“A Staple of a Community’s Comfort, Assurance & Security”
Remarks by Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Affairs, Planning & Social Security on the occasion of the opening of the Babonneau police station.
July 22nd 2013
BABONNEAU, A NEW VERTEX
Ladies and gentlemen, a few weeks ago, a wicked and heinous crime took place in this community. A young man was brutally murdered and his body was dumped without ceremony, not too far away from here. Any act of murder is reprehensible. No killing can ever be justified save and except in those circumstances, the law recognises. But when the victim is young and his suspected assailants are also young, then, collectively, we become not only mourners but victims as well.
It is ironic, that this cruel act took place just days before this ceremony to recognise the establishment of a new police station in our state.
The former government has to take the honours for constructing this long planned police station, which we are about to open. This investment continues the ambitious programme of police modernization which the former SLP Government commenced when it took office in 1997. This has since led to a sizeable investment in the infrastructure to support the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
During Labour’s previous tenure in office, six police stations were upgraded, namely Gros Islet, Marigot, Canaries, Soufriere, Choiseul and Laborie. New police stations were also constructed in Anse la Raye, Marchand, Vieux Fort, Micoud, Riche Fond and Dennery. Our investment in the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force went beyond the infrastructure. As a government, we understood and appreciated that modern equipment and a well-trained Human Resource was critical to our crime fighting efforts. It is for this reason, the Government that I led, expanded the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force by over 450 trained officers, invested in a modern Frame Relay System and introduced stronger legislation such as a new Evidence Act, a new Criminal Code and measures to deal with Praedial Larceny and Money Laundering. We understood and appreciated, as we do now, that the sacrifice made by law enforcers to ensure our safety and security, must be complimented with institutional and legislative support.
TO SERVE AND PROTECT
This new facility is intended to serve and protect the growing communities in and around Babonneau. Babonneau is an emerging centre, and indeed we may soon have to start referring to a triangular conurbation of Castries-Gros Islet-Babonneau, with Babonneau as its newest vertex.
With a voting population of over ten thousand persons in Babonneau, this facility to serve the northeast is undoubtedly long in coming. We know, however, that the siting of this facility has not been free from controversy. Indeed, it would have been more ideal, more aesthetically pleasing if the character of Babonneau Junction with its road island was maintained and embellished. Put another way, while we seek to provide function, we should still remember it must go hand-in-hand with form.
Notwithstanding this, it is fitting that Government supports Babonneau’s expansion and development. Many families are looking to Babonneau and its environs to establish future homes. This station will, undoubtedly, provide further encouragement and comfort.
COMMUNITY MUST FEEL OWNERSHIP
Institutions of law and order such as police stations ought to have a net positive effect on surrounding communities. For that to happen, the community must feel ownership of and receive value from the new facility and the services it provides.
The people of Fond Assau, the communities at Garrand, Raisinard, Cacao, Girard, the inheritors of historic Paix Bouche, the economic enterprises from Marquis, La Guerre, Plateau, Chassin to Balata, Ti Morne and Cabiche will now be comforted by knowing that there is a Police Station a few minutes away that can now respond to emergency calls.
These communities can now benefit in a greater way, from community policing initiatives of the Police Force. This base can now serve as an early detection and prevention centre, dedicated to Babonneau and its environs.
POLICE AS CULTURAL AGENTS
Police stations are not unlike churches, courts, hospitals or other public facilities. They are institutions within the community, and so they must build acceptance and credibility within that space.
While the buildings are important, the people that use them make the difference as to whether its impact is felt or not.
The police officer must be part of the social fabric, part of the culture. He or she must be respected and beyond reproach. Always remember, that respect is earned; it cannot survive solely by virtue of office.
In fact, police officers must even see themselves as cultural agents, by promoting a culture of self-respect and respect for the rights of others, a culture of discipline, a culture of peace and order.
SETTING THE STANDARD
I want now to say a few words to those officers who are assigned to this station. In fact, let me introduce you to them:
- Inspector Ronald Philip;
- No. 275 Sergeant Arnold Jaganath;
- No 641 Woman Corporal Samantha Norley Aurlien;
- No. 316 Acting Corporal Clement Alexander;
- No. 547 Constable Nereus Lambert;
- No. 192 Constable Julian Henry;
- No. 789 Constable Semius Eristhee;
- No. 223 Constable Ain Polius;
- No. 492 Constable Murton Dornelly;
- No. 786 Constable Kenan Daniel;
- No. 442 Constable Orville Innocent;
- No. 814 Woman Constable Cheryl Leon;
- No. 445 Special Constable Edward;
- No. 214 Woman Special Constable Kimian Mauris;
- No. 430 Woman Special Constable Kasha Joan Bailey; and
- No. 241 Woman Special Constable Jane Johnson.
I say to the staff of this new station, Babonneau’s first police team, that your responsibility is indeed a venerable undertaking upon which you must set high standards. You must set the bar high.
Some of the principles of policing that should resonate with you now and always are that:
- Your basic mission should always be the prevention of crime and disorder;
- You must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public;
- You must seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law; and
- Finally, your efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
LAW AND ORDER, ALWAYS A PRIORITY
Ladies and gentlemen, the first duty of Government continues to be the maintenance of the rule of law and order. It should matter not which party controls the House of Assembly, or who holds the office of Prime Minister. Security of our citizens must always be paramount.
However, this tenet must also align with the belief that people are fundamentally good and only anomalous rogue elements, far in the minority, must be corrected.
Yet, we also must concede that the power of such rogue elements can be profound to a people, to families.
For instance, the discourtesy of just one badly parked vehicle on a busy street can cause serious traffic back up. The theft of one item like a mobile phone or a camera can spoil the entire vacation of a visitor, and their perception of our island. One act of domestic violence can cause psychological damage on children growing up in the household. One murder on an unsuspecting community as happened recently, can unleash incalculable pain and grief, not only on the family of the victim but on the entire community.
We cannot condone crime by our silence, by our inaction, by our turning away from the realities. We cannot condone crime, no matter how small, no matter how removed the victims and perpetrators might appear to be from ourselves and loved ones.
WE WANT A CRIME-FREE BABONNEAU
Crime grows fast in environments that appear not to be managed, or in places that seem to be forgotten or cast aside. Today, we must say clearly, that we want a crime-free Babonneau. We want a peaceful community in which you can nurture your children, in which your life, limb, property and other liberties are respected.
For instance, one phenomenon which we cannot ignore is the rise in gangs and attendant gun related violence and homicides.
In the past, we silently ignored the mushrooming of gangs in our midst, sometimes under the misguided notion of freedom of association. But since when an association established for criminal enterprise, to steal, murder and plunder at will is protected by our Constitution?
Today, the police have been working assiduously to deal with gangs and the negative gang culture that spawns anti-social behaviour and organised crime. We will support their efforts by enacting anti-gang legislation as has been done in Trinidad and Tobago and about to be done in Jamaica. In fact, in the last parliamentary session, we introduced new legislation to strengthen the powers of police in tackling gangs but could not enact it because the parliamentary session had ended. We will shortly be re-introducing this Bill to the House of Assembly for its consideration.
This is no longer merely an urban or inner city phenomenon. It has spread to encompass suburban communities as well. Officers assigned to this new station will have to engage the community in countering the rise of such groups. The networks of drug trafficking, mayhem and malice must be defeated by a network of surveillance, intelligence and smart might.
AN INSTITUTION ALIVE
Government will spend $71 million this year maintaining our police force, about 1200 strong. Yet, we know that such continued investment in citizen security requires accountable, transparent policing, for no one is above the law.
We all need the police, and yet we must all practice policing in our lives and communities.
We need the police not just when a crime is committed, not just during an emergency or natural disaster, not just during election day, not only for mass crowd events, not only for traffic management.
We need good policing all the time, as a staple of comfort, assurance, security.
This station today must not be allowed to become isolated, remote, far removed and uninviting from the people which it was built to serve.
It must represent an institution alive, interactive, intelligent and proactive in its duties towards crime prevention and law enforcement.
However, the maintenance of law and order can never be solely the responsibility of Government or the Police, but the responsibility of all society.
The individual has a responsibility to his or her self to uphold the law because there must be a belief that it protects oneself just as it protects anyone else. The best way to defend yourself is to support law enforcement.
The family has a duty to itself to uphold the law.
So too does the community, the village, the city.
Let us work together, support each other and be each other’s keeper to build a stronger, safer community and country.