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St Lucia: Government came close to declaring state of emergency

Published:Thursday | August 25, 2011 | 2:10 PM

CASTRIES, St. Lucia CMC - St. Lucia’s National Security Minister Guy Mayers says his Government came close to declaring a state of emergency here earlier this year when it was faced with a spate of rising crime, but was discouraged by the effect the move would have on the economy.



Commenting on the move by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to call a state of emergency in an effort to quell rising crime Mayers said his government considered the move when heightened criminal gang activity earlier this year resulted in 15 homicides during the first three months of 2011.



“We operate as a region so we are looking on with interest at what is happening in Trinidad and Tobago. And yes at the height of the problems we were having here earlier this year, a state of emergency in the hot spots was certainly one of the options that were considered.



“When you are going through that kind of difficulty you have to weigh all of your options, but we did not think we had reached a point where we needed to implement such a measure in St. Lucia,” the Minister said.



He said the crime situation earlier this year promoted law authorities to launch “Operation Restore Confidence” during which heavily armed police went into hot spots and directly confronted gang leaders and other offenders who were well known to the Police. Frequent exchanges resulted in the killing of 11 criminal suspects by the Police.



In revisiting the period when many in St. Lucia thought that the time was ripe for the imposition of a curfew Mayers told reporters that although serious at that time, St. Lucia’s situation was not comparable to that of the twin island republic, which he says is a cause for serious concern.



Mayers who is also the current Chairman of the Bridgetown based Regional Security System (RSS) which overseas security concerns for Barbados and the nine-nation Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) said that the implementation of a state of emergency or a curfew would have had serious implications for the local economy.



He noted that this was primarily due to the island’s dependence on the tourism industry.



“The situation in St. Lucia or even for that matter St. Kitts-Nevis which is undergoing similar challenges is different to what pertains in Trinidad,” Mayers said.



“St. Lucia is a country that depends heavily on tourism which is our number one industry, and you will be sending the wrong signal to the world if you are telling them that you have imposed a curfew because crime is so high in your country. Therefore one needs to adopt an appropriate strategy based on the environment,” he added.



The National Security Minister said that with Operation Restore Confidence maintained in full effect here the island has witnessed a marked decline in the crime and murder rate, and with an improved rehabilitation system at the Bordelaise Correction Facility inmates and past offenders have a chance of bettering their lives after prison.