St. Lucia enjoys a sterling reputation as one of the Caribbean’s most lush and welcoming destinations. So much so that it is recognizable by the Two Pitons, the volcanic mountain spires that rise above the exquisite green highlands and beaches below. However, this island paradise is now dealing with something potentially as explosive as those mountains once were.
Late last night, Kenny Anthony, St. Lucia’s prime minister made the announcement that revealed findings that put the police force of the island on notice. Specifically, a team of independent investigators from Jamaica made a scathing report that decreed that the police maintained ‘death lists’. These lists contained the names of individuals considered criminals by the police, and involved 12 different cases of fatal shootings by the police in 2010 and 2011.
While the report itself has not been made public, certain details have proven to be disturbing. One of these 31 point details alleges that all of these shootings, which were initially reported as public homicide cases committed by unknown criminals, were in fact ‘staged by the police’ and that higher-ups within the force aided in hiding this fact. To that point, Anthony stated: ‘The report confirms that the ‘blacklist or death lists’ referenced by the media, human rights organizations, victim’s families and citizens alike did exist.’ It’s also reported that evidence tampering was not only in play at these crime scenes, but also with the serverused by police commanders.
These incidents all occurred during Operation Restore Confidence, a security program enacted by the administration at that time, led by former prime minister Stephenson King. During the initiative, one shooting involved five deaths in the southern town of Vieux Fort as part of an operation. This report throws the result of local inquests that occurred in 2012 which found that half of the shootings were justified. One other point of interest is the involvement of the United States; the State Department was highly concerned over the lack of progress in the investigations at that time, and had withdrawn their own investigative team and imposed sanctions on St. Lucia. Prime Minister Anthony has said that the public prosecutor has to decide whether to pursue cases against the officers involved, but he also stated that he would notorder that those officers be ‘charged or dismissed or offered packages to retire.’
The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for the island. Their tourism board had recently begun a new campaign entitled ‘Se Sannou’ or ‘our thing’ in Creole. This tourism initiative is aimed directly at citizens as well as those natives who have emigrated abroad, in an effort to both strengthen ties across the diaspora and to enlist their help in making St. Lucia a premier destination. The St. Lucia Tourism Board had already hosted events regarding the Se Sannou campaign in New York City and Toronto this past week, with the last one being slated for Washington D.C. on the 14th of this month. St. Lucians would become ‘tourism ambassadors’ under this program and receive resource kits as well as access to the national tourism website. There is no word from the board as of yet regarding this news and its potential impact.