Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has raised questions about the work of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) in Union Island in the wake of an attack on two persons aboard a 39-foot sailing vessel in early October.
Mark Beiser and Tina Curtin were injured during the attack and reports are that the Coast Guard did not respond to their distress call.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, told Parliament this week that the Coast Guard officer monitoring for distress calls at the time of the attack, said nothing was received at the base in Calliaqua.
Gonsalves explained that VHF waves can be disrupted by items in their path and this could explain why the Coast Guard did not receive the call.
“I just don’t understand. You put all the facilities in place — VHF radios, GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System).”
The GMDSS provides the capability to receive alerts from persons or vessels on a GMDSS handset.
“I asked the Commissioner this morning. I said, ‘Listen, we have an RRU unit down there?’ I was so frustrated when I got this thing. I said, ‘What happened?’” Gonsalves told Parliament on Tuesday in response to a question tabled by Opposition lawmaker Terrance Ollivierre, MP for the Southern Grenadines, where the attack took place.
Gonsalves said he inquired about whether officers from the RRU, a tactical unit commonly referred to as the “Black Squad” because of their black uniform, only go to the wharf when the vessels arrive then go get a drink.
“What is happening? How is this taking place? Of course, you have good RRU officers down there, but you get frustrated. And you have to insist that a greater effort be made by all concerned, including the community, because the community knows who these persons are, who go and harass the yachties,” Gonsalves said.
He further said that the Witness Protection Special Measures Bill, which is at the select committee stage in Parliament, provides for video evidence to be admitted in court.
“In that law, we will be able to take the evidence from overseas by video link, which evidence would be accessed in precisely the same way it takes place in the court room in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
“We have to stamp this thing out,” he said in reference to attacks on sailors.
“It is our livelihood. This country has had to make adjustments. First it was cane, then arrowroot, bananas, … we always have to be adjusting and now we are making real sacrifices in building this tourism sector and putting in the infrastructure,” he further stated.
“You have a number of people who just want to mash up this thing. And we have to, and I am appealing to the community to help us with the policing. I am appealing to the police, the Coast Guard, what you want, tell me. I will do my best,” Gonsalves said.