(Excerpts of Dr. Friday’s Press Statement)
The question underlies the concern that is widespread in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And that is, the fear that our country has descended to the low and dangerous level where the criminal justice system cannot be relied upon to do the right thing; where there is little or no confidence in the police, including the Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the system in general to do the right thing. The right thing would be to uphold the rule of law and vigorously pursue justice in this and every matter that comes before them.
It may be the situation here that the DPP and the Commissioner of Police are too close to those mentioned in the allegations as possible assailants, to pursue the matter in a way that would inspire confidence in the general public that they will be able to conduct a full impartial investigation, and prosecution if it comes to that, in this case.
In other words, there may be a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest that might prevent them from pursuing the matter properly, and that might induce doubt and disbelief in the public about the performance of their duties. When such circumstances arise, here or elsewhere, it is necessary to install other persons who are not affected by these concerns to conduct the investigation, and where necessary, the prosecution of the matter.
If it is that the Commissioner of Police and the DPP cannot do their jobs because of a conflict of interest or other reason, then they must recuse themselves and other persons must be appointed to lead the investigation and any prosecution that might flow from that investigation.
At this point, it is necessary for the police, and the Commissioner of Police since he has spoken publicly on it, to let the public know what is going on with the investigation of the matter. This cannot be treated as a hush-hush matter. What will people think?
We know what they are thinking now. They are thinking that not enough is being done to investigate and prosecute the matter, and they fear that not enough will be done in the future as well to ensure Mr John gets justice, and the people’s confidence in the criminal justice system and the rule of law is maintained or restored.
Given the recent incidents of gun-related killings in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, most recent the shooting death of former national football goalkeeper, Dwaine Sandy, the role of the police and the DPP’s office in investigation and prosecuting such incidents is critically important. Confidence in the police and DPP are of paramount importance. The matter described above undermines that confidence.
The Customs Service Charge Takes Effect
A public notice put out by the Customs Department a few days ago reads: “Please note that Section 3A of the Customs Duties Act has been amended to increase the Customs Service Charge from 5% to 6%. This increase becomes effective from June 1st 2021.” This is a notice to the public, a warning in essence, to bring more money with you when you come to clear goods at Customs because it will cost more to get them.
The government has increased taxes on the Vincentians. This time it is in the form of an increase in the Customs Service Charge (CSC). The CSC has been increased from 5% to 6% — i.e. a 20% hike. The CSC is a tax paid on all goods imported into the country.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small open economy. We import most of what we consume. Therefore, the CSC is included in the price of most of the things that we buy and use in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So, its effect is very broad. Furthermore, the CSC increase will affect VAT as well. That is to say, the amount of money the government will collects on each VAT item will increase. This is because VAT is charged on the goods after the value of those goods has been raised by the higher customs service charge.
By raising the CSC from 5% to 6%, the price of most goods we buy in the store or bring into the country for ourselves will go up. In fact, some prices have already gone up. People have noticed it. We will pay more for almost everything we use, including foodstuff: e.g. cooking oil, corned beef, chicken and other meats, salt, rice, sugar, macaroni, juices, ketchup, seasonings, detergents, soap, shampoo, school supplies, clothing and shoes, and everything else that we get at the grocery stores and clothing stores.
Also, hardware goods: lumber, cement, galvanize, bathroom fittings, nails, screws, paint, etc. Other household goods: pots and pans, cloth, linoleum for your floor, light bulbs, plates, spoons, and appliances such as stoves, fridges and microwave ovens will cost more. And motor vehicles of all kinds will cost more to import. The bigger the purchase, the more money the government will collect and the more you the consumer/taxpayer will notice the increase.
The government expects to collect $8 million directly from the increase in the CSC. This estimate does not include the additional amounts the government will also get from VAT (i.e. after VAT is charged on goods whose value has been increased by the higher CSC). In other words, the increase is expected to earn the same amount, or more than the government earned additionally when it raised VAT from 15% to 16%, five years ago.
We are the only government that is taxing its way out of a pandemic and out of a volcanic crisis. The money to be given to people for La Soufrière relief is taken back in the increase in the Customs Service Charge.