SAINT LUCIA’S Prime Minister is by all accounts an honourable man; a brilliant academician and one highly schooled in political science and the law, especially Constitutional Law. But the more one reflects on the Prime Minister’s Address to the Nation on the IMPACS report regarding alleged extra-judicial killings by officers of Saint Lucia’s Police Force, the more one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that the Prime Minister may not have gotten it right.
From the outset, we can agree that the Prime Minster was caught between a rock and a hard place, a very HARD place. The mighty US Government, citing its Leahy Law had pulled the plug on its cooperation with Saint Lucia on security matters and had revoked the visas of some of Saint Lucia’s top cops.
It should have been enough for the Prime Minister to tell the US, that as in the case of the shooting death of an unarmed young man by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, that Saint Lucia had followed its own laws and that the killings had been ruled “death by misadventure” by a Coroner. Further, it should have been enough for him to simply share the results of the Coroner’s Inquests with the US. But it would seem the US has little faith in Saint Lucia’s version of the Rule of Law; much in the same way blacks and minorities in the US have little faith in the US’s own version of the Rule of Law.
The only conclusion we can reach is that the US wanted a review of the coroners’ findings.
Here’s where one’s unease with the PM actions begins to rise.
We assume the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) knows about the Coroner’s findings. We can also assume that the DPP is fully aware that Section 73 of Saint Lucia’s Constitution empowers her “…in any case in which she considers it desirable to do so, to: (a) institute and undertake legal proceedings against any person before any court of law in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by that person; (b) to take over and continue such criminal proceedings that have been instituted or undertaken by any other person or authority; and (c) to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by herself or any other person or authority.”
Moreover, Saint Lucia’s Constitution at section 73 (6) makes clear that in the exercise of her powers, the DPP “…shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority” (including the Prime Minister).
In his Address to the Nation, the Prime Minister, being the Constitutional scholar that he is, spoke often about his holding as sacred the “Separation of Powers” doctrine which basically establishes that in the exercise of their respective powers, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary should not encroach upon the powers of each other. However, in the IMPACS matter, the Executive and the Legislature (Parliament) acted with common intent by amending the laws to allow the investigation into the alleged killings by the police. But the matter was already squarely in the domain of the DPP who, as far as we are aware, had not indicated whether she had accepted the findings from the Coroner Inquests.
It’s strange, therefore, that even after having sanctioned the IMPACS investigation and having shared its report with the DPP, the Prime Minister insists that the SOP doctrine has not been violated. Several legal luminaries are of a contrary opinion. While they agree the Government is within its rights to investigate the actions of the Police Force or any agency of Government, they insist that by sending the IMPACS report to the DPP which states that the police officers involved in the shootings MUST BE PROSECUTED, not only is the Prime Minister tacitly instructing the DPP to act, he’s also instructing her to use the report as the basis of such action. They also believe it was not necessary to amend the law to permit the investigation and feel such a move was intended to “clothe the investigation with sufficient legality to form the basis for further action by the DPP.” Even so, they say that “the legality of the process does not mean that the investigations were conducted with sufficient legal probity to be of any use to the DPP.”
Now, one never knows where one stands with lawyers, so we will leave the legal issue to stand for a while, except to say that we wait with baited breath for the DPP’s next move. She is under considerable duress, not only to move, but to move IN A PARTICUALR DIRECTION. The Prime Minister expects her to move. And now that he has shared the IMPACS report with the US, the US too will expect her to move. Her US visa (if she has one) may be in jeopardy if she doesn’t.
There are those who feel (this writer included) that by sharing the IMPACS report with the US Government, the Prime Minister has severely compromised Saint Lucia’s sovereignty. We can be sure if the shoe was on the other foot, the mighty US would have told PM Anthony, that Easter is a good time to go fly a kite and that Vieux-Fort is as good a place as any to do so. As we all know, the mighty US does not subject its sovereignty to ANY country. And neither should tiny Saint Lucia. For decades now, the US has unilaterally repatriated hardened criminals to Saint Lucia and the Caribbean without any prior consultation. And it has refused to place itself under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which by the way, is set up to bring to justice those accused of committing the same human rights abuses that the US claims to be concerned about. Saint Lucia’s friends in ALBA would not have been impressed by Dr. Anthony’s move.
Saint Lucians were not told how the IMPACS team went about its investigations and how it obtained its evidence. What we do know is that the DPP was not involved. That fact alone should have given PM Anthony cause for pause, in terms of what revelations he should share with the public. He should also have considered the negative impacts (pun intended) his revelations would have on an already demoralized Police Force. The damage cannot now be reversed. But in this writer’s view, it has put the DPP in an even more invidious position and has created a highly combustible atmosphere on the island.
PM Anthony said much more than he should have said on that Sunday night. Yet incredibly, there are those who feel he didn’t say enough. Some feel he should have made the entire report public, especially as he has already shared it with the US. They may have a point there. The Wikileaks revelations remind us that the US has a different way of doing business and that includes the way it handles certain documents to suit its own purposes. We should not be surprised if this report turns up somewhere on the World Wide Web.
Operation Restore Confidence was not done under PM Anthony’s watch. For this reason we can empathize with him. Whatever mistakes he may have made, were done unwittingly and in good faith.
By The Virginian