders and the people who are bringing them in and their contacts overseas,” said the minister.

Dr. Hilaire said such a dilemma puts law enforcement officers and the country at large, in a precarious position. He noted that other territories in the region were also affected by this problem.

“We have reached a point where law enforcement agencies really have to come down hard and deal with it …if it’s a short term threat that we have,” he added. “Government has put more resources into social intervention to deal with the circumstances of the communities that are most affected by crime, so we can change people’s mindsets, we can change attitudes, change approaches to conflict resolution.”

However, he stated, “we also have to pursue a very activist international effort for the people responsible for guns to address it.”

Hilaire adds that the country has been attempting to curb the emergent problem of illegal weapons entering the country, but have been hampered by conflicting external elements.

“We fight it at the level of law enforcement, but we need to add a third dimension now, we have too. We just cannot continue to keep quiet and guns are just being pumped into our country and nothing is being done about it,” said the tourism minister, “We need to add this third dimension, we are a little too silent. Because these countries are the same ones saying to us, stop the financial services because it can affect us. Stop the CIP because it might be a threat to us, even when we know it’s not really a threat.”

He added, “But then what you were doing is affecting us, so we need to put some pressure on …and say , look we don’t make guns in this country , so what are you all going to do.”

Also, he said, the foreign countries possess more advanced technologies and capabilities “and their national security networks to deal with issues like these.”

Dr. Hilaire addressed these concerns on the heels of a ‘National Address’ delivered by Prime Minister Phillip Pierre, Sunday , where the nation’s leader reiterated the need for a holistic approach to fight this unprecedented  wave of crime that is affecting the country.

PM Pierre appealed to people from all communities to make an effort to help eradicate and upend this scourge of illegal activity and violent mayhem from within the society.

While adding her concerns to the issue, Home Affairs Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte cautioned about the increasing number of young offenders being incarcerated or remanded to the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF).

The minster spoke to reporters recently, as the country grapples to deal with the scourge of crime plaguing the country, at this time.

She noted that statistics from the BCF indicate there is a lower age range for persons entering the facility.

“We notice it’s a lot of young people who are coming into Bordelais,” Albert-Poyotte told reporters, Monday.

She is also concerned about criminal elements preying on vulnerable youth to induce them into a life of crime.

Albert-Poyotte said, “Criminal elements see the children as very vulnerable. They will offer them money, and then they will arm them with the guns and the children do not have a fear.”

She noted that because some of these young people have no family or responsibilities, it is easy for the criminals to win them over.

In an effort to help stem this trend, the minister stated, there is need to put more resources into social programmes.

“We have to pull them back,” Albert-Poyotte declared. “And we have to go into the schools.”

She said government is now putting resources in the hands of parents.

Albert- Poyotte asserted: “As a parliamentary rep. I give a lot. The government is giving a lot to support parents to keep the children in school.”

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