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Tuesday, March 10, 2015



Hypothetically, we may want to oversimplify the nightmare of the extra-judicial killings facing St. Lucia and construe it as a symbolic battle between two strong-headed blood brothers from Choiseul: one brother is our top cop and the other is a self-professed human rights attorney.

The logical question therefore is: who will in the end triumph? Will the top cop (who is the younger brother) prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the extra-judicial killings affair is only a sham orchestrated by local human rights advocates here? Or will “big brother” who is the human rights attorney shoot down little brother’s case and prove that the top cop and his men were indeed culpable? Assuming that the latter turns out to be case and that the top cop and his men are indicted, then will big brother - in the name of justice - allow little brother to go to the gallows? Or will he begin a new human rights crusade on behalf of little brother?

Chilling IMPACS findings

On a more serious note, I have not (and may never even see) the Caribbean Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) report commissioned by the Gov’t of St. Lucia and undertaken by a team of investigators from the Jamaican Constabulary Force with terms of reference to investigate allegations of extra killings by members of the Saint Police Force; but given the insights shared with us by the PM in his address on Sunday night, the findings do appear to be chilling to say the least!

Consequently, I expect a preponderance of melodramatic reporting and discussions surrounding the report. However, I’m more interested in sharing a pure academic perspective (perhaps, one devoid of a professional assessment). I would hate to do like the media/press and self-styled “human rights activists” and turn a serious matter like the PM’s address to the nation into irrational melodrama in a situation which perhaps calls for national rational reflection and retrospection.

My focus

Given that my focus is purely academic, my preferred option would have been to read the report in its entirety prior to make comments; but I guess, I have to make do with what is before me (the PM’s address), albeit cautiously in the knowledge that my assessment may be limited; and hence potentially may lack validity or reliability.

Freedom of Information

Nature abhors a vacuum! Hence, the lack of all the information does not only invariably lead to validity and reliability issues; but equally it can create to an information vacuum (or partial information vacuum) potentially leading to the generation of unnecessary conjectures, melodrama, and considerable skew-ness in our commentaries. Perhaps, if St. Lucia were blessed with a “Freedom of Information” Act, I would be singing a different song.

Contrary to the “cut and paste” CHOICE NEWS NOW inset about President Obama’s pronouncements about freedom of information, the story reported by the Associated Press is a diametrically opposed one.

It is indeed true that President Obama was swept to office amidst his pledge that he would run the "most transparent administration in history." However, it is also true that reports suggest otherwise.

For example, an analysis done by the Associated Press (AP) on the federal government Freedom of Information found that federal agencies under President Obama have been “as uncooperative as ever”. AP reported: "More often than ever, the administration under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act censored government files or outright denied access to them last year"

 AP went on to add that: "The government's own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the Obama administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records" citing  last year (2014) as the worst since President Barack Obama took office.

Hence, in that respect, Tim’s inset on CHOICE NEWS may be seen as only “an incomplete half-truth”

Report not Final

That fact that we don’t have a Freedom of Information Act which we could invoke should not preclude us from making hypothetically strong, rational and responsible comments based on the Address delivered by the PM on Sunday Evening. 

I begin with the “polemic” that the IMPACS report is far from being fool proof; neither is it final! (Indeed, the PM was on that wavelength when he suggested that “the final decision is in the hands of the DPP!)

The findings of the report may be logical but they may not necessarily be true! A lot may depend on the “integrity” of the data sources and the methodology of the investigation. The PM did allude to the fact that some sources included persons who “testified” based on conditions of anonymity. That to me is a grey area and, in that context, I endorse the position of the Police Commissioner (Mr Francois) that the findings may be categorised (at least operationally) as allegations that can be contested in a court of law. Accordingly, I concur with him that those informants who are currently protected by conditions of anonymity will eventually have to come out and testify in an open court. Only then will validity and reliability become transparent.

The Commissioner’s concerns suggest that there may be inherent issues about the integrity of the “evidence” and methodology of the investigations.  However, in the absence of the scrutiny of the report in its entirety, those potential issues remain largely conjectural to us unless the commissioner himself is privy to the contents of report. We can only validate his pronouncements only after we too become privy to the full report or a court of law has ruled accordingly.

Is the DPP helpless?

Hon Richard Frederick on the other hand has argued that the matter may be more legally complex than meets the eye. He submitted that the DPP may not be able to do anything about those extra-judicial killings because a court has ruled that (at least some of) the killings were justifiable. I don't have this information with me and I can't verify that this is the case. It would be equally interesting to also hear the substantive legal perspectives of human man rights attorneys like Martinus Francois and Mary Francis!

Businessmen and politicians too?

In his address, the PM, among other things, confirmed the following findings from the IMPACS report: (1) involvement of businessmen and politicians in the extra-judicial killings; (2) the existence of a “Black List”; (3) the members of the High Command of the Police Force may have been involved in “covering up”; (4) “all the shootings reviewed were ‘Fake Encounters’ staged by the Police to legitimize their actions”; (5) weapons planted on the scene of the killings; (6) tampering with computer of records by senior officers to alter records. Indeed, these findings suggest that report is seemingly a damning indictment on the police, politicians and even the business community. Notwithstanding, the nature and extent of involvement by politicians and members of the business community were not specified or defined.

It is noteworthy that no reference was made to elements of the media or the press.

In spite the damning nature of the findings reported by the PM (and there may be more of them), it is advisable that stakeholders proceed with utmost caution as any misrepresentation of the report can have a potentially deleterious impact on the morale of the police and put them on the back foot at a time we are enjoying a historic 2 to 3-month reprieve from homicides.

Is increased allocations the answer?

Perhaps, one of the most significant outcomes of the report is that it has caused the PM to pledge greater resources to the "helpless" Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); consequently, a few curious questions may be in order: (1) Given that the DPP (even with limited resources) could not solve the simplest problems which plagued her office, then what guarantee do we have that the increased allocation of resources will result in greater efficiency in the operations of the office of the DPP? (2) Will the quantum of resources allocated be in proportion to the magnitude of the challenges facing the DPP? (3) Will the allocation to the DPP result in a proportional increase in the capability, capacity and productivity of the DPP’s office? (4) Will we necessarily get “more with more”? (5) Does the extent of the involvement of the politicians and businessmen cited in the report make them culpable and if the answer is in the affirmative will the DPP prosecute them? (6) Will an increase in the allocation of resources also result in better “administration of universal justice” and consequently also result in the implementation of the recommendations of the report on Constituency Councils? (7) Generally, will an increase in the allocation of resources be sufficient to bring about a more efficient administration of justice in St. Lucia?

Conclusion: probable or provable?

My view is the PM may have presented us with a “sample” which may be just a small tip of the Titanic iceberg! And although I don’t wish to encourage panic and distress, I remain highly concerned about the potentially far-reaching implications and ramifications of the report for St. Lucia, if the findings of the report turn out to be provable.

At the moment, I will accept the findings as highly probable and possibly provable; but yet to be proven in a court of law.

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