By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — National security minister, Senator Hermangild Francis, says he is concerned about an implied death threat against him posted on Facebook, said to have been made by a Saint Lucia police officer, who he said was part of the controversial Operation Restore Confidence that resulted in a number of alleged extrajudicial killings.
Francis, a former deputy police commissioner, said it was “very stressful” to know that a police officer was involved in making the threat.
“I feel threatened because we are dealing with people who are highly trained and have access to firearms,” Francis stated.
The alleged threat comes just days after Francis apparently came to the belated realisation that police officers accused of extrajudicial killings during the 2010/2011 Operation Restore Confidence in Saint Lucia must be prosecuted if the sanctions subsequently imposed on the island’s security forces by the US under the so-called Leahy Law are to be lifted.
The operation led by the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) was conceived by the then United Workers Party (UWP) government to contain a violent crime wave but, following the operation, members of the RSLPF were accused of a number of extrajudicial killings that, in the absence of any official action to hold those responsible to account, eventually led to the US sanctions under federal law that prohibits foreign security forces credibly accused of human rights abuses from receiving US-sponsored assistance.
Eleven criminal suspects were allegedly killed by the police during Operation Restore Confidence but no one responsible for the killings has ever been prosecuted and, in fact, even inquests into the deaths also became delayed.
According to a report by Jamaican police officers under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), commissioned by a subsequent Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration, “Investigators reported that all the shootings reviewed were ‘fake encounters’ staged by the police to legitimise their actions… weapons were planted on the scene of the shootings… and a number of the shootings were done by police officers but were listed in murder statistics as attributable to unknown assailants.”
As Caribbean News Now has reported on several occasions, the US State Department has made it clear that the Leahy Law sanctions would only be lifted following credible prosecutions of those alleged to be responsible.
Francis said the government is now working towards initiating prosecutions in the matter.
The fact that a local police officer said to have been part of Operation Restore Confidence is now alleged to have threatened the life of a government minister is hardly likely to improve the US perception of the state of affairs in Saint Lucia.