By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Dec. 23, 2022)
Timothy Hazelwood, superintendent of prisons, painted a staggeringly frightening yet sobering picture of the crime situation in SVG. Speaking at the close of the law year last Monday, Hazelwood’s report demonstrated that SVG is a violent place.
If there were any doubts, the statistics regarding those incarcerated in our prisons offered startling proof. Of the 388 persons imprisoned here, 210 of them committed a crime that involved the use of force or violence.
Murder remains the main reason Vincentians end up in prison. Ninety-seven persons are confined because they were convicted or waiting trial for murder. Fifty-two are serving a sentence, 40 await trial and 5 are on remand. Another 13 persons are imprisoned for manslaughter and 11 for attempted murder. Thirty-two others are housed at the prisons for wounding.
Added to this sad state of affairs is the amount of serious violent crimes committed against our women and children. Twenty-three men are serving sentences for rape while another 20 are doing time for unlawful sexual intercourse.
The assault and ravaging of our women and girls are deeply troubling because they represent a very vulnerable section of our society. In addition, those who are punished for these crimes do not properly measure the prevalence of the crime. Many assaults and rape go unreported either because of fear, shame, dependence on a boss, friend or associate and non-recognition of the assailant.
This problem highlights the critical importance of forming and building a “He for She” movement in SVG. More upstanding men need to help to rid society of this scourge. Too many of our men, punch drunk, on hyper-masculinity perceive women as property whom they can use and abuse at will. This problem can best be attended to by those occupying positions of power and influence at the highest levels of our society. Unfortunately, many of our leaders in politics, business, religion and civil society are poor role models.
Because of the materialistic lure of modern society, our young women and girls are pimped rather than moulded, exploited instead of supported, and pulled down rather than lifted up. Children who lend their trust to adults are abused and exploited while young females who resisted the overtures of aggressive men are dominated and overpowered. As One Love Bassy is fond of saying, “Sex shall harass men.”
The authorities have failed miserably in their attempt to fight crime. The Labour Party came into power promising to be tough on crime and the causes of crime. The policy has only born bitter fruits. The government is bereft of ideas as to which approach can turn the crime situation around. With 10 more days remaining in 2022, we may break the 2016 record (40) for the number of homicides in a single year. The homicide ticker reads 39. Compounding the crime situation is (that) the killers remain on the streets putting citizens in fear.
While correlation doesn’t always amount to causation, there is no denying that a society is in dire straits. The poverty rate is close to 40% and the unemployment rate is approaching 50%. The only sector that appears to be growing is security. Hundreds of police officers have been hired in recent years with no clear results. The estimates for 2023 earmark money for another 60 police and coast guard personnel.
The top 10 crimes of choice are murder, burglary, wounding, possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition, robbery, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse, manslaughter, theft, attempted murder and aggravated burglary.
Clearly, SVG is stuck in reverse. The country is not going anyplace fast. A sharp turnaround is urgently needed.
Many of our young people are responding to the ULP government’s rejection of the rule of law. It has been more than six years or 2,201 days since Master Raulston Glasgow ordered the ULP administration to pay vindicatory damages and cost to Otto Sam .
Master Glasgow, who has been elevated to a judge and sits in Grenada, said in his December 12, 2016 judgment: “In the instant situation, a highly qualified educator was arbitrarily removed from his office and unceremoniously deposited in another office for which he was not qualified or equipped. He was left for some time to beseech his superiors for the tools and responsibilities of office and was later assigned tasks not commensurate with his training, qualifications and experience. He was sent off on 90 days leave for which he did not apply. A fair and substantial sum must be awarded to vindicate the breach of the constitutional rights afforded to him.’
Otto Sam was awarded the following damages:
1. Annual duty allowance of $2,400
2. Difference in salary $24,000
3. Vindicatory award $30,000
4. Prescribed cost $8,520
5. Total award of $64,920 at 5% per annum from Dec. 12, 2016.
The government is practising gangsterism. By disobeying court orders for declarations, awards of damages and cost, the government shows a high level of disrespect and disregard for the judicial branch of government. We are rapidly descending into autocratic anarchy where the dictates of the political elite, rather than the rule of law holds sway.
A fish rots from the head down. Therefore, it’s not surprising that our youth are observing and imitating the lawless behaviour of Gonsalves and his Clansmen.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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