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Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
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By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” July 21, 2023)

The death of five men on Wednesday evening represents a new escalation in homicides in SVG. Seven men were gunned down in the past week, bringing the total to a mind-blowing yet sobering 35. The country seems destined to gallop past 42, the official number of homicides recorded last year.

Our country, with a population of just over 100,000, is rapidly becoming the killing field of the Caribbean. This week was special, not only because of the number (7) of young men who lost their lives violently but also because of the type of weapon used and the number of shots fired. Those guilty of these most recent shootings evidently wanted someone dead. They were prepared to take down those close by to accomplish the task.

This is a dangerous development, especially in a country notorious for young and mature people gathering in clusters to “shoot the breeze” and enjoy themselves. It now means that these kinds of get-togethers are very unsafe because one never knows who among their numbers is marked for execution.

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An additional point of concern is the brazenness of those responsible. These killings occurred less than 500 hundred yards from the central police station in Kingstown, which houses that major crime unit.

Even though most of these killings appear targeted rather than random, the fear index is rising rapidly. People are increasingly expressing bewilderment and concern for the safety of their loved ones. Would drive-by mass shootings become a new feature of violent crime?

An even more significant problem is that the authorities do not seem to have a clue as to stem or stop the escalating violence. Apart from the announcements that the Minister of National Security met with the police top brass, no workable strategy has yet been devised to instil confidence in the population. We are stuck with the empty rhetoric of being tough on crime and the causes of crime.

The causes of crime: high unemployment and poverty levels, diminishing values of community, care and concern for others, increasing hopelessness and helplessness among young people, the get-rich-quick mentality of a significant section of our population, the selective prosecution of crime best reflected in the Owia woman tried summarily and given a slap on the wrist for possession of 60 kilos of cocaine all combine to stoke the crisis of confidence which is pervasive across the land.

Compounding this problematic situation is that the authorities’ tough-on-crime policy has resulted in alienation and, in some cases, deep hatred of the police. The arrogance and brutality of the police have resulted in it losing its most reliable ally in crime fighting.

Add to this the sad fact that few, if any, of these homicides result in arrest, trial, and conviction. Earlier this year, Commissioner Colin John disclosed that of the 42 homicides officially recorded last year, there were only 10 arrests. How many of these lead to a charge and conviction remains a state secret. It stands to reason that with such a slow detection rate, there may well be several serial killers on the loose. The disclosure at a recent trial that a convicted man asking fee was EC$1,500 per murder explains the very low value that some in our society place on life. 

The time has long passed for this government to do something tangible about our crime problem. Over 350 young men have been killed in the last 10 years due to gun violence. The response of the authorities has been dreadful. High-priced women, worthless young men, violent lyrics, and criminal defence have been identified as triggers for our rising crime. As we saw at the crime summit in Trinidad a few weeks ago, none of the leaders was willing to look into the mirror and take even partial blame. Are they not partially responsible for the social dislocation that drives much of the crime and violence in our land? Their ineptitude is so manifest that the time for action has long passed.

Why is it that in Spice Isle Grenada, located less than 100 miles south of us, the homicide count is so low? Have our security forces tapped into the minds of our Grenadian neighbours to understand why they have maintained control over their crime situation? One thing is certain: Grenada’s violent crime rate cannot be chalked up to pure luck.

Now is not the time for business as usual. Prime Minister Gonsalves should radically shake up the security team. He should begin with his removal as security minister. At the ripe age of 77, he should pass those responsibilities to someone. Not that such a change may make a fundamental difference. They may, however, signal a passing of the guard. In any event, a new security minister can be no worse than Gonsalves.

Additionally, if only for optics, heads must roll. Commissioner John, who has held the top job since 2018, should be relieved of the responsibility. He may have stamped his authority among his orderlies and remains fiercely loyal to Gonsalves, his sponsor. However, his ascension to the leadership of the police has had no noticeable positive impact.

The time may be suitable to hire on contract a crime-fighting specialist to lead our police. The central task of the police from now on is to repair its fractured relationship with the population. The motto of protect and serve must be emphasised. Zero tolerance for police brutality must be prioritised. Aggressive policing must be banned except for emergencies, and friendly community policing must be encouraged. Citizen complaints must be respected and investigated. Those who, by their brutality, give the police a bad reputation must be dismissed, charged, and tried if the situation warrants.

Finally, in the short term, a change in our political directorate may offer some hope. Anything but the status quo. The universe knows we can’t take it anymore.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

8 replies on “The killing fields in the Caribbean”

  1. Jomo, your commentary is spot out on. Every Vincentian should read your article. The time for continued waiting is over. Considering all the murders by gun alone and yet nothing has been done to stem the tide. I am a Vincentian living abroad but the government has to start taking responsibility and get some needed help to address this plague that is tearing our island apart. People have a right to be able to live peaceful lives. I don’t want to travel home at this time due to the madness. Just think of foreigners reading and seeing this as I have as well as other Vincentians in the diaspora.considering that tourism is still a driving force in st Vincent and the Grenadines.
    Imagine seven murders by gun in seven days and folks are asked to be patient for some action going forward. Time for new management.
    PS: I submitted a comment to this medium and has yet to see it presented despite nothing defamatory about my comments.
    Vincentians has a right to demand better.

  2. JOMO, the killing fields of the Caribbean?. Lets not get our nickers in a bunch. What it shows, in my thinking someone has dropped the ball. The intent of the government and the police department. is to used the criminal elements in SVG to control the population. Those criminals have grown to fast and to big. They have now become unmanageable, too much for the PM and the chief. They both have loss the political will to govern, control and illuminate the criminals. Believed you me those two are constantly , talking but to know avail. the headaches are ragging, they dont know what to do. Both of them must quit, capot, vamoose but they won’t sad sad. just saying

  3. Veral Blake says:

    No amount of policing will stop crime. The police have no controll over the heart of man which is said to be desperately wicked. What will reduce crime in SVG is transformed hearts which will love God first and foremost and will love fellowmen. Do you see people who love and serve God comitting crime? The more rebellous we are to God as a nation the worst our nation will sink into crime and other antj- social behavior. It is righteousness that exhaults a nation sin brings reproach which we are facing just after carnival the hottest sin festival jn our region . Veral Blakel

  4. Eric Balcombe says:

    Thanks for your insight on this very disturbing matter jomo. The fact that only top officials and people of certain nationality in st.vincent have a security detail makes you wonder what the rest of the population is worth. This is what you call organized crime!

  5. Percy Palmer says:

    Jomo your article was well researched and written. That meeting in T&T was packed with soothsayers who gave no positive ideas to handle the crime in the Caribbean. No one mentioned DISCPLINE in their speeches.
    They have all allowed discipline to retreat from the homes, school and in the backyard. Parents, teachers and others cannot discipline children these days. A cut arse is less damaging that a bullet to the head.
    Dr. Julia Hare tells it how it is……….

  6. Duke DeArment says:

    Yes! It is an undeniable fact that the police policy towards the treatment of the public must change, in order to even start to solve the crime problem. Because of the brutal behavior of the police towards the public, the police have lost trust. Strange that the obviously incompetent Minister of Security does ZERO to change this.

  7. Sandra John says:

    Jomo your acticle has relevancy as the calyponian in his rendition that St Vincent is not a real place. The comrade s a real machelivian, even the aurthor of this artice has been neutralized politcally by the comrade’s offensive that he no longer cmmands respect that he once had. The old adage that says” when your play with the pups you.get bitten by the fleas”. The ball is in Jomo’s court to salvage what is left of his reputation. Lets get back to the topic before us and the parts of the arttice that makes intuitive sense.

    The police Commissioner, Collin John who is at the helm snce 2018 is a real failure and dissapointment under him the crime rate has increased over 1000 times especially capital crimes. His assistant Bailey was cut from the i same cloth and some stated that they were infact chldhood bossom friends. Compentency at the job is what counts, not political loyality. Promotion to the top police job without merit as in the case of Bailey does nothing for motivation neither Collin or Bailey have can conduct an effective interview. Collin’s recent nterview with Calistra Farrel was a poor display of effective communication skills. Dont talk about Bailey his command of the English language tells it all with respect to mastering of the English language. Are these two fellows examples or products of the education revolution? If so the education revolution has been a dismal failure.
    A recent article alludled to the fact that quite a signifcat part of what is termed the Royal St Vincent St Vincent & the Grenadines Police hails from the comrade’s cnstituency and a significant part from John”s constituency. It points out to hirring or recruitment wthout merit. When the comrade leaves office and lets hope that the younger Kim Jung Un does not accede to the throne.There will still be a wild fire that will continue to burn for the failures that have accumulated over the past twenty five years of five in a row. It will certainly take the same amount of time to untangle the mess that the comrade has left behind. Indeed it will take a herculean efforts to extinguish the remnants of the bush fire of the past ladies and gentlemen boy and girls. Dont say that i did not warn you. Be forewarned.

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