New police commissioner expected in ‘gangsters’ paradise’ St Lucia by year end

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Police Commissioner, Severin Moncherry

by Caribbean News Now contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia — Commissioner of the Royal St Lucia Police Force (RSLPF), Severin Moncherry, has indicated that, while he has not been asked to go on early retirement, has nevertheless been examining his options, including looking at early retirement and not ruled out the possibility of proceeding on leave “to pursue personal development”, coinciding with his 53 birthday in June 2019.

Meanwhile, the latest posting on “The Justice for Roger” campaign blog, which was set up to seek justice for Roger Pratt, a British tourist who was murdered in Saint Lucia almost five years ago, described the island as a “gangsters’ paradise” and asked if tourists should boycott Saint Lucia.

While Moncherry’s post retirement leave and subsequent retirement will have to be approved by Cabinet, there is apparently no resistance to this possibility. Retirement age is 55, and normally, post retirement leave is usually factored in ahead of retirement.
Deputy Police Commissioner Milton Desir is said to be earmarked as the possible replacement to the post of commissioner.

Earlier this month, former national security minister, Keith Mondesir, indicated that the crime situation highlights a lack in basic policing, and that police officers are not walking in the communities.

“I think the policemen are not invading these ghettos where these crimes perpetuate and I think the visibility of policemen on the streets – they are not visible enough. Policemen, in my opinion, should not be drivers driving up and down.

“In a small place like Saint Lucia, there is always somebody that knows who committed a crime. But if you are not in a community – if there is no community policing, you are not going to get that information,” he said.

Mondesir also noted the need for police officers to earn the respect of the people they serve, and that “Police officers have to carry themselves with respect.”

Moncherry was recently in Taiwan, attending a conference to promote international police cooperation, with a focus on combating transnational telecommunications fraud; mutual legal assistance; effective strategies for combating cross-border fraud and other crime; seizing criminal assets and anti-money laundering, among other subjects.

According to the commissioner, the conference provided valuable opportunities for the police force and he expressed the need for Taiwan’s continued support in training and developing the police force in Saint Lucia.

Meanwhile, a national crime symposium held November 24, 2017, has turned out to be another “talk shop”, disconnected from reality and lacking actionable initiatives toward a national security plan.

In 2017, 60 homicides were recorded in St Lucia and the latest statistics from the RSLPF indicate 28 homicides this year. Moncherry’s goals were to keep homicides under 25 for 2018; however, police statistics reveal a three percent increase in crime for the first half of 2018.

Assistant commissioner of police responsible for crime and intelligence management, Wayne Charlery, said. “As we speak right now we are working towards zero homicides for the rest of the year. When we begin the year, we will work towards having no homicides whatsoever.”

According to an internal source, the RSLPF has been recommended for reorganisation, the cost benefits and a strategic force providing more effective services, more damage is done by government policy; recognizing the extent of cuts in police budgets have impact staffing, performance and retaining local structures in much need communities is extremely deficient.

Meanwhile, the current Allen Chastanet-led administration has been unable to deal with the seemingly intractable problem of its own making in an earlier United Workers Party (UWP) government, namely, the sanctions imposed on the island’s security forces by the US under the so-called Leahy Law, in response to the as yet unresolved spate of extrajudicial killings by the RSLPF as long ago as 2008/9.

According to US government sources, Chastanet has now chosen to work the backdoor, with the hope of securing a meeting with President Donald Trump, expecting him to remove the Leahy Law sanctions on Saint Lucia. Such a plan, however, ignores the fact that only the US Congress can lift the sanctions, not the president nor the State Department.

Meanwhile the pressures on policing, the threat of escalating crime and external investigations are further squeezing the current administration and exacerbating the strategic challenges facing the RSLPF.

“The Justice for Roger” campaign blog notes that Saint Lucia is in the midst of a violent crime epidemic and has one of the worst murder rates in the world. Drugs and other forms of gangland activity drives much of this activity and the culture of violence that has gripped St Lucia as a result makes much of island a no-go area for visitors.

“While we’ve highlighted other cases of rape, assault and the murder of visitors to Saint Lucia, we’ve always been mindful that locals bear the brunt of Saint Lucia’s violent streak,” it said, noting that “Saint Lucia now finds itself in a position where unsolved crimes are now backing up at a rate that the courts cannot handle. Even the most open and shut cases may not be heard for many years”.

The four young men that were arrested (and then confessed) within days of Pratt’s murder almost five years ago remain in jail and have still not had their day in court.

British pensioner Gloria Greenwood was murdered in Saint Lucia almost seven years ago now. A suspect was arrested shortly afterwards and despite more than 50 preliminary court hearings and adjournments later, the Saint Lucia authorities seem no closer to delivering justice for her.

There is also the case of Oliver Gobat, a British businessman who was found murdered in Saint Lucia in April 2014. The case was referred to British authorities in 2017 due to the lack of progress made by Saint Lucian police. There have been suggestions that the Gobat was a direct victim of the gangland violence that reportedly operates unchallenged in Saint Lucia.

“The Justice for Roger” blog put forward some solutions for Saint Lucia’s ills:

• Invest in its police force and ensure it is focused on the biggest problems facing the island, namely, drugs and gangland crime.

• Strengthen its judicial system with the additional capacity and capability required to ensure justice is done in a timely and efficient manner for everyone. People facing minor charges and held for months and even years to face trial breeds resentment, harms rehabilitation efforts and increases the chances of people committing more serious crimes in the future. The system should be streamlined to enable these cases to be dealt with quickly and allow resources to be focused on more serious offences.

• A coordinated effort aimed at reducing violent crime in Saint Lucia and a zero-tolerance attitude towards violent crime.

“The Justice for Roger” blog acknowledged that there is a cost to making such radical improvements and a start would be to divert some of the millions of dollars spent on marketing Saint Lucia to making the changes that would benefit everyone – residents and tourists alike.

In the meantime, the government appears to be tone deaf to the current issues, seemingly counting on Trump to save day while at the same time spending US$12 million on a no-bid, crony sports consultancy contract that could have been better employed in addressing the more pressing national issues.

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