Dear Honorable Prime Minister,
In view of the prevailing situation of crime and violence in our country, the mounting concerns of the people of Saint Lucia and the need for decisive action to bring this matter under control in the quickest possible time, I write to you in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship.
In the last couple of weeks, we have seen and experienced unprecedented acts of gun violence in Saint Lucia. Our people live in fear and our country stands at the precipice of lawlessness. Such acts of violence and crime threaten the very fabric of our society. We are faced with the destruction of families and communities at the hands of criminals. We grapple with the social decay and increased levels of disruption caused by the continued implications of post covid trauma: the recent rise in inflation, supply chain issues, and the Ukraine war.
The instances of crime, in the last two weeks, demand that as a country we move with alacrity to find and implement solutions that would have the effect of bringing internal stability to our country, while at the same time removing the threat that has created fear amongst defenseless people and is paralyzing our economy.
With the state of crime being worse than it has ever been, and the economic implications to follow, we as leaders must come together to fight this scourge. Our very social and economic existence is threatened if we are unable to arrest the growing issue of crime in our country.
The intention of this letter is to offer to you some ideas that will help to slow down the current trends and hopefully contribute to a significant longer-term reduction of violent crime. It is my strong belief that it’s only through government led coordination with civil society and inclusion of the Opposition that we can create the greatest opportunity for a sustained solution to the problems that we now face and put a stop to the flagrant criminality and terror being perpetrated on the people of Saint Lucia, in particular, the gun related murders that have now reached new levels.
We can learn from the past experience of two government initiatives, the Operation Restore Confidence (ORC) in 2010-11 and the Covid Pandemic of 2019-21.
While I recognize that there are mixed views on the success of ORC, we must appreciate the fact that most Saint Lucians think it was successful and would welcome its return. ORC not only produced a dramatic reduction in crime, but also sent criminals into hiding. What we have learned is the flip side that ORC led to the IMPACS report and allegations of targeted killings which was at the center of sanctions imposed against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. So, it was not so much the intention but how it was implemented that resulted in the imposition of sanctions.
During Covid the country successfully managed the impact of this global pandemic. During the first six months we had the least number of infections and no deaths. As we quickly realized that we could not afford to keep our economy closed, we adopted the policy to “co-exist with Covid”. The key was to create a structure that would allow an immediate inter coordination of key agencies and facilitate the inputs of technocrats, policy makers, civil society and the public. So, a Command Centre made up of government agencies and key technocrats was established and met on a daily basis to share information and to review the effectiveness of the management of the various policies.
The Command Centre provided weekly updates to Cabinet, highlighted inefficiencies and gave recommendations to improve effectiveness. Cabinet then reviewed these reports and recommendations and provided the necessary resources. Through NEMAC, Civil Society was engaged to provide their input. A Press
Conference was then held to inform the public on final decisions taken. The Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Finance were integral to the process.
Mr. Prime Minister, I agree with you that crime should not be political and let me further emphasize that, like Covid, crime does not discriminate. I genuinely believe adopting the no tolerance and seriousness of ORC and the transparent and efficient management of Covid should be combined to combat our current crisis. We can only succeed with all of us working together and in coordination.
The United Workers Party believes in a “Secure future for all Saint Lucians”. Crime affects us all and cares not about party or affiliations. It is in this vein that I propose the following initiatives that will assist in immediately addressing the issue of crime and in particular violent crimes in Saint Lucia:
- Adoption of the Covid Command Center structure which will now become the Crime Command Centre to offer policy and strategic guidance and expertise on crime fighting initiatives. Identification and recruitment of citizen security experts within and outside the government service to serve as advisors to the Command Center. The Command Centre should be made up of government security, private sector security, and key
Ministries; Customs, Immigration and those others involved with security.
- Properly appoint dedicated, technical, administrative staff to the Command Centre.
- Advance the administration of the Border Control Programme.
- Institute an equivalent entity to NEMAC for Crime.
- Mandatory polygraphing of Customs and Police officers.
- Amendment of licensing requirement for all sea vessels registered in Saint Lucia, making vessel monitoring systems mandatory.
- Fast tracking of KLED and CCTV installation.
- Rewards programme for information on illegal weapons.
- Implementation of court backlog project and bench trials.
Of course, credible leadership is a necessary ingredient and those correctly identified by the IMPACS report and by you and your Party as contributors to crime must be dealt with if we are serious about a solution and the difficult decisions that must be taken, and if you are to be taken credibly.
I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones to, or have been victims of violent crime. We can address this problem through a concerted and united effort.
I am available to discuss this further with you and assure you of my own and my
May God continue to bless our beautiful Saint Lucia.
Allen M. Chastanet
Leader of the Opposition