Political Corruption has always fueled St Lucia Crime
Gavaska Gustave, an Odsan resident, was fatally shot 12:45 Monday morning. His death, the latest in a string of murders in St Lucia over the weekend. There have been 41 homicides so far in 2022. A record 74 homicides last year. And with a 2021 crime rate of 40 per 100,000 people, St Lucia has joined Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, as one of the murder capitals of the English speaking Caribbean.
But Gustave’s fatal shooting does not begin to chronicle the bloodshed of St Lucia’s latest horror weekend. On Saturday, dead was 72 year-old Choiseul resident, Diana Theodore, found by police, tied beneath her bed, in a pool of blood. The Daily Telegraph headline reads as follows: British pensioner and her dog found murdered in St Lucia.
Shaquille Auguste (27) was killed in a drive-by shooting on Friday, in Babonneau.
Three homicides over a bloody weekend. With zero answers forthcoming.
These grisly stories have become almost daily reading for an increasingly frightened populace.
As usual, the phone-in shows are replete with litanies of posited solutions. We need a better equipped police force, better surveillance, stricter laws, better enforcement of current laws. Religious leaders must do more. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, please don’t mistake my meaning. There’s a modicum of truth to all of these. But oftentimes, when seeking answers, we miss what’s right beneath our noses. As history tells it, oft-written by our “Dear Leaders” in crimson ink and dirty deed; political corruption is at the heart of crime in St Lucia.
The Quicksand of Political Corruption in St Lucia
On 14 April 1981, a Member of Parliament made this pithy remark, during a House of Assembly meeting. “What is it about these government benches that once we sit on them we fall into the quicksand of corruption?”
George Odlum’s rhetorical question at the time, served as an ominous prelude to the end of the Allan Louisy administration. Odlum’s words had come, right before a vote of No Confidence in Louisy’s government (or budget to be more accurate). The much maligned SLP leader, days later, publicly announced his resignation.
But Odlum’s rhetorical question continues to reverberate far beyond the doom of St Lucia’s second post Independence government. As corruption continues to be rife in government after government. And as if to mirror their political counterparts, criminals grow more bold by the hour.
But back to the quicksand of political corruption.
A Whistle, A Mace and a Pilgrim
In November that year, (1981), Mikey Pilgrim, a stalwart of Odlum’s PLP had sedition charges filed against him. According to police, Pilgrim belted the following at a political rally, the night before the April 14th Vote of No Confidence. “Tomorrow, you will have the opportunity to take them [Members of Parliament] all together or one by one. If I lose my temper, I will personally see that Winston Cenac is killed. I am speaking of violence because today, in this country, violence is justifiable.”
Violence, according to our “Dear Leaders”, is justifiable. 74 homicides in 2021 proves St Lucia’s criminals agree with the politicians.
Cenac by the way; would go on to succeed Louisy as Prime Minister, not long after Pilgrim, on a political platform, threatened his life.
Two months after the Pilgrim sedition charges, during the Monday, January 11, 1982, House of Assembly meeting, Cenac, like his predecessor, faced more PLP led mayhem. This time it involved two whistles, a Mace and of course, Mikey Pilgrim. The ghastly scene, captured by eyewitness Willie James in his booklet Saint Lucia’s Turmoil. The whole brouhaha on that recalled occasion, demonstrated how St Lucia’s elected lawmakers, cared less than nothing for the rule of law. Nor did they blush at displaying that indifference, right in the House where laws are ratified.
But that wasn’t all the scandal in the House of Assembly on that fateful Monday morning in January, 1982.
In fact, the Opposition Leader John Compton, threatened a walk-out over a proposed bill entitled: Legislative Council, Contracts with Government, Disqualification, Amendment Ordinance. The bill ostensibly meant to amend a law that would have condemned as criminals, ruling government MPs who, according to Compton “withdrew money from the Treasury and failed to account for it within the specified one month, thereby contravening the law.”
“And now they want to make legal what is obviously illegal.” Compton concluded.
Corruption upon corruption and violence upon violence. All in our House of Assembly. All in one day.
Suffice it to say, with all the House Mayhem, combined with pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and the Unions, the short-lived Winston Cenac regime fell. Cenac was, in the interim, succeeded by none other than Mikey Pilgrim. Yes. The same Pilgrim who, a year prior, threatened Cenac’s life during a political rally.
Only in Saint Lucia.
Odlum, CIA and Libyan Terrorism
Anyway, in 1983, Compton, by then Prime Minister, was in the House of Assembly condemning “the insatiable desires of some politicians” who, “to satisfy their ambitions, seek to introduce into our midst international terrorism with all its bloody and painful implications.”
“The issue was Libya-sponsored terrorism” penned Rick Wayne in his comprehensive work, Lapses and Infelicities, “that according to the Central Intelligence Agency involved the leader of the Progressive Labour Party…”. Wayne further wrote that “in the run-up to the 1982 general elections, once trusted friends had confirmed the widespread suspicion, that not only had Odlum received weapons from Libya but that he paid for his palatial home, named Valhalla, with funds donated by Gaddafi for election purposes.”
Odlum should have heeded the very question he posed a year earlier, about politicians and the quicksand of corruption. Unfortunately, hardly a regime or politician has avoided that quicksand, with index fingers pointed firmly at each other as they sink St Lucia deeper.
Enter Kenny Anthony And The Promise To End Political Corruption in St Lucia
The UWP won three consecutive general elections in 1982, 1987 and 1992. For the bulk of that time, Sir John Compton served as head of government, dutifully deputised by fellow Party pillar Sir William George Mallet. Then came the UWP’s 16 to 1 landslide election defeat to the SLP in 1997. Mallet, still St Lucia’s Governor General, had the unenviable task of excoriating the government he for so long served. In his June 17th Throne Speech he said among other things. “Corruption has been identified as the number one issue in the minds of Saint Lucians. The extent of the public sentiment has found expression in popular culture, in calypsos such as Jaunty’s Bobol List that expressed in no uncertain terms the revulsion that ordinary Saint Lucians felt at the abuse of public office for private gain.”
Kenny Anthony, who many believed was the author of Mallet’s scathing Party and self-deprecating speech, rode into the Premiership on a wave of anti-corruption rhetoric. He’d promised to put an end to the corruption that had plagued the Compton era. And got off to a whirlwind start with the Monica Joseph Commission of Inquiry.
Blom-Cooper on St Lucia Political Corruption and Crime
After the Privy Council on December 17 1998, upheld the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal decision to disqualify Monica Joseph from chairing the Commission of Inquiry, the Anthony Administration appointed Sir Louis Blom-Cooper in her stead.
His report on the Inquiry speaks volumes. It reads in part: “The suspicion in the public mind that the machinery of government is not working, and consequently that corruption is rife, is almost as damaging to the public weal as individual corruption itself.”
“Saint Lucians should be assured that failures and malpractices in government, once identified, will not go publicly unnoticed. Saint Lucian sunlight on government has been too often clouded over by an unwillingness of those in authority to expose to public scrutiny the public activities of either themselves or of others.” (Blom-Cooper in Standards in Public Life in Saint Lucia: Report on Commission of Inquiry)
The promise in perpetuity by platform politicians to end government corruption, continues to remain unkept. Wayne summarises this fact in Lapses and Infelicities. “A full decade after the Kenny Anthony government promised in its 1997 election manifesto that “abuse of public office will never be tolerated and preventive measures will be put in place to discourage corruption at all levels” the initial matters set down for inquiry by Justice Monica Joseph remain, to quote Blom-Cooper, “clouded over,” whether or not by the unwillingness of those in authority.”
My Country Saddens Me
Speaking of Kenny Anthony, far from curbing the corruption he so vibrantly called out upon first taking office; a more than 14-year stint as Prime Minister, in three terms; had seen the country racked by scandals such as Helen Air, Helenites, and Rochamel. Not to mention the still unresolved Grynberg Affair, the scandal most synonymous with Anthony’s tenure. But it is perhaps IMPACS that will be the Anthony football fumble, that has most negatively impacted crime in St Lucia.
On March 8, 2015, in a televised address to the nation entitled: A Distressing Issue to Confront; Anthony put it bluntly that our crime problem’s “facilitated by corrupt politicians, government officials, business persons and police officers.”
Indeed, “What is it about these government benches that once we sit on them we fall into the quicksand of corruption?”
I’ll leave with one final quote from “Brother George”, who, in 1995 as St Lucia’s Ambassador to the UN, stated in an article entitled My Country Saddens Me. “The real issue is how can we save this tottering country, punch drunk with a lifestyle it cannot afford; that is ungovernable because of an iconoclasm born out of corrupt and inept government and a people confusing freedom with indiscipline; a country dangerous because lawmakers are indistinguishable from lawbreakers; a country hopeless because morality is beginning to look like a lost cause.”
How true these words have rung and continue to ring today about the crime in St Lucia.
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The bulk of the information in this article is from Lapses and Infelicities. It’s a must read for anyone interested in learning the Post Independence political history of Saint Lucia. You can buy the book by clicking the link here.