Once again the Vincentian public woke up to the news of another shooting incident on the morning of Sunday 14 October in Paul’s Avenue where three persons received bullet wounds and a fourth was killed. This fatality brings our homicide toll to 25.
As more crimes are committed and the resources and expertise of the police are stretched, it would appear that members of that organization are resorting to extrajudicial punishment to garner information from suspects. We do hope however, that this is not as a result of the Minister of National Security’s pronouncement that the police are not to recite the beatitudes to suspects.
As the New Democratic Party (NDP) continues to call on the police to expedite investigations and the arrest of offenders it would appear that the latter are now caught up in their own crisis, which, if not already doing so, can distract them from their mission, as reports assail the media of extrajudicial punishment by the police in general. We have had reports in the past of police beatings and general abuse to the point where accused were hospitalized and where police officers were convicted in a court of law. In one incident, much to the public’s dismay, convicted officers were returned to duty as police officers. Now, there are accusations being levelled at the Commissioner of Police, the very head of the Service, for personally beating an accused with a baton causing him severe injuries.
Extrajudicial punishment is against the law in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the NDP condemns any and all such actions, unreservedly. The police cannot in their frustration over the increasing crime rate and their apparent inability to contain it, resort to beating and abusing the very public they are sworn to protect. This is a country of laws and no one individual can be judge, jury and executioner.
As if the foregoing were not enough, the Commissioner of Police is now accused of sexual assault by a junior member of the very institution he heads. While the NDP hold that each person is innocent until proven guilty, we nonetheless question the fact that while the Commissioner is being investigated he remains in office. It is the right thing to conduct an investigation into the accusation levelled, however, justice must not only be done it must seem to be done and while the Commissioner may undoubtedly be a man of integrity, it says little of him and the Ministry of National Security, if he remains in office during this investigation.
What is also worrying is that the Speaker of the House, Mr. Jomo Thomas, in his weekly article in one of the country’s weekly publications, asserted to the possibility of extrajudicial killings. To date the public is yet to know if Mr. Thomas was asked to produce the evidence to support this accusation and further if an investigation was launched to determine the veracity of that accusation. Contrary to established standards, the Minister of National Security and the Commissioner of Police have not made a public statement with regards to such an egregious statement that has the potential to negatively impact this country’s international standing.
The reality today is that the Minister of National Security is yet to come to terms with the fact that his disrespectful dismissal of the Vincentian people’s fears only serves to worsen those fears and feed the crisis that already exist. He has failed to produce the promised war on crime and the causes of crime, just as he has failed to introduce integrity legislation, to say nothing of the creation of a consultative democracy. Clearly, Dr. Gonsalves and the Unity Labour Party have lost touch with the reality of the Vincentian people’s lives and cannot adequately provide the governance needed to take us out of this crisis.
As crime and violence continue to spiral out of control under the apparent indifference of the Minister of National Security, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the New Democratic Party is proposing a “Smart on Crime” strategy; as we cannot police or incarcerate crime away. We have expressed our willingness to work with the government and other organizations to address the problem, and we submit that a “Smart on Crime” approach, which requires a collaborative and united national effort can be the only way forward to effectively combat the national crisis of crime and violence in St. Vincent and Grenadines.
The present militaristic approach has failed, and it continues to alienate the police from the very citizens they have sworn to protect. Evidence suggests it has already created a climate in which some individuals and communities are as much afraid of the police as they are of the criminals. “Smart on Crime” will see the police applying research and best practices in developing appropriate crime fighting and prevention strategies and leading a crime prevention coalition which will include all sectors of society; drawing on the resources of civil society, communities and the business sector as they become integrated into a national crime prevention and crime fighting partnership to create a better St. Vincent Grenadines for all.
We again implore anyone with information that might assist the police in their investigations to provide it to the police. We call on the police to redouble their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, and resolve other unsolved violent crimes in our country, and to respect and protect the rights of Vincentians as they do so.
We call on the Vincentian people to be strong and resolute in this time of crisis, hold fast to your foundational Christian beliefs, do not lose hope in humanity and yourselves as a people. Remember there is always a calm after the storm.
The Views expressed are not those of ANN,but of the NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY