KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves this week defended his administration approach to crime fighting, saying that homicides are not the government’s fault.
Gonsalves’ comment on radio Tuesday came in the wake of the murder of dental technician Ewart “Ells” King at his Pembroke home and the chopping injury of Givvon Bynoe, 23, in Bequia.
He said the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) was politicising the crime situation, saying that they consider every bit of bad news to be good news for them.
“So if somebody gets kill it is the government’s fault? How is it the government’s fault?” Gonsalves said.
He said that his administration, which came to office in 2001, is spending more on training and equipping police officer.
His government, Gonsalves said, provides cops with more and better facilities and is strengthening links with law enforcement agencies overseas.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said that police have access to laboratory testing for crime solving and are paid better salaries and wages, attracting quality people to the Force.
He further said that there was reform of prison and court systems.
“People forget that when we came to office the prisoners ran the jail. They use to escape – I know somebody escaped the other day and we are investigating it – but that was a regular occurrence 11 years ago. They use to hang out on the roof. They were running the jail at the time,” Gonsalves said.
“Now, those things are at an end. I don’t think any body takes seriously the politicisation of the crime issue,” he further said.
He said that more police officers are now armed and, in addition to their initial six-month training, has access to their firing range at Arnos Vale, which is also available to citizens who hold or apply for gun licences.
Gonsalves further said that it was not true that the number of murders here climbed past 20 in one year for the first time when the ULP came to office. He said that it first happened in the 1990s under the NDP.
He further spoke of his government’s 14-point plan on fighting crime and its cooperation with the Regional Security System and international law enforcement agencies, adding that the Americans, British, and Canadians say that the institutions here work.
“I don’t take seriously the points of the opposition on the politicisation of crime. Nobody who is sensible in this country and who looks at things dispassionately will think of something like that,” he said.
“We put all these institutional things into place because there is not any magic bullet. You have to … take a series of steps to address the issue of crime,” he said.