by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Following the 16th murder in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and the national address from the Prime Minister, Hon. Dr Terrance Drew, on crime, more have come out to condemn the upsurge in criminal activity within the nation.
The NGO Coalition made up of the St. Kitts Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Bar Association, St. Kitts Evangelical Association, Christian Council, Nevis Evangelical Association, and Christian Council, issued a statement expressing concern over and condemned the level of criminal activity recorded for the year thus far.
“Over the past months, the Federation has witnessed a distressing escalation in gun violence, leaving families shattered and our nation in mourning. These acts of brutality have disrupted the sense of security that is crucial for a progressive society and a tourism-driven economy.”
The Coalition expressed condolences to the victims’ families and friends while calling on the government and security forces to take more aggressive measures “to suppress and eliminate this scourge and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
“While we acknowledge the efforts made by law enforcement agencies, police visibility remains low; we firmly believe that more robust measures are required to curb this wave of violence. The NGO Coalition is committed to supporting the government and joint security services in their efforts to combat gun violence and murders. We urge all stakeholders, including civil society and the international community, to join forces in creating a safer and more secure society for all.”
Hon. Marsha Henderson, the Parliamentary representative for Constituency #2, Central Basseterre, the group of communities that have been identified as a problem area, in a national address, said that crime is not a singular problem but the culmination of societal issues that lead to criminal activity.
“Crime is not one problem. In fact, it is many difficult problems linked to one another, the solutions to which, therefore, must be linked in a strategic and unified approach. There is some evidence to suggest that many of the murders we have seen in the recent weeks were related to gang activities and retaliation. The fact that violence is gang-related does not and should not by any means reduce our grief. Those lost to violence belong to all of us.”
Henderson expressed that more is needed to address the proliferation of weapons, especially in her constituency.
“Our communities in MacKnight and Central Basseterre need more manpower and more resources. I continue, in this regard, to advocate on the Cabinet level for the good people of Central Basseterre. I have advocated for the increase of police presence in hotspots with saturation patrols for as long as they are necessary so as to ensure that our people are safe in their homes and on the streets. I have heard the cries of the mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers and neighbours who continue to reach out, and I share in your pain and grief. I have the full support of the Cabinet, and we have agreed to increase access to mental health services and mental health education through our public health system and community-based initiatives. Specifically, a special team is being put in place to assist our grieving families and community members with the psychological support that is needed to get us through these tragic and unfortunate events.”
The Minister also indicated that there had been increased patrols of schools in light of the murder that occurred at the Irishtown Primary School in February. Henderson also echoed the Opposition Leader, Hon. Mark Brantley, in saying that crime should not be politicised.
Opposition MP and Leader of the People’s Labour Party, Hon. Dr Timothy Harris, in an address to the Nation, spoke on the upsurge in violent crimes in St. Kitts and Nevis and pointed out that 23 homicides had been committed since the new administration took office.
“It is abundantly clear to many in our Federation that the Dr Terrance Drew administration is failing miserably in keeping our people safe. The single most important duty of any government is to keep the citizens and residents safe. This solid obligation for the maintenance of peace and public safety is an issue on which no one should compromise and for which no one should make excuses. The People’s Labor Party has also taken notice of the frightening reality that the Police seem unable to assure residents of their ability to curb the vicious, murderous onslaughts. We are going backwards in our maintenance of law and order.”
Harris added, “The incompetence of the current regime and its undermining of public confidence in the agencies of law and order [has] reversed our hard-won gains. The silence of the Cabinet has been deafening and unsettling. The members of the Cabinet appear clueless as to how to govern. Sadly, it is we, the people, who are at risk. It does not have to be this way. We corrected this criminal scourge before, and we must do so again.”
After criticising the government and noting what he describes as their inability to curtail the criminal activity, Harris asked those who commit crimes to pursue peaceful methods to resolve conflicts.
Leader of the People’s Action Movement (PAM), Hon. Shawn Richards, called on Prime Minister Drew to relinquish the National Security portfolio criticising the measures the Prime Minister announced in his national address on June 6 to help the escalating crime situation in the Federation.
“It is painfully evident that the Minister is ill-equipped for the role he holds, and change is long overdue. The alarming rise in murders and the unrelenting bloodshed demand decisive action. We refuse to accept half-hearted measures or temporary fixes. We must prioritise the lives of our people over political posturing. The time for change is now. And the responsibility lies with the Prime Minister to appoint a new Minister of National Security. One who comprehends the severity of the situation and possesses the competence to implement effective strategies.”
During a Press Conference with The Royal St. Christopher & Nevis Police Force on June 7, Commissioner of Police James Sutton announced some of the actions the police will be taking in response to the increase in crime, which includes increasing police presence in communities and in problem areas. Officers’ personal and vacation days have also been suspended, which according to Sutton, signifies the investment law enforcement has made in curbing the criminal activity in the Federation.