On Tuesday March 21, 2017, the SLP put out a press statement entitled, “SLP EXPRESSES OUTRAGE OVER THE USE OF ARMED SSU TO DISCOURAGE PUBLIC PROTEST”. The sentiments expressed therein were also articulated by representative for Castries South, Hon. Ernest Hilaire.
This press statement leaves room for much speculation and brings into question the true intentions behind its release.
In the opening line the release states:
“The Saint Lucia Labour Party has expressed outrage over the decision of the Allen Chastanet Government to send armed SSU officers to patrol the DSH site to deter any public protest.”
By the evidence available, the police deployment of the SSU based on an online threat made on Facebook by one ‘Lucian Edward’ was never intended to deter any lawful public protest but rather to take preventive measures against the threat of destroying property at the construction site.
In fact, the Hon. Moses Jn. Baptiste in a post on his Facebook profile states, “I Moses Jn. Baptiste, state categorically that I am NOT involved or associated with any Friday action by “Lucian Edward.”
This is unequivocally a clear indication that Moses Jn. Baptiste wanted to distance himself from any intentions or actions by “Lucian Edward” who made the Facebook threat. Isn’t it therefore logical to conclude that if Moses Jn. Baptiste took it serious enough to make his statement, that the police were also logical in taking their action?
The SLP believes the action of the Chastanet government was out of proportion and hasty in response to a posting which appeared on Facebook. The Government did not send regular Police, to determine whether there was an illegal protest or sabotage, but instead sent a battalion of HEAVILY ARMED SSU officers. This is clearly an attempt to frighten Saint Lucians who are in opposition to the project. The SLP thinks it was a clear statement to Saint Lucians that any attempt to protest for the preservation of their heritage or patrimony will not be tolerated by the UWP government. It will indeed be a sad day for Saint Lucia for the Government to order the SSU to put the people of Saint Lucia under the barrel of machine guns, if they dare go near the DSH site.
There is no evidence to support any claim that the government had anything to do with the police action. In fact, Nicole McDonald, the Chief Communications Officer in the Prime Minsiter’s office, in response to a call from ONELUCIAN News stated categorically, “Neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the government gave any directive to the police in this matter.”
A call to Milton Desir, Commissioner of Police, produced this statement, “The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force takes all threats seriously. Based on intelligence and other sources, the police became aware of the online threat by one “Lucian Edward” and took the action it deemed necessary to prevent any injury to life or damage to property. SSU officers from the south were deployed in a roving patrol and made periodic stops at the construction site. We received absolutely no request from the government in this matter.”
Other information from the police indicates, “We had no application for, neither did we approve for any protest action or demonstration of any sort on the dates in question.”
The press release from the SLP goes further to state, “There is something very wrong when investment, is to be forced down the throats of St. Lucians, at gunpoint.”
How is this leap made by the SLP when they did not have any protest action planned or approved by the police? Wouldn’t any police action be targeting the entity making the threats? How does this automatically translate to anything being forced down the throats of St. Lucians at gunpoint? Is the SLP tacitly expressing support for violence threatened in the online threat by “Lucian Edward”?
In its final paragraph the release states, “The Labour Party is adamant that it will organise lawful and peaceful protest against DSH and assert the rights of citizens to oppose corruption and unlawful conduct by Government.
Why didn’t the SLP then take this opportunity to boldly and unambiguously denounce any threats of violence? Would this not have been the perfect time to score some political points? It is rather peculiar that such a closing statement was made when the gist of the release was regarding the deployment of SSU officers to a threat, and in no way targeted the SLP or their right to peacefully protest.
This evidently had nothing to do with the police action in Vieux Fort. Instead of using the opportunity to categorically repudiate any violence, the SLP chose to play dog-whistle politics with a serious threat. When regular citizens would have been pleased to see the police (SSU or otherwise) patrolling their neighbourhood under normal circumstances, the SLP chose to condemn prudent measures by law enforcement personnel by assigning political motives.
This release is nothing short of incredibly farfetched and misguided.
Official statement from SLP follows below.SLP EXPRESSES OUTRAGE OVER THE USE OF ARMED SSU TO DISCOURAGE PUBLIC PROTEST (2)