Monday, March 9, 2015

IMPACS REPORT LANDS ON SAINT LUCIA

Monday March 9, 2015

Since the address to the nation last night by Saint Lucia's Prime Minister I have been bombarded by phone and online for my impressions and comments.  This is my statement:
Prime Minister Kenny Anthony's address to the nation last night on the IMPACS report was concise and and factual. It was a well written speech; after all they had over a month to prepare and rehearse. However, the IMPACS report says much more than what it was intended to uncover. Not only has the report shed light on reports of unlawful killings by members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, it also indirectly points a finger at what needs to be done with the police force in general, and glaringly highlights how any measures which were previously implemented have been sorely lacking and ineffective.

Thinking outside the box, and not being distracted with only the scope of the IMPACS investigation, serious question has been called to our judicial system which is also in a horrendous mess. Our attention is also undoubtedly drawn to the state of politics in Saint Lucia.

“Revealingly, the report suggests that 'the crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians/government officials, business persons, and police officers,” Prime Minister Kenny Anthony said.

The screaming question is what measures will be taken to deal with these 'corrupt politicians/government officials, business persons, and police officers.' The only ones who seem to be facing any repercussions at this time are the police officers mentioned in the report. Will the Prime Minister mention, at a later date, how he intends to deal with the other corrupt persons mentioned in the report?

Let me make it categorically clear that I do not, and will not, support unlawful acts in any manner by our police officers. What is wrong, is wrong and being a civilized society we must all abide by the rule of law. Let the chips fall where they may. Just as in any other organization the members of the Royal Saint Police Force come from our society and as a result reflect it in all of its glory and shame. It is up to the good police officers within to ensure that their own good names do not sink below the waves like a just emptied buhchay at Shit Alley.

This whole debacle also calls into question the significance of our independence. It is true that no man is an island and no country in this global village can exist truly independently. However, as a small nation with minimal resources we do find ourselves at the whims and fancies of bigger more powerful nations. We will witness and experience the application of their demands and obligations upon us whenever they feel appropriate. As the age old idiom states, "Beggars can't be choosers."

Senator Patrick J. Leahy
The United States of America has decided to implement the provisions of the Leahy Law on our little rock of an island because of what it considers to be gross violations of human rights. This Leahy Law, enacted in 1997 by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, states particularly, 


"(a) IN GENERAL. – No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights."

"(c) DUTY TO INFORM. – In the event that funds are withheld from any unit pursuant to this section, the Secretary of State shall promptly inform the foreign government of the basis for such action and shall, to the maximum extent practicable, assist the foreign government in taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces to justice."

For diplomatic and other reasons, the US State Department generally does not publicize its decisions to suspend aid to a particular foreign unit however press reports in affected countries usually are an indication of those which have been at the receiving end of this law.

Nevertheless we must be critical thinkers and ask questions of our leaders and of ourselves, and as an independent nation we must make sense of what happens around us in the region and the outside world. Especially in this current fiasco it is imperative that we examine what actions have gotten us on the Leahy Law radar and the consistency of its application.

Saint Lucia is by no means the country which would be first on anyone's lips with regards to human rights violations. However, in the biggest of all ironies is that Jamaican police officers were sent to the island to investigate these human rights violation allegations. Jamaica!

In 2013, the same year that the US targeted Saint Lucia with the Leahy Law for the police killing of 12 individuals, Jamaica recorded 258 by security by security forces. And amid cries for many years in Jamaica of human rights violations no Leahy Law application has been leveled against that island nation. The burning question is why? Inquiring minds want to know. Between 2004 to 2013 Jamaican security forces killed a minimum of 200 civilians every year!
 State Department report on Jamaica Human Rights 2013
 

According to Prime Minister Kenny Anthony,
  
Prime Minister Kenny Anthony
"...the United States ceased all financial and technical assistance to our Coast Guard. This meant that the Government of Saint Lucia was now solely responsible for the maintenance of its Coast Guard Fleet. Other sanctions soon followed. The Government of Saint Lucia could not purchase ammunition from the United States for its American made weapons. Members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force could no longer participate in any training programme sponsored or financed by the United States. Our Police Officers were also denied participation in training activities in the Regional Security System (RSS), our own regional organization, once the training programme was sponsored or financed by the United States. There were still more consequences. The visa of the former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Moses Charles was revoked. It is to be recalled that he was in charge of Operations when the alleged “extra judicial killings” took place. Further, though the visa of the Commissioner of Police, Vernon Francois, was not revoked he was nonetheless denied entry to the United States even to attend security meetings with officials of the United States..."

Full text of speech here

In our reliance on the US for significant funding of our coast guard unit it would be logical to question which country benefits for significantly from that arrangement. Although it is true that our coast guard does in fact play the expected role of sea rescue, of the occasional errant fisherman or yachtstman, the true purpose of that American funded section of the police force is for the interdiction of drugs transiting Caribbean waters on its way to the US.

It would also be practical to surmise with the full functioning of the Saint Lucia Coast Guard more lives would be saved on US streets than in Saint Lucian waters.  Lets keep it real! Since the imposition of these sanctions in 2013 how much cocaine would it be reasonable to believe that the Coast was unable to stop on its way up north, 10 pounds, 100 pounds, 1 ton? Obviously a significant enough amount for the influx of greenbacks into the budget of operations.

The arrival of this amount of illicit drugs on US streets quite definitely led to American deaths precipitated through gang violence, turf wars among drug dealers, altercations with police, not to mention the substantial cost to law enforcement! 

In June 2013 this is what was reported by the New York Times.

So what really is the reason behind this action? Since the cost/benefit analysis does not jive we are left to speculate. Why would the US shoot themselves in the foot just to squeeze the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force for 12 killings when there were others more deserving of such action? Could it be that the US is using the Leahy Law as a way to send a message in the Caribbean? Is this action a shot across the bow of ALBA states? 

On August 25, 2013 I published this writeup on my Facebook page when Police Commissioner Vernon Francois was denied boarding on a US Airways flight bound for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he would attend a conference of NOBLE - The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.. I have copied it to a blog post here: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe - Who's Next?

According to Prime Minister Anthony,

 "Firstly the Government has decided that the training of police recruits will henceforth include a module in Human Rights Law. All current police officers will be required, in rotation, to attend training to sensitize them to the Human Rights provisions of our Constitution..." 

"Secondly, in order to strengthen the pool of Gazetted Officers, the Government, in consultation with the Police Force and our partners, will organize and conduct an accelerated training programme for potential promotion to the ranks of Gazetted Officers. Admission to this programme will be done on a competitive basis. Additionally, we will augment the institutional capacity of the Police Force by increasing the Assistant Commissioner positions by one, increasing the number of funded sergeant positions by five and the number of funded corporal positions by ten."

"Thirdly, we will make provision in this year’s Estimates of Expenditure for the appointment of Special Prosecutors to assist in the prosecution of any cases should the Director of Prosecution so decide to prosecute."


Wasn't it obvious, for a very long time, that these measures needed to be implemented, Leahy Law or not? Why do we always have to be force fed what we already known had to be done? Why are the excuses of our size and limited financial capabilities always used as the excuse for not implementing critically needed measures?  Where will the monies be found for these additions to training? And what about these new positions within the ranks? If we are to remember correctly there has been a freeze on police hiring because of financial constraints. Where 'de monee' coming from?

The application of the Leahy Law against Saint Lucia and the resultant submission of the IMPACS report raises more questions than those answered.

Is Saint Lucia long overdue and in need of a really good shake up?

You tell me.


ADDENDUM





Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe - Who's Next?

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe - Who's Next?






The US Airways flight made a wide descending left hand turn onto its final approach to Hewanorra International Airport

USAir: St. Lucia approach, US Airways now turning left base onto 6 mile final
Tower: US Airways cleared to land. Wind 090 at 15
USAir: 090 at 15. Cleared to land

Moments later a plume of white smoke rose off the runway as the undercarriage touched down on the tarmac. The engines roared as the pilot engaged full reverse thrust bringing the lumbering giant to manageable speed as it rolled along the center line.

Tower: US Airways on at 46, cleared to the ramp
USAir: On at 46, cleared to the ramp

And so another flight ended without much fanfare or excitement except for that one passenger who was sweating bullets after flying for the first time.

Inside the terminal waiting to check in was St. Lucia Police Commissioner, Vernon Francois, who had little clue what lay ahead during the next few minutes. He had arrived earlier for his flight to Philadelphia and onward to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he would attend a conference of NOBLE - The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. According to the Prime Minister, Francois was the St. Lucia representative of regional police commanders of the ACCP - The Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police which is headquartered in Barbados and comprises twenty four island states. What an embarrassment!
http://www.accpolice.org/cms/default.asp?V_DOC_ID=1169

For purported reasons which have since come to light, Commissioner Francois was denied boarding, and his flight sailed away with one less passenger and one less bag. US Airways saved a few dollars on Jet A1 fuel that day.

There has been much speculation since then as to the real reason for Francois' boarding denial. It is true that a press release from the Prime minister's office placed the reason squarely in the lap of the US government's application of the Leahy Law which states in part:

"No assistance shall be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights."

"...None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to support any training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken."

Leahy Law:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leahy_Law


An Overview of the Leahy Vetting Process:
http://www.humanrights.gov/2013/07/09/an-overview-of-the-leahy-vetting-process/

Leahy Vetting: Law, Policy, Process
http://www.humanrights.gov/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Leahy-Vetting-Law-Policy-and-Process.pdf

What has me befuddled is not the application of this law by the United States (as they can do whatever they want with their money) but why the application to St. Lucia at this time. By any measure of consideration St. Lucia does not even factor into the realm of countries which have alarming violations of human rights to be questioned. Jumping junipers! Jamaica which is a stone's throw away from us has one of the most alarming human rights records in the region, and yet no similar action has been taken against them. So far this year the security forces in Jamaica have killed 147 persons. Last year 219; in 2011 some 211 were killed; in 2010 there were 382 killed! Yet no Leahy law.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1352885/Jamaica-Life-death-police-state-officers-double-executioners.html

Only a few days ago The New York Times ran an article: Official: Jamaica Must Curb Police Killings
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2013/08/19/world/americas/ap-cb-jamaica-police-killings.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=1&

Still no US action against Jamaica. St. Lucia now has the dubious distinction of joining Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Really!!

With so many other rogue nations more deserving of a Leahy whipping it leaves one to wonder whether there is some other motivation for this drastic action. Could this be a smoke screen to cover up some deeper concerns of the US administration?

But before we even get to these other concerns of the U.S. one wonders whether the St. Lucia government had been directly informed to take more aggressive action by the US authorities. This supposedly sudden, surprising, and embarrassing action just does not make sense. Firstly we can be considered an ally and a friend of the United States; and friends try to remain friends without undue conflict and embarrassment. According to sources it is highly unusual for actions such as this to be taken without warning. Was such a warning given, and if not,  why? Nagging questions persist which have not been addressed by the press in St. Lucia.

Questions which spring to mind which should be asked:

1.) Did the government of St. Lucia have any indication that the US government intended to apply the Leahy Law and cut off funding and travel to the US by our police?
2.) Did the US convey any formal communication regarding alleged human rights violations by the police?
3.) During the prime minister's telephone conversation with the US ambassador Larry Leon Palmer were there any other concerns expressed regarding this current US action?
4.) Since Francois was denied boarding, and therefore attendance to the conference in Pennsylvania, was a substitute sent from the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police?
5.) Was any statement made by the ACCP regarding this action?
6.) Does the US action have any repercussions for St. Lucia within the ACCP?
7.) In light of the withdrawal of US funds to the RSLPF how does the government propose to finance these operations and functionality which have now been negatively affected?

Over to the press in St. Lucia.

Moving right along....

Since the enforcement of the Leahy Law upon St. Lucia, and how it seems disproportionate compared to the gross violations which exists with other countries, particularly Jamaica, much speculation has surfaced regarding the real motives behind the current action. One speculation which has risen to the top and is of loudest concern is whether the US action has anything to do with St. Lucia's recent approval for full membership to ALBA - Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolivarian_Alliance_for_the_Americas

Xll ALBA Summit in Ecuador - Declaration of ALBA from the Pacific

Announcing St. Lucia's full membership in Alba
http://www.tortillaconsal.com/albared/node/2241


Many questions remain regarding our membership and involvement in ALBA. Although we are now full fledged members the terms and conditions of this membership remain vague at best. Nevertheless we are left to speculate and join bits and pieces of information in an attempt to solve the jigsaw puzzle which is ALBA. How many pieces there are remains to be seen.

Many of the members in ALBA have some of the worst human rights violations on record. Do we stand to be painted by that same brush with our full membership? Many of these countries are devoutly "anti-imperialist" with a deep down anti American sentiment. How does that position St. Lucia in our very strong ties with the United States? Venezuela, which has been at the forefront of the ALBA movement, is at loggerheads with the US, as well as Cuba and many of the other South American members; how does that affect expectations of our involvement in ALBA?


PART 2 FOLLOWS BELOW THIS LINE...................


Expressing great concern in ALBA a hearing in the U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND MANAGEMENT EFFICIENCY was held on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. The focus of this hearing was THREAT TO THE HOMELAND: IRAN’S EXTENDING  INFLUENCE IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE. Excerpt from page 17 of this hearing:
"Lastly, U.S. Homeland Security should work with Canadian counterparts to identify, screen and perform enhanced-due diligence on Visa applications coming from ALBA countries. In instances where an improperly documented case is discovered, Visa’s should be denied and the applicant should be placed on a watch list for further monitoring."
http://www.academia.edu/4016748/Irans_Extending_Influence_in_the_Western_Hemisphere_-_Congressional_Testimony#1

Seriously! I wonder if this doesn't also have something to do with the recently implemented requirement of visas for St. Lucians traveling to Canada. Connect the dots. Why do you think every St. Lucia was required to obtain a new birth certificate? The number of foreigners who were coming to St. Lucia  with fake documents and applying for our cherished citizenship to then springboard into Canada and the United States. We all know about it. Guyanese galore with fake birth certificates and other documents caused the US to put the squeeze on us. That is why St Lucians are catching hell at the registry. Jamaicans and other non traditional immigrants moving to St. Lucia to marry and obtain citizenship so they can go to Canada as bearers of our passport did not require a visa then. All dat stop! You see them flowing to St. Lucia now? Connect the dots my people! What about the islands in the Caribbean which offered economic citizenship, like Dominica. A quarter million dollars and you get a Dominican passport.

And what about our economic standing. A long standing goal of ALBA is for a unified currency, the Sucre. But wait, what will that do to our EC dollar? As members of ALBA would we be required to ditch our currency which has been tied to the greenback at $2.71, from time immemorial? How will that affect our quality of life? Every currency of ALBA members, except those of the Caribbean, is lower than the EC$. Ecuador which currently uses the US dollar as it's official currency since March 13, 2000 had their official currency as the Sucre valued then at 25,000 to one US dollar! Holy macaroni! Venezuelan bolívar 6.3 to one US dollar; Bolivia Boliviano 6.1 to one US dollar; don't even mention the Cuban currency 26.5 pesos to one US dollar. This all begs for us to question how deeply are we involved with ALBA. With currencies trading at those levels we can hardly believe that adopting the Sucre as our currency would be of any benefit to us. Recently the suggestion that our EC dollar be devalued was met with much ridicule and jeering for it's proponent. Recently the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) rejected suggestions from Moody’s Investor Services, that the Eastern Caribbean dollar should be devalued within the next five years. Wouldn't the adoption of the Sucre basically do the same? There are some really serious issues which need to be discussed and analyzed which have not been done at all. And this has to be done in the public domain.

ECCB rejects Moody's suggestion to devalue eastern Caribbean dollar

http://www.caribbean360.com/index.php/business/737826.html

Good or bad, we do not know enough about ALBA. Why the secrecy? Why the vagueness? As St. Lucians we must know what we have been signed away to. Enough of this failed revolutionary nonsense. Comrade this and comrade that, just ain't getting us anywhere. Feel good rhetoric of a gone by era will not help us into the future. Fuzzy math with the benefits of Petro-Caribe will not help us. In the end any bad moves will seriously affect every single one of us, for many years to come!

So in the absence of any concrete information of the terms and conditions, obligations, requirements, and expectations, in ALBA, we are left to examine peripheral activities from disparate sources to connect the dots in order to formulate a picture of our involvement. If erroneous conclusions are drawn then that is the result of secrecy and not malice.
We should not forget the demise of Saddam Hussein who switched the trading currency of oil from the US dollar to the Euro. What happened to our own CSME, did that fall by the wayside? Recently at
Recently, 2nd. April 2013, the United Nations General Assembly approved a global arms trade treaty. Abstaining from that vote were the ALBA countries of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua which were among the 23 countries which abstained from voting. How did St. Lucia vote? If at loggerheads with the ideals of ALBA, what repercussions will there be for St. Lucia?

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44539&Cr=arms+trade&Cr1=#.UVwTyFeU_ic

http://panamericanpost.blogspot.com/2013/04/un-passes-first-global-arms-trade.html


What are ALBA's policies or conditons when it comes to human rights, democracy, freedom of the press? What are ALBA's objectives as far as defense? What obligations will there be on member states? What is the big secret of ALBA, well at least in St. Lucia? We keep hearing so much about ALBA yet know so very little of it.

Could the US action against RSLPF and by extension the government and people of St Lucia actually be a shot across the bow of ALBA?

It is time to ask the tough questions. As a people we must know where we stand!


PART 3 WILL FOLLOW BELOW THIS LINE...................

Let us now look at traditional ties. Throughout our history in the Caribbean we have been under one flag or other, British or French. This is why we speak English, French, and French Creole. We do not speak Spanish except in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Cuba, and Haiti. So for a very long time we have been separated by language and sovereignty. South and Central America had the fortune of the Spanish conquerors and the Caribbean islands duked it out between the English and the French. Trade, tourism, defense, and familial connections followed these lines. Occasionally there were cross links, but these were very few and far between. The British and French influence stretched from Guyana and Cayenne in the south, all the way up the island chain, to the Bahamas in the north, excluding the territories mentioned above.

A serious concern which needs to be dealt with is along the lines of defense. What are St. Lucia's obligations as far as participation in any conflict or military event. We consider Guyana, to our south, and on the mainland of South America to be a sister country. It is also across the Esequibo river from Venezuela. There has been a long standing dispute for that region between these two countries for over one hundred years. In fact, Venezuela has been poised on more than one occasion to invade Guyana because of this dispute over that resource rich region. What will be our position if ALBA nations decide to back Venezuela if such a situation breaks out.

Guyana oil exploration stirs up Venezuela border dispute

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/06/us-venezuela-guyana-idUSBRE8551E720120606

Guyana territory claim heats up Venezuela border dispute

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/21/guyana-venezuela-idAFL1E7NL01O20111221

Then we have Argentina which is being courted for membership in ALBA. Of course you would remember the war between Argentina and the UK over the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) in 1982. This has been another long standing dispute and if Argentina were to join ALBA what would be St. Lucia's role if ALBA decides to support the Argentinians. Only a few months ago in June, Argentina resident Cristina De Kirchner renewed her country’s claim for sovereignty over the Falkland Islands at a Security Council meeting at the United Nations. Again, what implications does this have for St. Lucia as a member of ALBA?

Falkland Islands: Cristina De Kirchner Reasserts Argentina's Claim Over Disputed Territory At UN

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/08/06/falkland-islands-cristina-kirchner_n_3714545.html

And only three weeks ago:

Falklands: Argentina Lodges New Claim At UN

http://news.sky.com/story/1125346/falklands-argentina-lodges-new-claim-at-un

Should the people of St. Lucia not be consulted on these very pertinent issues?

Is Petro-Caribe the honeypot used to entice us into an ALBA membership blinding us to the real gravity of our extended involvement?

St. Lucia has enjoyed very cordial relations with Venezuela since the late 70s-early 80s. In fact Venezuela even established the Centro Venezolano de Cooperación (the Venezuelan Cooperation Center) upstairs the Adjodha in the William Peter Boulevard. Then president of Venezuela was Luis Herrera Campins, and the first Venezuelan ambassador to St. Lucia was Rodolfo Molina Duarte. My first photography class was sponsored by the Venezuelans at that center.

Attempts were made at trade and tourism on a grander scale, but those were short lived. Viasa introduced flights from the Simon Bolivar International Airport at Maiquetia to Hewanorra. These did not last too long. Traditionally these have not been tourist markets and into the foreseeable future this does not seem to be the case.

Since ALBA has really been spearheaded by Venezuela, could it be they feel a debt of gratitude is owed St. Lucia since a son of our soil, Jean Baptiste Bideau, saved the life of their great liberator, Simon Bolivar? I wonder what their reaction would be if it is revealed to them that the saviour of their great liberator was ridiculed, mocked, and his bust in the park opposite the government printery in Castries was spat on. The mere mention of his name, Jean Baptiste Bideau, was met with jeers and ridicule and wails of "Jean Baptiste Bideauuuuuu." Oh what a tangled web we weave....

It is, at the very least, irresponsible for us to be signed to so much, yet know so little about it.

Adelante, siempre adelante, pero con cuidado!