By Stephen Lester Prescott
MUCH as he would love to show otherwise, Allen Chastanet knows only too well that the United States of America’s sanctions on our Police Force were brought about by actions of his own government. Operation Restore Confidence did not happen under Kenny Anthony and his Labour government. IMPACS did not create Operation Restore Confidence. Instead IMPACS seeks to bring to light what took place during the few months when at least twelve citizens were shot and killed in the course of police operations in what many consider unusual circumstances. Kenny Anthony and his government have made no allegations against any police officer, let alone the Police Force, either upon receipt of the IMPACS report or subsequent events.
What Kenny Anthony inherited was a Police Force asunder. This is a Force where the visas of several members had been withdrawn by the US government and many other police officers were on that country’s watch list. It is a Force which is now the target of sanctions imposed on it. Police officers are denied training, both at home and overseas. The country is cut off from American aid whether in munitions or spare parts for equipment including its marine vessels. Our country has suffered indignity and dishonour yet we continue to make excuse after excuse!
This is what Kenny Anthony had to deal with and he did not shirk. With steely resolve he set about undoing the damage he inherited and with the assistance of CARICOM, an investigation was conducted into the events that have now tarnished our reputation in the eyes of many. That team subsequently submitted a report which was in turn transmitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions. This is what the law required of him and Prime Minister Anthony faithfully adhered to this. That report has now been with the DPP for almost five months. Prime Minister Anthony and his government have done their part and now it is the responsibility of the DPP to do hers.
I have not been privy to the contents of the IMPACS report and can therefore make no pronouncements on its contents. What I do know, however, is that in the course of the enquiries, several police officers, both those who were directly involved in the operations under review and those who may have had knowledge of what transpired, were interviewed. Whatever may be contained in the report was not gleaned from Kenny Anthony, Philip J. Pierre or any member of the current administration. We can safely assume as well, that the politicians and businessmen said to be implicated in the report, are also not members of the current administration.
I am reminded that it was Chastanet’s own father, Michael, who on CHOICE television revealed that the information in his possession indicated that immediately prior to Operation Restore Confidence, the hierarchy of the UWP government had met with the Ambassadors from the United States and Israel. According to the elder Chastanet, in the course of the meeting, the Ambassadors enquired of the government personnel present whether they had any idea who were the persons involved in the crime wave which had gripped St. Lucia. Chastanet said the government officials responded in the affirmative whereupon they were told by the Ambassadors that the government should take these people out.
Ironically, only former Prime Minister Stephenson King has responded to Michael Chastanet’s outrageous claim which in effect implicated not only the UWP administration of murder, but in addition, two major foreign governments, the USA and Israel. Let us not forget who Michael Chastanet is; he is the father of the United Workers Party’s current leader who was himself, a minister during the period when the killings occurred. Yet to date, more than four months following Michael Chastanet’s startling declaration, not once has his son distanced himself or his party from it.
But this is the same Chastanet who would challenge Prime Minister Anthony’s assertion that he is privy to a plot by a very small number of police officers – no more than six – to attempt to discredit his administration by the misuse of their police powers. Commenting on the story which first broke on a talk show, Prime Minister Anthony made it clear he was aware of the information even before it was made public. “I am aware that a very small group of police officers and I reemphasize, a very small group, has planned to use the so-called Lambird’s Affair and more recently, the AIMU investigations, to try to embarrass me personally and three other ministers in my Cabinet. The Police Force is itself not involved.”
The Prime Minister went further to state that a senior officer at the centre of the allegations “openly boasted of his intentions to his colleagues and civilians alike, to bring down the Kenny Anthony and the Labour government.” He added that an investigating officer in the execution of a search warrant at one of the ministries told a senior civil servant that they “intended to bring down the government.” Even as the Prime Minister considered the threat “fanciful” the greater issue was the fact that some police officers, whose sworn duty was to protect and serve, would instead use the law for political purposes. Making it clear that whilst police officers were free to support a political party of their choice and that neither he nor his ministers were above the law, the Prime Minister asserted that so too police officers who misused their office for political gain were themselves not immune from prosecution. In his words, “the Police Force cannot be a sanctuary for those who openly engage in political activities under cover of the law.”
In an attempt – futile thus far – at deflecting from the very serious allegations made by the Prime Minister, the opposition aided by some of the more partisan within the media fraternity, have reported that the Prime Minister has alleged a coup was being planned by the police. It did not matter that the Prime Minister specifically gave the nature of the allegations, the small number of police officers involved and the fact that Police Force as an institution was not involved; still they peddled their untruths hoping an unsuspecting public might be caught unawares.
Interestingly enough, not one of these media outlets sought to have Mr. Michael Chastanet clarify his comments which implicated two foreign governments in the alleged extra-judicial killings which eventually led to the IMPACS report! Why has the media not commented on the fact that the National Security Minister under whose tenure the killings took place has uttered not a word in contradiction to Mr.Chastanet’s damning allegation? Did The VOICE editorialist criticise one of his colleagues, when he sensationally stated that he had been reliably informed that the current National Security Minister’s visa would have been revoked within two weeks? That was almost two years ago and still the editorialist has never once even remotely suggested his colleague was irresponsible.
Then there is the matter of Allen Chastanet’s academic credentials. Forget for the moment the discussion surrounding whether his certificates are legitimate and for argument’s sake say they are, how does that explain Mr.Chastenet has from time immemorial claimed he had two degrees in economics and that he was an economist when the documents he has presented as are unrelated to economics as the UWP was to good governance? Since when doing one or two basic courses in economics qualifies one to be economist? Why hasn’t the media dealt with the fact that even today, the Coco Palm Resorts lists Allen Chastanet as having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics when even the documents he produced recently say otherwise? Is that not deceit of the highest on the part of Mr.Chastanet? Did he deceive the Public Service of Saint Lucia? Did he deceive the Air Jamaica board? Did he deceive the IMF?
These are the questions the media need to look into rather than attempting to cast aspersions on Prime Minister Anthony’s very credible statements. A majority of media practitioners may be in the ideological pockets of Chastanet but thank God that the people of Saint Lucia know differently. No matter how hard the media may try to save Chastanet and his clique, nothing can save him because he is, at the end of the day, his worst enemy.