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Commentary: Prime minister of St Lucia on the Leahy Law: I've done everything I can do
Published on August 10, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Melanius Alphonse

In the third and final part of the Caribbean News Now exclusive interview with the prime minister of Saint Lucia, Allen Chastanet, he apparently admitted he can do no with regard to more Leahy Law sanctions on Saint Lucia.

melanius_alphonse4.jpg
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at melanius@newsnowglobal.com
The issues arising from Operation Restore Confidence (ORC), the Leahy Law sanctions and the subsequent IMPACS report have been dealt with in considerable detail in many columns and leading news reports from Caribbean News Now.

In brief, security force units in Saint Lucia have been denied assistance by the US under the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, joining such illustrious company as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia and Lebanon. In the case of Saint Lucia, this has produced an added hindrance to a robust economic recovery.

However, many have questioned why Saint Lucia, and what about the countries that are well known for human rights violations and/or extrajudicial killings but on which the Leahy Law has never been imposed? In our region what about Jamaica, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago?

A number of observers have complained that the Leahy Law has not been implemented in response to what they've claimed are human rights abuses by the Israeli military.

In February 2016, 11 members of Congress, including Senator Leahy, sent a letter to the State Department demanding a review of the Leahy Law be conducted after reports of extrajudicial killings by Israeli and Egyptian military forces.

For instance, in 2011 Human Rights Watch reported that the US "continued to aid and train Cambodia's armed forces including units with records of serious human rights violations – in violation of the Leahy Law”.

In the case of Saint Lucia, the current government must actively pursue a solution to the situation – something that has defeated previous administrations.

However, according to the prime minister: “So I’ve done everything I can do. In the feedback that I’m getting I think people have been very happy with the progress we’ve been making. We will be doing some lobbying on our own to meet with some senators and some congressmen.

“I feel that we are along the way. I’m not going to sit here and cry; we’ll continue to do what we have to do and hopefully the US at the right point will say, okay Saint Lucia has moved off in the right direction.”

Nevertheless, does the Saint Lucia government understand the concept and mechanics of modern politics and possess a global vision to solve this dilemma? Even so, getting there requires a number of proactive measures and not a wait and see attitude.

Notwithstanding the IMPACS report’s 25 recommendations, this still isn’t enough, unless there is a serious effort to address the underlying cause of the problem, raise credibility in relation to a measured response that demonstrates leadership in law enforcement and develop a comprehensive national security policy.

Constitutional and justice reform is conditioned upon legal efficiency, the protection of human rights and reinforcing democracy.

Looking forward to a new era, institution building and operational efficiency are paramount, combining a clear strategy, carefully crafted actions and systems that are legitimate and supported by an international policy capable of sustaining its legitimacy, supported by signature achievements.

Based on conversations with those in the know, credible efforts to resolve the issues must be supported by a series of deliberate decisions and communicated with integrity and influence to the US congress, in particular the foreign relations, judicial and the intelligence committees, to commence engagement and subsequently lift the Leahy Law sanctions.

Saint Lucia has to be sure it has an operational plan in absolute terms to lift the Leahy Law sanctions and undertake a realistic and successful path to assert itself as new and leading player in the Caribbean.

It is not enough simply to say, “I think that what Leahy was supposed to do, it has done. It has gotten the government’s attention. The government has changed its course, has remedied the situation. There’s no point in me trying to be defensive about what took place in the past. The programme that was run was well intended, there’s no two ways about it – Saint Lucia was paralysed.”

It seems to me that Saint Lucia is no less paralysed now than it was pre-ORC, this time around as a result of indefensible actions to correct the earlier problems that Chastanet now nevertheless tries to defend as “well intended”.

And while the prime minister makes a valid point in relation to the Leahy Law that “it cannot be that the penalty is making Saint Lucia any less secure”, talk must be translated into action in the shape of a comprehensive plan that forms part of the future direction of Saint Lucia.

Right now, it seems that Chastanet is borrowing from President Donald Trump (“Who knew that healthcare was so complicated?”) … Who knew that the Leahy Law sanctions were so complicated…?
 
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