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Sunday, April 5, 2015


The eruptions of violence in the town of Soufriere had some hallmarks of a “cluster bomb” terrorist attack which momentarily threatened the national security of the Tourism Capital; but, at best, it was simply a silly and “out of character” transient juvenile explosion which threatened to mar the image of St. Lucia's world-renowned triply honoured rustic town.  In more ways than one, when it comes to honour, Soufriere is to Saint Lucia what Derek Walcott and Sir Arthur Lewis are to us. She is indisputably our Tourism capital, our only World Heritage Site and our historically renowned famous breadbasket.

Whether or not the gangs from Soufriere caught that “virus infection” of gang violence from the Jamaican Garrison culture and they are in turn unleashing it out on the innocent Sulphur City is a matter of wild conjecture; or whether or not the genesis of it is linked to circumstances peculiar to to Soufriere is equally a matter of conjecture. The concern remains that Soufriere may be potentially infected with the deadly virus of gang warfare and we need to deal with in a profound way to weed it out with a sense of urgency before it takes deeper root and spread to the neighbouring communities of Choiseul, for example.

The volcanoes may not have erupted in millions of years; but suddenly, the town of Soufriere is facing an unexpected eruption of volcanic proportions.

Some restless young men from the town who have organized themselves into unsavoury gangs are engaging each other in a deadly game of fire which in my view is much too large for a town as small as Soufriere.

Notwithstanding the commendably strong and decisive response by the Soufriere police to nip that organized violence from the bud, the scars have been carved and the marks may remain etched on the landscape for some time. We can only pray that there's never a recurrence again.

However, the police intervention is definitely not the total solution.

Soufriere, despite its awesome and breath-taking geographic magnificence, is the third poorest community in Saint Lucia. Unemployment and vulnerability are also very high. Poverty is estimated to be at a whopping 42% with vulnerability at 57%. Unemployment is estimated to be at 19%.

Why would a town which is so viable in tourism and potentially agriculture which was once boasted as being the breadbasket of St. Lucia and now boasting a highly successful tourism sector with world-renowned and award-winning resorts like Anse Chastanet/Jade Mountain, Jalousie Resort and Spa, Ladera, Hotel Chocolat, etc be ranked as the third poorest community in St. Lucia? Why would a town with a successful and model institution like the Soufriere Regional Development Foundation which to some extent is a kind of “redistribution mechanism” of the tourist dollar be plagued with social and economic problems of the magnitude which it now faces? Something must be wrong, somewhere.

Except for the “occasional vagrant” on the street, the indicators of poverty are however barely visible to the visitor until s/he journeys into peripheral Soufriere. If you want a bird’s eye appreciation of the magnitude of socioeconomic problems facing Soufriere, then you may have to take a trip outside the mainstream town to the communities like Baron's Drive on the Southern flank and Palmiste on the northern flank and draw your own conclusions.

But are those epicentres of poverty also the epicentres of the eruption of the violence? Preliminary analysis suggests not at all!  The young and restless of Soufriere's poorest community have hitherto conduct themselves admirably despite their economic and social poverty. 

According to police reports, the epicentres of the gang warfare are in the centre of the town from Market road to Bridge Street. However, according to a police source, the extent of the warfare may also have tentacles in neighbouring Choiseul.

A young man from Morne Sion, Choiseul who is allegedly a very close associate of the alleged Gaza gang leader from Market Road was arrested and charged for gun-related offenses related to the warfare.  A police officer disclosed to the writer that the presiding magistrate agreed to grant temporary haven to the apparent Gaza gang leader in Morne Sion, Choiseul in lieu of remand at Bordelais; but that apparently didn’t abate the feuding.

Sources close to the family of the accused man from Morne Sion indicated that a major police raid happened in Morne Sion shortly after the magistrate agreed to the arrangement, resulting in a series of new and fresh charges against the alleged culprits. 

An eyewitness told the writer that on the day of the fierce gun battle and missile war, another man from Choiseul believed to be a gang member was seen running for shelter along Market Road when the battle got too hot for him. It is reported that the police also had him in custody.

So the big question is: what is going on? How did this thing start? How did the "fellas" from the normally peaceful Choiseul Community get entangled in a gang warfare in Soufriere? The police must do thorough investigation into the potential criminal networks or pockets thereof spanning Choiseul and Soufriere and swiftly nip them from the bud.

The Members of Parliament must also do their bit. Both Hon Harold Dalson (MP for Soufriere and social transformation minister) and Hon Lorne Theophilus (MP for Choiseul and the Minister for Tourism and the Creative Industries) are well-placed to design intervention modalities to limit and control the unnecessary delinquent skirmishes.

Indeed, Hon Dalson has proactively pledged to intervene to help forge peace and unity among the warring factions.

In conclusion, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force deserves the highest commendation for taking the bull by the horns to restore the town of Soufriere to normalcy. The troublemakers are now all behind bars and a strong deterrent has been established.

The cooperation of citizens was also exemplary. All in all, a strong and decisive message was sent to potential troublemakers and Soufriere can now celebrate  Easter and their Kweyol Jazz in the peaceful environment the town is accustomed to.

However, the problem may not necessarily be over! The real challenge ahead is for the stakeholders to work with target communities, developing programmes which specifically focus on the "restless", unemployed and vulnerable youth and help foster a greater sense of social responsibility, social competence and ultimately a deep sense of psychosocial reciprocity leading to a profound sense of national pride and national responsibility.