Posted on August 4, 2008

Antigua’s Prime Minister’s Statement on Murders

Telegraph (London), July 31, 2008

Antiguan prime minister Baldwin Spencer said the murder of Briton Catherine Mullany was a threat to the Caribbean island’s survival and called for Scotland Yard’s help with the investigation. Here is the full text of his national address:

“Fellow Antiguans and Barbudans;

“Residents and Friends of Antigua and Barbuda:

“In a season which, traditionally, has been known for its revelry, pageantry and cultural display, this evening, I address you with a great sense of sadness.

“Antigua and Barbuda has long been a nation of law-abiding citizens and residents. We have come to cherish the peace and security that our nation has enjoyed and shared with our numerous visitors from the United Kingdom, United States, Europe and other parts of the world.

“In the past decade, however, we have been nearly overwhelmed by events of crime and violence that are alien to this part of the world, which, for generations, has been characterised by peace and tranquility; and I know that every law-abiding person in Antigua and Barbuda is concerned.

“Over the last several weeks, in particular, the nation’s sensibilities have been outraged by the continuing incidents of rapes, robberies, and shootings—most recently the wanton slaying of a young Antiguan pursuing studies in Cuba, Rafique Kareem Harris, and the senseless killing of a 31-year-old British tourist, Dr Catherine Mullany, and the shooting of her husband Ben.

“The nation’s sympathies go out to the relatives and friends of these victims and, indeed, all who have been victims of such violence. Beyond sympathy, however, I assure you that we will employ every legal measure to hunt down and bring to justice those who are responsible for the senseless acts.

“Fellow Antiguans and Barbudans;

“Residents and Friends of Antigua and Barbuda:

“The rising incidence of crime and violence in our society is of serious concern to your government. However, it is important to state that the recent criminal activities are not attacks on any government or any political party. They are attacks on Antigua and Barbuda. They are attacks on every law-abiding citizen, resident and visitor to this country.

“The truth is unpalatable to some people. But the recent killing of Dr Mullany and the brutal attack on her husband are threats to our very survival as they directly threaten our main industry: tourism.

“Our nation has always been known as a safe destination. Our very brand is based on people being safe in Antigua and Barbuda. “Accordingly, your government will not tolerate any action that will tarnish the reputation of this country. Your government will not tolerate murder and violent crime within our society. Your government will not stand idly by while any of its citizens or our visitors are cut down by those who have no respect for human life or the nation’s tranquility. No, your government will vigorously pursue every criminal and hold him or her accountable for their actions. But I must remind you, tonight, that you are an integral part of the government and, as such, you are essential to this fight against crime and violence.

“Earlier this week, I was advised of the arrest of a Jamaican who was deported from the United Kingdom to Jamaica, from whence he was deported, again—this time to Antigua—on the basis of a fraudulently obtained Antigua & Barbuda passport. Diligent police investigations have now revealed that the application for said passport and the relevant photograph had been signed and certified by an Opposition Parliamentarian on the strength of the documents of a dead Antiguan.

“No longer can any of us afford to give comfort and shelter to those who break the law and wreak havoc on the society.

“While our law officials are mandated to provide a greater sense of security to every resident and visitor, you, too, as citizens and residents, must place a greater sense of trust in them as they carry out their duties.

“You, too, must take personal responsibility and play your part in our fight against crime to ensure the safety of each other. You must report any suspicious activity to the police and you must freely offer information to the authorities. The police cannot do it alone. Your representatives cannot do it alone. Only if we combine all our efforts can we truly overcome this problem.

“This is my clarion call to all, regardless of nationality or political affiliation. Seventeen-year-old Ken Watkins Junior, all the young victims of crime, and their families and friends are depending on you.

“Fellow Antiguans and Barbudans;

“Residents and Friends of Antigua and Barbuda:

“It is a fact that this country has made significant gains over the past four years, and as a government and a people, we cannot allow lawlessness and crime to erode the tangible benefits and the quality of life that our country now enjoys.

“However, we need the help of not only every citizen and resident, but we need the help of our international partners.

“Year after year, we have seen a marked increase in the number of criminals being deported from the United Kingdom and the United States back to the Caribbean. Over 280 criminals have been deported back to our 108-square-mile island during the past 10 years.

“To any small island-developing-state, this figure is astronomically high. In ours, particularly, with its small population, these criminal deportees, with skills developed and nurtured in the US and UK, are impacting tremendously on our society.

“We, as the Caribbean Community, have raised our concerns with our international partners; however, the criminals are still being deported. In many cases they are being sent to countries with which they have little or no connection, except for the fact that they were born here.

“Every citizen and resident deserves to live in peace and security, and your government will ensure that this remains true for our nation. Over the past two weeks, I have met with members of the National Security Council to ensure that safety and security prevail during the Carnival season and beyond. I can assure you that we have recommitted ourselves to ensuring that every officer and every resource within the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda and the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force are mobilised to reduce and prevent crime and violence within our shores.

“Since 2004, we have instituted a number of measures to counteract crime in our country, and we will, necessarily, be getting tougher:

“Hence, it is the intention of my government to tighten immigration procedures and practices; and, shortly, we will take to Parliament legislation aimed at monitoring deportees to this country and deporting convicted criminals from this country.

We intend, as well, to revisit The Magistrate’s Code of Procedure Act and amend the existing legislation to ensure that fines are not a penalty-option in respect of violent crime, and that bail applications for violent crimes and the possession of offensive weapons will be returned to the High Court.

“Just as important, we will move to implement the legislation that governs the vetting of security firms and their employees.

“My government also recognises that illegal firearms are being used to commit various crimes across the country. Accordingly, in joint operations with the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force, the Police will resume the random stop-and-search of individuals and begin systematic searches of pockets within various communities for firearms and illegal drugs. In this regard, we will also be increasing our border controls by Immigration, Customs and the Coast Guard, which are the gatekeepers of this country.

“These extraordinary times and crimes call for extraordinary measures. As a result, my government plans to install surveillance cameras in strategic locations, and is considering the introduction of wire-tapping legislation.

“I am pleased to report to you, as well, that my government has made a formal request of Scotland Yard for its assistance in cracking the number of unsolved murders still on the books.

“While some of these measures may inconvenience some citizens and residents, we believe that the majority of persons, those who long for justice not only to be done, but be seen to be done, will welcome these initiatives in the long-term interest of the nation of Antigua & Barbuda.

“Fellow Antiguans and Barbudans;

“Residents and Friends of Antigua and Barbuda:

“Despite the recent occurrences, Antigua and Barbuda has managed, so far, to maintain a relatively low crime rate despite the Caribbean’s growing problem with crime and violence.

“Visitors from all over the world came to our shores for Cricket World Cup and for the Stanford 20/20 Tournament and were able to enjoy the games and activities in relative peace and safety. The same could be said for Sailing Week. We must ensure that those who visit our shores for pleasure and sporting activities continue to enjoy themselves in a safe and secure environment, and we must thwart those who would disrupt that peace and security.

“In a concerted effort to take back our country and recapture our sense of security, the United Evangelical Association, the Antigua Christian Council, the Independent Churches Association, the National Intercessory Network, and Women Against Rape will be conducting a National Day of Prayer and Fasting on Sunday, August 24, beginning at 6am.

“I urge all citizens and residents of this country to join this national initiative as we seek the assistance of a higher power to aid our earthly efforts.

“Fellow Antiguans and Barbudans;

“Residents and Friends of Antigua and Barbuda:

“In closing, once again, I express the sympathies of my family and the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda to those who have experienced, directly and indirectly, acts of crime and violence. At the same time, my prayers, and those of the nation, go out to the relatives and friends of Ken Watkins Jr; Rafique Harris; Dr Catherine and Ben Mullany; and other victims of violence within our twin islands.

“As Chief Servant of this nation, I pledge my government’s commitment to ensuring that our nation remains a paradise.

“May God bless each and every one of us.

“May God bless Antigua and Barbuda.”