Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday says that St. Vincent and the Grenadines would not be having a spate of killings as it has had over the past week were his New Democratic Party in office.
“Well, first of all, I don’t think the situation would have arisen because the whole premise and the logic of our approach is prevention,” he said at a press conference in Kingstown on Thursday when asked how his party would have addressed the situation if it were in office.
“You have to, as Major [St. Clair] Leacock said, we have to deal with the preventative measures. If it is going to cost you $13,000 to keep one person incarcerated, and you can spend $150 on a young person to keep them in the Cadets, the Girl Guides, some social group, to get their cricket team going, to keep them involved in some positive activity, why not put that resource in that direction? That is what we would do,” Friday said.
SVG has recorded 32 homicides this year, nine of which were recorded in September, while four persons survived injuries they sustained during shooting incidents.
Friday acknowledged the current reality, saying, “But as for now, the situation, obviously, we have to have a stronger police presence in patrols on the street; you need to see that now. People need reassurance that something is being done.”
On Tuesday, Vermont resident Wendel “Grindy” O’Neil was shot and killed outside the Leeward Bus Terminal while two other persons were injured in that same incident.
Friday said that with this development, people would feel more reassured with police presence there.
The opposition leader further said that community policing is critical, adding that the interaction between the police and the community is the best avenue for gathering evidence against criminals.
“Because everybody now becomes — working together as a team to keep their community safe. But to do so, there must be trust between the police and the communities that they serve. That is critically important.”
Friday said that the NDP would also implement the strategies it mentioned in its manifesto for the 2010 general election.
“Put us in office and you will see how quickly we get the situation resolved,” he said.
Speaking at the same press conference, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown and NDP vice-president, St. Clair Leacock said that the first responsibility of a prime minister and minister of national security is to provide safety for citizens.
“To the extent that there is a growing number of Vincentians who feel that they are not safe at home, it is already beginning to impact our investment climate in a very, very serious way,” Leacock said.
He said he has heard members of the Vincentian diaspora say that they have changed their minds about returning home.
“… added to the situation where they felt that they were not secure with respect to health provisions, they are now adding the situation of their safety in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
“And that’s our own people who no longer feel safe at home,” Leacock further said.
“Now, that is compounded by investors who would say that the climate is not conducive to coming to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So there is an urgency in resolving this problem.”
He said that in order to fix the crime problem, the economy must also be fixed.
“And it can be fixed and our young people must not be left in a state of despair with their hands in the air without a belief that better days are coming…”
Leacock said that the government spent EC$35 million to save a bank and did not create a single job in the process.
“We can spend through the same mechanism of floating a bond for $35 million and create 10,000 jobs. Imagine what that would do for people who feel that they can get up today and tomorrow put a handbag over their hand and go to work and take care of man, woman and child, their girlfriend and have less time for the distraction,” Leacock said.
“We have to build our St. Vincent and the Grenadines on a solid footing and give people hope and aspiration that we are together,” he said.
Friday said that residents of SVG need reassurance.
“People are dying. Children are losing their parents, parents are losing their children. A sense of insecurity is pervading the country. We are calling on the authorities, all social actors to join together to find solutions to these problems. We are willing to do so,” he said.
‘Crime is a matter for the state. When you have a situation as we have today where everyday there seems to be a report of somebody being killed, somebody being shot, somebody being cut, somebody being slashed, somebody being wounded, that generates heightened concern on the part of people, because they feel insecure.
“The suggestion that somehow because this may be related to a particular type of activity or involve a particular set of people in the community that it’s less of a problem or it is something that the rest of us need not be concerned about, to me, that’s an abdication of responsibility,” he said.
He was referring to a comment by Minister of Local Government, Sen. Julian Francis that most of the people being killed are “not innocent”.
Friday said: “It is never a situation where there is crime and violence in the country, you would say, ‘These are the ones we have to be concerned about and these are the ones that we can, in a sense, let them go and kill themselves or shoot one another.
“In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, people are alarmed by what is happening.”