The assault of journalists outside the law courts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines shows the extent of crime in the country, says opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock.
“You saw recently or read in the newspaper that where the media was trying to cover crime cases … had to approach the Commissioner of Police for more protection, because they, in doing their journalistic work, are now in the state where their correspondents, their journalists are being accosted by the families of and the accused themselves as they leave they the courthouse for writing, broadcasting and publishing what are the new aspect of the crime situation.”
Leacock was speaking on NICE Radio about the Jan. 30 letter that journalists wrote to Commissioner of Police Colin John expressing concern at what they regard as the “escalating issue of threats by members of the public against and aggression” towards journalists covering the Serious Offences Co
Leacock said that Elwardo “E.G.” Lynch, a former host of “New Times”, the radio programme on which Leacock was speaking, had an experience were “criminals were there waiting on him asking him what does he know about them” as he left the studio of NICE Radio in Dorsetshire Hill from which the programme is broadcast.
“Now that means that we are into a state of lawlessness, and people are being intimidated on all levels, on all fronts,” Leacock, a vice-president of the opposition New Democratic Party, said as he discussed the general crime situation in SVG.
“We had a classic case in St. Vincent and Grenadines, a classic case, where, … a very most respected professional in this country was robbed or held up at gunpoint. That person had a husband and a brother in the Parliament and a sister of a magistrate.
“And the presence of two parliamentarians in your family, and one in the judiciary and other relations in the legal field was not sufficient for evidence to be provided in the courts for an apprehension of that crime.”
Leacock was speaking about Reisha Twana Browne-Caesar, wife of Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar, who, in 2020, did not offer any evidence against the men who were alleged to have robbed her at gunpoint outside her home while she was holding her child in her arms in September 2018.
“People are now in St. Vincent where they can witness crime — a gentleman told me he was in a shop in which somebody got shot and all he simply made sure that he did was not to look around or look in the direction that the criminal thought that he saw,” said Leacock, who is the opposition spokesperson on national security.
“So, therefore, he knew that he could continue to live his life because to indicate that he had seen would mean that he, too, would have been shot. So, he just looked straight ahead.”
He noted that SVG recorded a record 42 homicides in 2022, adding that this is almost one killing per week.
“So, when one says that there’s a murder every Monday morning, it’s not a stretch.”
He said that at the current rate, the country could record 52 homicides this year.
SVG has recorded nine homicides so far this year, including two resulting from police shooting people in the line of duty.
“And while that is happening, where is the opprobrium? Where is the passion by those who must direct the policy?” Leacock said.
He said constitutional issues, kitchen issues democratic issues are looming large in SVG “but crime and violence are making those issues look like child’s play.
“And where are we? We are promoting CELAC. And who is there promoting CELAC? The prime minister…
“The Prime Minister has now, in my mind, successfully positioned St. Vincent as a country that is not aligned to Canada, not aligned to America, not aligned to England. Those are ancient cultures. Those are not the orders of the day with which we associate.
“We must be seen in the same vein and breath, that people speak about Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and company — left-leaning socialists. And that’s how St. Vincent is now perceived to be internationally? Not a friend of those over there but in the vanguard of these over here.”
He said the country has “crime and violence and poverty, destitution, despair” to show for its alliance.
“And it’s clear, very, very clear, manifestly clear, that a sufficient number of our young people have come to a conclusion that there is not a better way out. It’s not that other good things are not happening in St. Vincent and the Grenadines among our young, bright and talented people. But those things are being overshadowed.”
Leacock spoke of the NDP’s Social and Spiritual Redemption Charter, which it had proposed in the mid-2000s as a way of preventatively addressing crime and violence.
“… we were dismissed. [Then Opposition Leader Arnhim] ‘Eustace wanted to be prime ministerial’, I suppose. We’re trying to get the government to commit themselves to finance, as they said the motion did not allow us to,” Leacock said, referring to the government response to the charter.
He said that in the meantime, the children who the charter had intended to steer away from crime have gotten out of hand.
“Well, the chickens have come home to roost now … And we don’t know who next. It may be me next. It may be a politician, but only then we’ll jump up and say that something has to happen. But we have to draw a line,” Leacock said.
He said that he reduced the amount of time he spends on “blocks” (roadside hang-outs spot) and shops in his constituency for fear that he could become an unintended victim of a gunman’s bullets.
“… this is a blessed country; a precious piece of rock. It can be and should be a very nice place to live. Picturesque, beautiful, resilient, hardworking, honest, decent, dignified Vincentians, we are here in abundance. We are there in the diaspora showcasing our talent, our worth, but we can’t have a motley few colourings and shaping St. Vincent and the Grenadines to chase away foreign direct investment, to chase away our tourism plan, to chase away investment opportunities to shape the next generation. We must do something about it,”Leacock said.