St Lucia’s national security in peril
By Melanius Alphonse
ST LUCIA – The question was asked by Allen Chastanet in the 2016 general elections: “Has Kenny Anthony made Saint Lucia safer? He didn’t, but we will. He didn’t, but I will… this is the most important decision to consider in the upcoming campaign.”
Throughout our history, storytelling has been commonplace, but there is an obvious contradiction. Saint Lucia has already recorded 32 homicides in July, compared to 31 homicides for all of 2016.
This is admittedly a dramatic escalation and perchance, as in past episodes, there is seemingly a systematic cleansing, one from another in a dysfunctional justice system and Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) operating at maximum capacity.
National security minister, Hermangild Francis has conceded, “St Lucia is facing an unprecedented crime wave. The police force has been neglected over the last few years and police stations are dilapidated with limited training opportunities for officers.”
In part, while efforts are being made to remedy the situation, a weak police force and security framework limit law enforcement. Eventually this could decimate the nation’s security and cripple efforts to revive economic growth.
By now, deeper resolve and better resources to arrive at appropriate measures to unplug US sanctions via the Leahy Law to both Operation Restore Confidence (ORC) and IMPACS, should have been brought to bear once and for all to remove this albatross around the neck of all Saint Lucians.
But that hasn’t happened yet, although, based upon my own discussions with those that are in a position to be able to help in this regard, there is a way out but, in my view, this will take genuine national cooperation separated from political agendas and party or personal self-interest.
In the absence of politics and government created-catastrophes, the national security apparatus ought to focus more decisively on the perils of violence and lawlessness, with suggestions and appropriate strategies, rather than halfway measures and maneuvers that create more friction, damaging the image of Saint Lucia.
Nonetheless, safeguards from previous situations may well have been effective to combat the current crime wave “had serious resources been made available to the RSLPF from early on in the IMPACS investigation and meaningful recourse to address with priority and immense urgency, aspects of the IMPACS report, rather than mere political optics, it might well have been more effective in stabilizing the security crisis at hand.
“Against that background, the real issue is the apparent culture, values and social inequality that produce a sub-culture of white-collar and vicious crimes that is obscuring the country.”
“Leahy Law restrictions remain in place against the Royal St Lucia Police and still subject to US sanctions, meanwhile the 2018 budget not only proposes a 29 percent cut in State Department funding, it also reduces spending on an already financially constrained US Coast Guard.”
The State Department and USAID, part and parcel of America’s “soft power” apparatus, could further complicate the situation for Saint Lucia if the proposed combining of the two institutions are permitted. USAID disaster relief programs and assistance response and deployment could envisage more vigorous approvals.
In contrast, the recent US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act’s “release of a new US government strategy on future engagement with the Caribbean… to ensure we strengthen cooperation with our hemisphere in the areas of trade, security, economic development, and energy.”
The latest series of bilateral relations have not resolved systematic strategies to strengthen national security and foreign policy capacity.
This cannot continue much longer in the face of recent behaviours and ongoing investigations by US authorities into possible money laundering and offences under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), as more sanctions may lead to freeze assets and additional travel restrictions.
In response to ongoing concerns, policy and decision makers will have to make the next big shift and not succumb to the herd mentality and common politics, from one vicious cycle to the other.
Furthermore, the interest should be that of the greater good without damaging mutual trust in domestic and international cycles or ending in failure or tragedy, to the many underlying problems and terrifying daily realities.
The reality is undeniable, a failure of epic proportions that is becoming ungovernable. After all, a serious clinical treatment in many ways is most desirable.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now.
His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality.
He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org