My Dear Watson
Last week was another of those weeks that challenged the nation’s soul. The decision by the US government to recall their volunteers and send them to St Lucia surprised many and raised a number of concerns.
The immediate reaction was to attribute it to the crime situation in the country, but to send them to St Lucia where the crime situation is equally bad discounted that. The reports coming through the media had missing links. After trying to come to grips with this issue I decided to adopt the persona of Sherlock Holmes and discuss the matter with my assistant Dr Watson.
This is the nature of our discussions. The first report via I Witness News quoted an official from the US embassy in Barbados to the effect that they were relocated because of a specific safety concern and not to the general crime situation. But If it had to do with a specific safety concern why were all the volunteers removed? This obviously depended on the nature of the specific safety concern to have justified such action.
When official explanations are not readily forthcoming, it leads to a great deal of speculation, understandably so.
Perhaps, the most sensational was carried in CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW. It spoke about the existence of a gang of thugs following reports that Peace Corps volunteers were US Intelligence agents. We were told that it came from an unnamed US government source, raising even more questions. We have arrived at a situation where because of the disharmony in our country we are inclined to believe that anything is possible here. The issue of Peace Corps volunteers as US agents has been around almost from the time of its existence but with developments in communications technology this is a non-issue.
The PM’s Press Conference on Monday gave an official explanation of sorts but left many unanswered questions, hopefully awaiting conclusion of the investigations. An alleged assault on a 70-year old volunteer seemed to have been the specific safety concern. A CCTV camera in the area apparently captured the volunteer putting her bag on a table near to the place of the alleged assault. The camera also showed the police later taking her back to the scene where the bag was originally left. It was collected with all her belongings, in -tact, except for a missing Peace Corps folder and an identification card with her US address.
Reports indicated that she went or was taken to the hospital where a medical report confirmed the existence of marks on her body as she had described. It isn’t clear from the reports how the woman got to the hospital and why she went without her bag. Was the bag placed there before the assault? An artist’s sketch of two men said to be responsible for the assault was provided by the police. The persons were described as being of middle eastern extract, which by itself says little. The dress of the two men, as described by the lady, stretches one’s imagination. We do not normally see people dressed that way around town, and at 7:30 am, they would have attracted some attention and be seen by people on the streets on their way to work. There is no indication so far that anyone had seen the two men.
The media reports also spoke of “angry and derogatory” threats being made against the Peace Corps and the US President. Obviously, what this appears to me to be pointing to, is an ISIS type operation. Are there holes in the woman’s report? Does the medical report not confirm that she was indeed assaulted? One awaits a more detailed and credible explanation of what happened to avoid any further wild speculation. There is obviously much more involved that stretches beyond the assault issue, but this, for a later column.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian