Prime Minister Phillip Pierre is moving with urgency to strengthen the powers of the police in an effort to suppress the escalating crime wave on the island.
On Thursday, the National Security Minister tabled the motion to put in force the Suppression of Escalated Crime Police Powers bill, as one of the mechanisms to address this “extremely serious” situation. He also had concerns about the distribution and use of illegal firearms in the country to perpetuate criminal activity and the infiltration of gangs into the communities.
Gun violence erupted in the Vieux Fort community last weekend, claiming the lives of at last seven persons in separate incidents. Residents were left traumatized as the gun-toting bandits splayed bullets openly in public.
Consequently, the authorities sought outside intervention to help deal with the situation. And in the process, the Grenada government appealed for “peace and calm” in the community, while endorsing for a squad from the Regional Security System [RSS] to be sent to Saint Lucia to offer assistance.
“Over the last weeks, there has been an escalation of violence in the south of the island …and that violence erupted when a well-known ‘Don’ was assassinated. And clearly there were reprisals from other members of the public,” declared Pierre, as he addressed legislators in the lower house.
The prime minister noted the “negative impact” of last weekend’s violent mayhem “was felt not only in the community of Vieux Fort, but throughout Saint Lucia.” As a result, he said, businesses and schools in Vieux Fort were closed “as individuals living in the area and in Saint Lucia generally became anxious and fearful for their lives.”
Pierre stated that the disruptions has affected the business flow in the south and employers are faced with economic challenges to pay their workers.
“The government recognizes the harm that can be caused to businesses in Saint Lucia, and not only Vieux Fort as a result of the increase in crime,” said the National Security Minister. “Indeed …the crime of supplying and distributing illegal guns and firearm can cause harm to the users and to the country generally. In addition, the supply of ammunition and illegal firearms threaten the lives of and causes harm to people who are sometimes innocent.”
Taking a dig at the “gang-related” warfare causing dismay in the communities, Pierre declared: “The formataion of gangs with the whole purpose of commiting crimes and causing harm to individuals in society lends to the increased occurrences of crime in Saint Lucia.
The government …also acknowledges that the Royal St Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) has been working very hard to combat the rising crime situation in Saint Lucia.”
Pierre said that since the Vieux Fort incident, the police presence in the community and its environs has been intensified and the officers have been utilizing their powers to deal with the matter. However, he contended, the criminal legislation that currently exists “are not adequate to deal with these high-risk situations.”
“In an effort to deal with the prevailing situation, the government proposes to enact the Suppression of Escalated Crime – Police Powers Bill,” disclosed PM Pierre. “The bill will therefore provide police officers with additional power for the suppression of escalated crime…and there has been discussions with the police. Escalated crime is defined as an offence that constitutes a serious offense and disrupts the peace, the protection of lives and property of individuals.”
He added, “The serious offenses contemplated in the definition are offenses against the Anti-Gang Act …the Drug Prevention of Misuse Act, the Firearms Act and “offenses against a person…”
Outlining the wider parameters of the bill, Pierre noted, “the bill is applicable to a police officer in the execution of his/her duties for the suppression of escalated crime in an escalated crime area. The application of the bill does not affect the police powers under the Police Act …or the Criminal Code.”
He said the government’s objective in passing the bill was to establish “a framework to protect the public order, public safety and economic stability of Saint Lucia. Suppressing or otherwise dealing effectively with the suppression of crime in an escalated area within Saint Lucia and to strengthen the capacity of the police force to deal with the escalated crime in Saint Lucia.”
Under the bill, Pierre said, the police will have the authority to employ additional powers in the execution of their duties.
These measures will include the authority to question people, block a road, set up a cordon, require the removal of a vehicle or other articles, or access land or a building.
In addition, an officer above the rank of Inspector would have the power to close premises and give directions regarding the control of firearms and explosives.
“In exercising these powers, the bill protects the police officer from the institution of an action, suit or prosecution or other proceedings once the police officer acts in good faith that is in compliance with the bill,” said Pierre.
In this regard, the bill prohibits people from doing anything to interfere with using a road or path or assaulting a police officer while executing his duties.
Additionally, the Minister for National Security can arrange for an outside security force to assist the local police in implementing the bill.
Under this act, upon conviction, offenders are liable to a fine of $50,000 or imprisonment for fifteen years or both, or on conviction or indictment for 25 years imprisonment.
Earlier, the two opposition MPs in the House, Micoud South’s Allen Chastanet and Choiseul’s Bradley Felix, voted against suspending Standing Order 48:2 to allow Pierre to proceed with the remaining stages of the bill at Thursday’s special sitting of the House.
Ten members on the government side who were present voted in favour.
“Let it be put on the record that when the Government of Saint Lucia is trying to put in place legislation to avoid, or to help the police, to empower the police to stop the escalation of crime, the opposition voted against it,” Pierre declared.
The prime minister asserted: “The opposition, led by the member for Micoud South, supported by the member for Choiseul, came to this honourable House and voted against the police.”
Prime Minister Pierre must be highly commended for the strategy he employs in healing this unprecedented wound in the security of our island.
Sweet St. Lucia, we proudly called our island home. Our ancestors would be turning in their graves to hear of such state of unrest anywhere in St. Lucia.
Education (dispensation of truth and knowledge) is the most lethal weapon to brandish In the face of hypocrisy.
A lying tongue hates those that are afflicted by it.
Prime Minister Pierre has done well to educate the nation on attributes of this gangland debacle; how it is not an integral part of typical St.Lucian community.
The people know it. They take comfort in the knowledge that the Prime Minister proves he is quite capable of speaking softly but carrying a big stick when the occasion calls for taking this crime bull by the horns.
The hypocrite who criticizes the Prime Minister for being heavy handed in his attempt to end the slew of murders that has wracked the security of our citizens sans hontte , pochewese mauvais cause.
Viday d’lo chaud en-too-oi, kwab cai cai vola sorte.
Go forward Prime Minister Pierre
GOD SAVE ST LUCIA
HEROES OF SAINT LUCIA
Heroes of Saint Lucia I know you are feeling the heat, think back to the time of calm and prosperity, when all citizens enjoy a hard day’s work when putting food on your table was your biggest worry, yes there were some disturbances, but that was easily crushed with severe punishment and a tight firm hand, oh yes we had the Odlums’s and the Joseys their fight was for the country.
In came lighten road John who had his faults, but the country was safe under his watch, he knew how to balance wealth and greed. Ever since our heroes were dead and gone, the brigand moved in, the first thing they did was to create an atmosphere of hate among you my people, followed by the brainwashing of people who place people before themselves.
You have seen the writing on the wall, when will you wake up and reclaim your Island home, don’t blame the youth, there will always be followers, but if the teaching is sound and the discipline is right, then the arrow that leaves the bow should find its mark. Everyone needs an opportunity to progress depriving one sect empowered the wayward undisciplined person to turn to crime, if you look at a barefooted person and jeer at their misfortune, not lending sympathy and love, frankly no wonder you are in this mess.
Go back to the correction board, open your arms to the needy, offer help of the sort you can, a job, an education scholarship, a good earn position, and quit gender discrimination, our gals have always been leaders both at home and in the workplaces, test the waters and promote within, you may be surprised to find a Moses or a goliath emerging in our young ladies.
Of course, this encouraging editorial will not see the comment section, they don’t think you should have a say on the delegation of your own home Island, who cares I don’t need their comment section, you can read my thoughts on my international page, kenvilgatkins.com there are heroes and there are cowards, ASK YOURSELF which one are you.