By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES St Lucia – In a statement on May 11, the government of Saint Lucia confirmed an open secret, that the COVID-19 wardens recently hired under the preface of “the Peace Officers Programme” discontinued as of April 30.
According to the government information service (GIS) statement, “alternative options are under consideration for its 173 wardens. For instance, the commissioner of police is considering appointing select wardens as reserves after special police constables in the service are upgraded to constables.”
The announcement was not unexpected as the government continues to have financing and/or conditions not amenable to planning or prediction issues.
The wardens’ payments were reportedly late, leading to the outcry of participants via radio programs, pleading to be payed. In other instances, wardens were seen on video effecting arrest on nationals deemed in violation of COVID-19 protocols, and on other occasions enforcing the state of emergency and curfew measures.
At a Senate sitting on May 6, Hermangild Francis, minister for home affairs, justice and national security, “acknowledged the success of the programme since it began in December,” added. “This was a seven-month-long programme. It has come to an end but the government is actively looking for finances [to continue] because we recognize the importance of the COVID wardens, and so we are making allocations so that they can be paid [upon resumption of their duties]. We don’t want to have persons employed and two or three months down the line we are not able to pay them. We want to ensure that they are paid regularly like any other civil servant, so this is the reason why the project has been shelved for a little while, but we intend to continue.”
In an exchange on social media one commentator proffered: “A failure of a program but the minister will not see it so because he is not looking at it from the ground level, from a regular citizen’s perspective.”
The retort was … You’ll be surprised to know the number of households that benefited from this program. It can be debated whether or not the funds could have been used differently and have the same impact on those families. As to whether or not it was a failed program? That’s debatable. It’s just sad that we as a nation are so indiscipline that we need people on our backs harassing us to do what is right and then complain of infringements of human rights.”
The manifestation to deploy COVID-19 wardens aka ‘the Peace Officers Programme’ sent chills in many quarters. This also brought to mind the Castries Constituency Bill to provide for municipalities, the Castries Constituency Council (the council) and to establish the Castries city police.
For clarity of purpose, reference to an external published April 3, 2019, noted – Saint Lucia government to create municipality and separate police force in Castries.
Meanwhile, the government has acknowledged that it is “ sourcing finances to resume the seven-month-long initiative,” minister Francis, says, “he hopes that wardens can be incorporated into other relevant state services.”