There’ve been sixteen (16) homicides in St. Kitts & Nevis so far this year.
That’s an alarming statistic, and an even more alarming reality. We can agree on that. We can also agree on the fact that our country’s high homicide rate is not new. It has been going on for a long time.
The obvious question is: Why?
The seeds of the problem were planted many years ago, nurtured by a toxic combination of local psychological, social and economic deprivation and the invasion of decadent foreign cultural practices, and never adequately weeded out by policy makers of the day.
Now, you may disagree with my inclusion of policy makers as being part of the problem. So let’s consider that.
A specific group of persons, called the Government, has the responsibility of governing, of adopting and implementing policies, and of helping to set the legal and ethical template of a country. And the levels and extents of lawlessness and disorder, and criminality, in a country are a yardstick by which we can measure the effectiveness of, and/or the deficiencies in, a Government’s policies and or its implementation of such policies.
Remember, the policies of a Government are its policies, and the implementation of such policies is its implementation. And when those policies succeed, a Government will be quick to take the credit. So it must be equally quick to accept blame when its policies do not succeed.
After all, the buck has to stop somewhere!
Don’t get me wrong. Citizens, both human and corporate, have a major responsibility in all of this. But, with that said, it’s Government that adopts and implements policies.
Now, let’s have a brief look back in time.
Leading up to the general elections of July 3, 1995, Law and Order was a critical issue in St. Kitts & Nevis. Some very serious crime was being committed, and the public was very concerned.
And the Labour Party, under the leadership of Dr. Denzil Douglas, rightly made Law and Order a top priority in those elections, promising to do something about the upsurge of violent and cynical crime.
That promise generated traction among voters, and, as a result, Labour was handed a powerful mandate, winning 7 of the 8 seats in St. Kitts, a quite emphatic attestation of the voters’ hope and expectation that things would improve under Dr. Douglas.
Yet, violent crime, and homicides in particular, increased over the course of Dr. Douglas’ 20-year tenure as Prime Minister (15 of those years also as Minister of National Security).
But the voters were patient, and, to be fair, some of them were distracted, and others desensitized, as violent crime increased and a culture of crime and antisocial attitudes and conduct became their ‘new normal’.
Eventually, the voters took remedial action on February 16th, 2015.
On that day, as they had done to Dr. Kennedy Simmonds on July 3rd, 1995, the voters decided that the Douglas crew had failed them, and that it was now necessary to entrust the country’s leadership and its safety and security to new hands.
Of course, there were other important issues in both the 1995 and the 2015 elections. However, on both occasions the issue of Law and Order weighed heavily on voters’ minds, maybe even more so in 2015.
Look at it this way: because of criminality in the country leading up to the July, 1995, elections, the voters handed out their punishment to the Simmonds Administration. And because of worse criminality leading up to the February, 2015, elections, the voters handed out their punishment to the Douglas Administration.
When there is high crime, and the Government is proactive and successful in combating it, then the criminality is brought under control and the voters, with their sense of safety and security intact, might be inclined to keep the incumbents in office, unless there’s some other compelling reason(s) not to do so.
But when there’s high crime, and the Government is not proactive and successful in combating it, then the voters, now feeling uneasy, unsafe and insecure, will remove the incumbents from office.
One way or another, therefore, if there’s crime, somebody gets punished for it. If the criminals don’t get punished, then the people do, because they’re the victims of the criminals. But when the people decide that they’ve had enough punishment, they may sometimes turn on the criminals and deal with them, but they always seem to turn on the political incumbents and, sooner or later, punish them.
Crime and punishment.
Whoever claims that Law and Order isn’t a political issue is wrong. It’s a major political issue.
Having said that, a Government has to be given a fair chance to prove itself on the issue. The Government of Dr. Simmonds had been given 15 years. That was a fair chance. And the Government of Dr. Douglas was given 20 years, an even fairer chance. But the problem only got worse.
So it’s a problem which may be at least 35 years old, maybe even be older, that the new Team Unity Government is mandated to tackle and conquer.
Now while we must hold their feet to the fire on this, we must also accept the fact that construction always takes longer than destruction. And it would be foolhardy to expect them to fix in 4 months, or even in a year or two, an issue that’s probably more than 35 years old.
Particularly ridiculous and hollow is the unapologetic and even bombastic attitude of members of the Douglas cabal who for 20 years prior to February 16th, 2015, had presided over, and must take responsibility for, the malignant, systemic and viral breakdown of Law and Order that took place in this country, and on all levels...from Springfield through the Parliament, through the Executive, through the public service, through the streets, and back to Springfield.
So the Team Unity Government deserves a fair chance, and some time, but not 15 years, to sort out this problem. Nowhere near that long.
Unfortunately, I’m not seeing, hearing or feeling from them any confirmation that they’ve adopted, and will implement, the radical, multifaceted, multi-ministerial, integrated approach that’s required in order to arrest the problem of violent crime in the country, on both the criminal justice side and on the social and economic intervention side of the issue.
It’s not rocket science in concept, and it’s not easy to do, but it’s very do-able. And in the solution lies much social and economic reward for the people and for the Government.
The question is whether the vision, determination and political will exists in the governmental mind, and whether our people and institutions are willing to make the sacrifices that are required to bring an end to this cancer of violence that has so murderously devoured and devalued life in our little land.
Here’s my message: if we don’t take control of the crime, we will all take more punishment. And the BBC reports will continue, and, yes, they’ll get worse.
This Government cannot allow itself to fail and to fail us in this time of greatest need. We’ve all endured more than enough punishment.
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