Letters & Opinion

Mitigate Conflicts, Stop Violence, Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution

By Richard Edwin

Dear Editor:

The rates of violence in St. Lucia is disconcerting and worrisome to everyone, to say the least. But it’s not out of the ordinary for St. Lucia to be going through this period of conflicts. Every society has its share. Because conflicts are natural outcomes of human interactions. They can be very damaging and destructive to a society, but can also be healthy, constructive and can produce positive consequences.

For the most, conflicts are inevitable function of all societies. They arise over disagreements for a range of reasons relating to: ethical values, interpretation of life experiences, perspectives, culture, or simply over disagreement on contrary views of the world.

Also, people have clash of ideas, competing interests, different beliefs and outlook on life, culture, historical experiences, value systems and opinions.

Moreover, disagreements are provoked by any number or types of disagreements: Interpersonal, community, family, workplace, industrial, political, business, etc. These are all grounds for disagreements, but when they arise disputants must be willing to settle their issues. Simple disagreements are not enough reasons for persons to make enemies with each other.

Through dialogue in conflict resolution, the parties focus on the points of disagreement, not on personalities. They may disagree on the issues, yet they treat each other with decorum, respect, dignity, understanding and maturity. They exhibit a desire to negotiate agreements and find solutions.

In St. Lucia the situation seems quite odd. There appears to be no appetite to stop the violence.

There’s no evidence to show that parties in dispute even want their conflicts to end. They are literally out of control.

Granted, St. Lucia has no functioning, established public conflict management system available for disputants to find help or to request interventions.  Instead, disputants are left to battle their differences through violence, hoping to cancel each other out. Consequently, the least threatening of conflicts are referred to law enforcement officials, the criminal Justice System, or even private security firms.

Little room is left for disputants to settle matters by themselves: pride, egos, selfishness, greed, envy, arrogance, intolerance have destroyed the spirit of “give-and-take,” cooperation, collaboration and compromise.

The population is trapped into an adversarial mindset. When conflict arises, the focus is not about managing it. It becomes a quest to win and dominate over the perceived enemy at all cost. Regrettably, this sad state of affair is at the heart of the local political divide.

We have lost the willingness and desire to resolve our conflicts in amicable ways.¬†The informal, traditional methods of the past that we used to resolve conflicts are effectively abandoned. The old practice where a respected neighbor in good standing, a wise and impartial elder, a trusted community leader were invited and asked to intervene, no longer exist. Sadly, those with the powers wouldn’t help to bring back these old traditional techniques, even within a modern setting.

The Indigenous conflict resolution skills that worked so well in the past, is now redundant.

It’s only February, the second month of 2024, based on the last count, the homicide rate was already at 19, or is it 20.

Along with the homicide report, the public is also aware of two cutlass chopping incidents involving students from a local secondary school. The first incident happened on school premises; the second, apparently involving another group of students, of the same school, took place while they were on their way home.

These occurrences can become very threatening and destabilizing to this society, if they were to be allowed to continue, at the rates thing are moving. Every peace-loving St. Lucian should be concerned.

This is serious challenges to the tranquility, safety and security of every community in this country.

Sadly, little is being done to arrest the trend, or to put processes in place to identify, or get to the root causes provoking the conflicts. It’s necessary the sources of those conflicts affecting primary, secondary schools and college students be identified, otherwise the impacts may be brought forward to many generations to come. Violence should not be allowed to become the accepted practice to settle disputes.

Already, it’s gaining incremental acceptance into our value systems and moral outlook. It finds expression in our attitudes and the way we relate to each other.

The authorities cannot continue to ignore these realities. The situation is critical, and must be dealt with urgency and seriousness. The authorities must be able to come up with policies offering depth and MEANING to reassure the population.

As it stands, the public is in fear and in panic mode. They are in despair and are feeling defeated.

People Are Fed-Up!

St. Lucian are overwhelmed, nervous and tired of the bad news stories on violence which has overtaken many communities. It’s in the schools and the streets of Castries. Yet, St. Lucia has not come up with a strategy or strength to stop it.

It’s depressing.

For those who care and are still hopeful, they want to see actions aimed at getting to the roots of the problem. The elements causing conflicts must be addressed from their roots. St. Lucia must consider a Dispute Management System to mitigate conflicts before they escalate into unmanageable violence.

Given the reckless, ferocious and merciless nature of the violence, public calls for severe matching responses are understandable.

However, it must be taken into consideration, the impact of these incidents on the psychology and emotions of the population, especially the youths. The responders must keep in mind, the society needs to be healed. All attempts at resolving the conflicts must engage those directly affected, as well as the wider public.

The causes of those incidents must be studied, examined and investigated so the public understand the forces driving them.

The fixation should not only focus on the symptoms, but it must address the causes.

Reacting exclusively to the symptom, instead of the cause, means more stringent laws, piled one on top of the other. That in itself is a challenge to everyone’s freedoms and civil liberties. Note the reactions from Ministry of Education officials, including Minister Shawn Edward concerning the cutlass chopping incidents: beef up security, bring in law enforcement, let the criminal Justice system take its course, make counseling available to those who might need psychological and emotional help.

Is anyone thinking of the rights and liberties of the 90 – 95% of the students who may have nothing to do with the harmful actions of the less than one percent?

Wouldn’t it be a better option to engage the school in a broader conversation to decide how we can work together to stop the violence?

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