Letters & Opinion

Weaponizing Crime to Fight for Votes!

Part 2: Arming Youth for Wealth Creation

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

While the statisticians of death continue the deadly practice of tabling and comparing homicide figures, the Government of Saint Lucia on March 13 passed the Suppression of Escalated Crime Police Powers Bill to localize concentration of efforts where needed most.

However, the political opposition is (again) going heads-over-heels to say it doesn’t oppose the bill, but is dead against its supposed “violations” of “civil rights and liberties…”

And Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet, during his contribution to last week’s debate, vehemently opposed what he described as the government giving “too much power” to “ordinary police officers”.

As usual, the opposition is trying to milk the national fear and anxiety as best it can as it continues weaponizing the war on crime in its never-ending fight for votes.

For decades, the Special Services Unit (SSU) of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) has been armed with US-supplied weapons; and more-often-than-not, Coroner’s Inquiries into alleged police killings have yielded conclusions like ‘Death by Misadventure’ that eventually seemed to shield trigger-happy police officers.

Then ‘hanging’ was banned after ‘capital punishment’ was considered too barbaric by Britain and London imposed it on Commonwealth nations as a weapon of political diplomacy — and those that didn’t comply were simply punished.

Today, the debate continues over whether Capital Punishment (Death Sentence) is a disincentive to murder, while CARICOM states submit to the imposed modern concept of 21st Century ‘Political Correctness’.

Influenced by the US experience where the death sentence is carried out in different ways across states, more Caribbean people and politicians are again arguing that the best way to fight violent crime is to always better arm the police — and give citizens the right to arm themselves in “self-defense”.

On the other hand, academics and consultants continue to unsuccessfully advise Conflict Resolution between armed gangsters through words instead of bullets.

But everyone seems to have forgotten the role and contribution of the so-called “Deportees” — persons with criminal records extradited to the Caribbean since 2008 by the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations — to the increasing sophistication of local crime across the region.

To preserve sanity, many today simply don’t watch televised death announcements, while others simply vent the spleen of statistics of death and apportion blame in one direction: The Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

It’s simply unthinkable that anyone would even think that the Ministers of National Security and Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police aren’t seeing and feeling like everyone else, or aren’t also thinking of effective ways to tackle the growing problem of citizen insecurity.

And it’s simply ludicrous for anyone to expect any government to publicly say and show exactly how it plans to take the national security fight to the criminals, which would make absolutely no sense.

No government will ever get a magic wand to end gun crime or violence, but try telling that to the politicians using every death as a step to climb a ladder into government.

The Prime Minister addressed the nation last week and visited Vieux Fort last Sunday, after which two men were mowed-down in a hail of bullets at Banannes Bay in South Castries, in the dark that night.

Never mind the absence of the resources, many are suggesting establishment of a national army of young people, dedicated to fighting crime as much as to building a new society, like a sophisticated local version of an Army Corps of Engineers.

Such a force would be available to tackle the old crime problems with the new levels of sophistication necessary in the IT Age — and to build new homes and schools, hospitals and health centers, community and multipurpose centers, recreation spaces for positive youth activities, as well as bridges, roads and other infrastructural facilities damaged or destroyed by disasters, using SMART construction plans and equipment.

Local companies have also thrown their money where their mouth is in the crime fight. Rayneau Gajadhar’s Construction and Industrial Equipment (CIE) joined with the Chamber of Commerce and the government (over a decade ago) to implement a USAID-funded programme for rehabilitation of young inmates at the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) by providing them with jobs and new skills.

But the project died for lack of sufficient other local private sector support, due to societal mistrust of anyone with a prison record.

Today, the private sector entities are again sounding the usual alarm bells about the implications of crime for tourism and economic growth and it’ll now be left to be seen to what extent the justifiable complainants will be willing today to helping better the conditions of ordinary police officers.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre continues to engage with his regional security counterparts, meeting in Grenada for four days this week, as they together search for new solutions to the old crime problems.

While nearly 40 members of the Regional Security System (RSS) are here tending to returns to normalcy of designated crime hotspots, the Saint Lucia PM and his colleagues examined related issues – that’s after the PM’s earlier exchanges with top security officials in Martinique and from France.

The island also last week hosted a special World Customs Day workshop to strengthen local officers’ capacity to detect and interdict multinational cross-border smuggling of illegal weapons and other dangerous items.

Just before leaving, the PM — also Minister for The Youth Economy — disclosed that with almost $25,000 in contributions from Taiwan and the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF), the Youth Economy Agency (YEA) has started processing applications for assistance for business start-ups through loans and grants.

Plus, the YEA will be officially launched on April 3, with its own office in Castries to help arm local youth for wealth creation, while still under responsibility of the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Economic Development.

NEXT WEEK: Will RSS Boots, Bulletproof Jackets, Scanners and Drones Be Enough?

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