Saint Lucia
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Accused of planting guns at crime scenes by one PM, local cops now face multiple allegations of sexual misconduct!

If only for a few of us, there is an associated perverse pleasure in the sound of politicians pretending to toss smart stink bombs at one another. Self-convinced they alone know they’re aiming at the same soft targets—the particularly gullible among us who repeatedly elect them to office regardless of obvious shortcomings and suspect histories—they spit out their reptilian venom, unconcerned about the debilitating effects on citizens, the young especially.

Little do our bibulous bibliophobes realize the price for repeatedly betraying the people’s trust will, one way or another, be paid. As dearly as their similarly afflicted predecessors had paid. They continue to spew their poison, whether from profitably friendly TV perches, anonymously via social media or from the desecrated, once upon a time sacrosanct House floor.  

Recently, what appeared to be a letter bearing the signature and office stamp of the latest President of the Police Welfare Association, Mr. Cameron Laure, surfaced in the public domain. Dated June 5, 2023, the missive was addressed to Police Commissioner Crusita Descartes-Pelius. The first woman to be so honored, her October 2022 appointment was trumpeted from the highest ground by the prime minister himself: one small step for the police, a giant leap for the historically deprived daughters of Saint Lucia. Alas, barely nine months later Descartes-Pelius, presumably in pursuit of pastures less precarious, handed in her over-decorated khakis.      

Ronald Phillip, the target of Laure’s earlier cited June 5 letter, was on June 15 curiously notified by the acting governor-general that he had been appointed to act as police commissioner “for the period June 15 to July 31 2023.” In his epistolatory complaint to Commissioner Descartes-Pelius, the PWA president had identified Deputy Police Commissioner Ronald Phillip as the target of several allegations of sexual misconduct by female members of the force, charges that Laure asserted were brought to his attention by multiple sources soon after he took office in April this year. Laure’s letter was copied, as required, to the Minister of Home Affairs, Virginia Albert-Poyotte and “Prime Minister Philip Jn Pierre” [sic] in his Minister of National Security capacity. Also to the Public Service Commission. 

By his own account, Laure had contacted only four of six complainants. His association was authorized to act only on behalf of members. He did not say in his letter how the other two women, conceivably civilians, were involved in the complaint. Three of the four referenced in his letter confirmed they had complained before his time to the PWA, to no avail. All had expressed “immense fear of victimization and embarrassment.” They had also been “chastised by fellow officers deemed close” to their alleged abuser. Laure also claimed the former commissioner Severin Moncherry confirmed he had been “made aware of the reports through the PWA and that he had communicated with at least one of the alleged victims.” Milton Desir, another former commissioner, had allegedly told Laure that during his final week on the job he had spoken on the subject with Moncherry, who “confirmed he had knowledge of the allegations.” It is not at this point known whether in his own time as commissioner he received harassment complaints from the PWA.

In his June 5 correspondence, the new PWA president reminded the Commissioner Descartes-Pelius of the seriousness of the complaints and requested she initiate as soon as possible an independent investigation. He also “urged her to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of those who had already complained, as well as those who may come forward with additional information.”

No evidence was presented that might’ve indicated the PWA president’s letter was actually received by the commissioner–and the date of receipt. Did she proceed on retirement without acknowledging the PWA president’s concerns on behalf of his members?

It has been some time since a letter of the kind discussed here was leaked to the media—at any rate, not since the tenure of the previous administration, when official documents marked “Confidential” were regular television fare. Predictably, the public reaction in the latest instance was immediate and vile. Enough to attract the special attention of Richard Frederick, a lawyer and MP for Castries Central, perhaps better known as the host of the singular TV show ‘Can I Help You?’ During his most recent episode, Frederick seemed hesitant to broach the subject, maybe because it also involved minister of National Security, Philip J. Pierre. Frederick operates the government’s housing portfolio out of Pierre’s office.

He started out by informing viewers of his reputation as an advocate for women’s rights, contrary to what he said had been circulating on social media. He had five daughters of whom he was proud, he said. At least two of them were healthcare professionals. There was also, as he put it, the woman in his life. How then could it be claimed that he is disrespectful of women?  

It was none other than Marcus Garvey who equated a people without knowledge of their past history with a tree without roots. As for the invented past, James Baldwin considered it useless:  

“It cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life, like clay in a time of drought!”    

The show host-MP was concerned that a high-ranking police officer of impeccable reputation recently had been accused by Cameron Laure of being less than professional in his dealings with his female work colleagues—without a shred of evidence. Frederick also referenced a call to Timothy Poleon’s lunch-hour show by Severin Moncherry. By Frederick’s measure, Moncherry had laid to rest any suggestion that as commissioner he had ignored sexual harassment allegations. As if referencing Christ crucified, Frederick underscored the reputational damage Ronald Phillip and his family had suffered in consequence of the letter leaked to the media. He offered for public consideration the possibility that Cameron Laure’s letter might be associated with rumored political ambitions.  

Meanwhile, the prime minister was himself feeling the heat. Several callers to Newsspin (destined not to appear anytime soon on the PM’s awards list!) interpreted his near-silence on the matter in the worst way. It didn’t help that several weeks earlier there had been widespread rumors concerning his relationship with the officer at the center of the latest police scandal. In his own defense, the prime minister had taken time during a House session to share with the world via the internet intimate details of the officer’s life as a baby that contradicted some of the wide-spread gossip. Which is not the same as saying the prime minister’s revelations during a House debate had had the slightest impact on minds irrevocably made up. It’s hardly classified information that we are a people with, to borrow from the poet Charles Bukowski, “manufactured feelings and standard reactions.”

At the most recent House meeting the prime minister seemed magically to pull a manicou out of his back pocket. While debating a new Health & Security bill, this was how he approached the messy matter of rumored sexual misconduct at the highest levels of the police force. Not for the first time, he acknowledged that Cameron Laure’s letter to Commissioner Descartes-Pelius was copied to him. But before getting to the meat of it, he said: “Mr. Speaker, there are moves afoot to create confusion in the Saint Lucia police force. I cannot . . .”

He paused, looked down at his feet. Seated less than an arm’s length from him was his attorney general. His smile brought to mind Alice’s Cheshire Cat. If there were any who imagined the prime minister would reveal how he came upon the plot to destabilize the country’s only security force, he soon gave them good reason to rethink.

“I cannot,” he said, for the third or fourth time, and reminiscent of our reclusive DPP, “I cannot take any action, unless I’m presented with a case.” He recalled a time long ago when “a lady accused a government minister in public of inappropriate behavior.” For a split second I braced myself. Was he about to resurrect a particular newspaper series I’d written in 1992—when Saint Lucians were shockable—about a prime minister’s illegal entanglement with a schoolgirl?

“The lady was herself also a member of parliament,” said Prime Minister Pierre. From a public platform, she “proclaimed” in the glare of the media, that a fellow MP had behaved inappropriately toward her. (Considering the circumstances, did he mean to say announced, as opposed to proclaimed?) He went on: “She made an accusation. Not by letter, Mr Speaker. Not from behind something. The accusation was made in public.”

While the prime minister may calculatedly have chosen not to identify the referenced culprit-parliamentarian, it’s a safe bet his House colleagues, especially the famously omniscient Speaker, were well acquainted with the sordid details. As close to the political action as they were at the time, they had to have known, for instance, the accusation was “proclaimed” in the heat of a political rally, and that it had generated a deluge of embarrassing questions never answered. It remains unclear even now whether the lady in question had reported the assault to the police or to her prime minister Stephenson King, and to what avail. After all, she was an independent election candidate when she “proclaimed” during her failed campaign for the Micoud North constituency that her attacker was one of the reasons she had abandoned the party her dearly departed father had founded, and which was at the time of her assault led by none other than Stephenson King—now a senior minister in Prime Minister Pierre’s cabinet!  

He went on: “That lady was deprived of a job to which she was entitled.” Why? “Because she does not support my party,” said the prime minister in a foreign accent, conceivably Canadian, presumably an on-the-spot impression of Allen Chastanet. Or was he mimicking a colleague parliamentarian’s own impersonation of the opposition leader? “She was denied a job because she publicly accused somebody of inappropriate behavior. The leader of the opposition was well aware of these accusations. He was well aware of these pronouncements. He, together with all the ladies who have been portraying themselves as bastions of morality, were in the same party. None of them said anything, including the one with the rosary. They sat . . .”

He paused, wet his throat with water served him by his loyal attorney general. “These are the same people . . . Mr. Speaker, Saint Lucians must memorize these things. These are the same people who . . . they caused certain actions to be taken in the police force because they assume or presume the police officers do not support the United Workers Party. And that’s a fact.” (Even as he spoke without validation of a strained relationship between the police and opposition MPs, the internet was flooded with various imaginative reports and grotesque videos depicting a customs official bleeding profusely behind the wheel of his car, the latest victim of a drive-by shooter! Presumably, the news had not yet reached the prime minister. Otherwise he might’ve given it precedence over the decade-old story of the concupiscent minister who allegedly could not keep his hands to himself!)

He turned abruptly to Facebook and its several published accusations against him before revisiting “the prominent lady” who was harassed, physically harassed, and molested. “They said nothing about it. They like unknown people better than people of their own party.” The prime minister reminded the House he had already made clear that “there should be no sexual harassment in the workplace.” But he could not in good conscience investigate when no case has been brought to him. “I cannot and will not,” he fumed. “Otherwise, I will look a fool because I’d just be . . . just be . . . in the dark!” He acknowledged there were actions to be taken by a lady violated. Actions he fully supports. “But the fact is,” he shrugged, “none of the accusations have been made to me. Or to the commissioner. A woman!”

A gentle reminder: the earlier cited letter from the PWA referenced reported complaints by six females. It was Commissioner Descartes-Pelius who was asked to investigate the serious allegations, not Prime Minister Pierre. And certainly not the Home Affairs Minister, whom a significant section of the force would prefer to see attending to affairs at her own home. So much for the notion that our country would do a whole lot better if hens ruled the national roost. It is somewhat discombobulating that the last mentioned two members of government, and the Public Service Commission, would go ahead with a planned police appointment never mind the unresolved serious allegations hanging over the candidate’s head.

Meanwhile, I am reliably informed that at least two female officers have made written statements under oath. Should they decide, as others before them have done, to abandon for whatever reasons their pursuit of justice in this depressing matter, it may be worth reminding all concerned that the recently strengthened domestic violence bill empowers the authorities to act regardless. Meanwhile, look out for Part 2 of this series!