CASTRIES – The St Lucia government says it has no plans to reinstate a firearm amnesty noting that it is moving closer towards the goal of a 45 per cent reduction in serious crime by 2022.
National Security and Home Affairs Minister Hermangild Francis said he was surprised at a newspaper article that appeared to indicate that the Allen Chastanet administration would implement the “‘guns for cash amnesty’ that had been in force here during the period 1997 to 2006”.
“I took umbrage to this article and the commentary by Mr Earl Bousquet because I have been at pains to indicate that I do not believe in the “Cash for Guns Amnesty” and for Mr Bousquet to say that the government is trying to bring that programme back is not correct and he should apologise for that statement he has made about me.
“I have never endorsed it and I will ever endorse the Guns for Cash Amnesty,” said Francis, a former acting Police Commissioner.
He said the article which appeared in the August 8, edition of the Voice Newspaper and headlined “Is the guns for cash amnesty back on track”? gave the impression that the programme was being revisited for implementation.
In the newspaper article, Bousquet wrote that Francis “earlier this week disclosed that the current UWP (United Workers Party) administration is or has quietly revived or is reviving the gun amnesty”.
“The TV clip I saw of . . . Francis making the disclosure did not disclose exactly whether the amnesty will involve payments and guarantees of no prosecution.”
But Francis reiterated that he is no supporter of such an initiative because there are other serious implications that can easily compromise its effectiveness.
He said the amnesty would normally create a lull in gun related crimes; nevertheless criminal elements would not very easily submit or volunteer their weapons and that his position on the issue has been consistent from his tenure as a former deputy commissioner of police.
“I just wanted to clear that issue because as a senior journalist that I personally held a great deal of respect for, I think Mr Bousquet has to be more precise in the things that he writes about,” Francis said, adding that the police are working assiduously to stem the proliferation of illegal guns on the island.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Chastanet says while there has been a reduction in serious crimes, a holistic approach to tackling crime is needed, including improving surveillance methods, increasing the police presence in problem areas, and upgrading the country’s judicial system.
Chastanet said an estimated EC$11 million will be spent to install CCTV cameras within the capital and that the police are also seeking to strengthen their presence in “hotspot” areas. (CMC)