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Keep politicking out of fight against crime


Fri, Dec 16. 2011

It was so good to hear both Government and Opposition in the House of Assembly standing on the same side of an issue, the fight against violent crime. The statements by the leaders of both sides of the House, came in the wake of the police shooting of an escaped prisoner, described as “armed and dangerous” and suspected of committing murder.{{more}} The gun of a prominent citizen recently murdered in his home was recovered in the vehicle in which the wanted man was travelling.

Perhaps the shock of the murder of dental technician Ewart ‘Ells’ King and his own popularity may have galvanized public horror and strengthened calls for tough action. Whatever the case, the fact that both Messrs Eustace and Gonsalves could stand side by side, is a most welcome development in this politically-divided country of ours. For more than a decade and a half now, when the NDP was in office, and now, under the ULP, the blame for upsurges in crime has traditionally been laid at the door of those who occupy political office, whether deservedly or not. The charged, partisan atmosphere that we have experienced since 1998 has facilitated such narrow approaches.

This phenomenon is not unique to St.Vincent and the Grenadines. In neighbouring St.Lucia and in Guyana, where general elections were recently held, crime and how it is handled by the government were big election issues. In Trinidad and Tobago, where violent crime has reached terrible proportions, crime has long been a political football. Given the nature of our politics in the region and the lack of depth of many who seek political office, it is easy to resort to finger-pointing where crime is concerned. The irony is that, among the ranks of the supporters of the major political parties, are people who are not exactly angels themselves, while, as the experience of Jamaica has demonstrated, our politicians are not above flirting with dangerous criminals for short-term gain.

In response to the spate of crime plaguing the region, all kinds of solutions have been attempted, ranging from vigils and candlelight marches, to calls for a “Redemption Charter” and the establishment of “Crime Commissions”. None have helped to stem the destructive tide. Even the citizens of the region, who, when shocked by some heinous crime, and call for strong action, quickly recoil behind human rights considerations in the face of strong-armed police action.

The reality is that we are in a complex situation and there is no ready-made solution. We are all part of that solution. The causes of the crime wave must be understood and serious attention paid to the sociological as well as economic factors. Cheap politicking will certainly not help. This is not to say that either Government or the Police should be above criticism; far from it. It is the responsibility of all of us to keep them under the microscope and call them out when excesses in their respective mandates are detected.

As we move into the Christmas Season, perhaps this is as good a time as any, for collaboration between Government and Opposition on this critical matter of crime which is affecting us all. Agreement on a national Action Plan will be a step in the right direction.