PRESS RELEASE NDP
As Leader of the Opposition, President of the NDP and a citizen of SVG, I am alarmed by the most recent spate of violent killings in our country. We now have had 16 killings in SVG for 2018.
While that number is alarming—as a reminder in 2003, there were only 11 murders in SVG—the recent spate of four killings in one week has created even greater alarm, which prompted a local the news service (NEWS784) to exclaim in a headline: “Death Spree! Four in A Row”.
That occurred last week, the most recent on Friday 27th July, when it was reported that Billy Adams was killed. The previous week was also a bad week as it was reported that Lorenzo Gould of Vermont and Marcus Sandy of Arnos Vale were shot to death in separate incidents during the week! This state of affairs is not just worrying; it is alarming!
The seemingly endless reports of killings and serious wounding are creating feelings of fear and insecurity among ordinary people in the country. The government must take responsibility for this alarming situation.
The years 2016 and 2017 were record breaking years for homicides in SVG. Last year, 2017, SVG recorded 40 homicides!
A record for SVG! At the Consultation on Crime and Violence held by the Christian Council earlier this year, I said that “We can only hope that in 2018, this record-breaking trend does not continue.” That is still my hope today. But the evidence, of far too numerous recent killings is not encouraging.
Moreover, there is the tendency within the present government to treat certain reports of gunshot killings as a special type of criminal activity spawned by gangs and individuals caught up in retaliatory frenzy, with the view that we, the rest of society, need not concern ourselves too much with them.
That approach says, that if we, the law-abiding people, walk on our side of the road, we will be safe from the violence and need not fear for our lives.
This is foolish thinking! Just ask Carlyle Douglas of NICE Radio fame, who was in his house, standing on his porch, on the night of Wednesday July 18th, when he was shot in his groin area and had to be hospitalized.
Fortunately, he survived the incident. But, since he was shot and wounded he could just as easily have been killed!
My point is this: crime is crime, violence is violence, no matter the source and the identity (or suspected identity) of the people involved.
We cannot leave it up to the “criminal”, so-called, to clean up the streets by wiping out one another! That is chaos and emerging anarchy in our country.
Those approaches are familiar in larger more violent societies such as areas of Mexico and Venezuela, where the government has lost control of the streets and criminal gangs fill the breach.
I call on the Government, particularly the Minister of National Security, to be proactive in fighting crime and violence in the country and to live up to its campaign promise to be “tough on crime and the causes of crime”!
Thus far, the ULP government has failed to do so. Instead they have been soft on crime and the causes of crime; soft on corruption; soft on job creation for young people; soft on combatting sexual crimes and violence against young girls; soft on equipping the police properly to fight crime; soft on prosecuting their supporters accused of committing offences.
Gonsalves had said that the criminals would be given no space to operate but the criminals seem to have taken over the country. They have never done anything to show they are tough on crime.
I know that crime and the causes of crime are complex and difficult problems. But we cannot throw our hands up and let mayhem reign. People expect better from their government.
Government’s first priority is to provide security for the people. Without security, the necessary environment that would enable them to invest, develop and prosper will not exist in our country. Security is, therefore, a precondition for economic development.
I would be the first to agree and say that everyone has a role to play in addressing crime and violence in our society. And we cannot achieve this by merely locking ourselves in our homes at sunset and passing the night indoors as if riding out a storm.
This storm does not pass if we let it alone; it grows stronger and stronger, until even our homes are not safe anymore! Instead, we must seek to understand the problem at it root and deal with the causes of crime before the situation get completely beyond our control.
I am reminded of the cautionary words of Professor Anthony Harriott, the Head of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security at UWI, when he spoke here earlier this year at the National Conversation on Crime and Violence organized by the Christian Council.
Having analysed the crime situation in SVG and other Caribbean countries, he spoke about three stages or moments in the development of the problem, with the last being a stage of chronic violence that is hard to control, as now exists in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
He cautioned that SVG may be tending toward this third stage and advised that urgent actions be taken to arrest the slide in that direction. We would do well to heed his call and to follow the advice he offered then.
I will repeat here what I have said many times elsewhere, there is a causal connection between economic hardship and an increase in crime. So, clearly, one of the ways of addressing the crime problem is by growing the economy and creating jobs and hope for our people, especially young people.
An unemployment rate among the youth in this country, according to the IMF, is 46%. This is simply intolerable!
We must do more to create jobs for our people. We must create in this country an enabling environment for investment and growth. The ULP government has failed woefully in this very important obligation.
They have neglected the economy in favour of handouts to selected persons with the correct political credentials. Moreover, political victimization and heavy taxation of vulnerable sectors (such as the hotel/guest house operators hit with the $8 dollar per room per night tax) will not get the job done.
To combat violent crime, our police service must also be properly equipped to handle and to respond swiftly to reported instances of crime before they are committed or get worse. This is where the focus must be with respect to policing, not seeking to transfer and punish police officers for trivial matters.
The investigation and prosecution of offences must be improved. Police officers conditions of work must be improved. Reduce the work load on current officers by employing more police officers. However, this must be done, not on the basis of finding “wuk” for supporters, but based on competence.
I spoke about other measures in my previous press conference on crime held last year and at the Christian Council’s Conversation on Crime and Violence held earlier this year. I adopt them here and refer you to them.