BVI News

BVI regional position questioned in prison outrage

Alva Baptiste. Photo Credit: Stan Bishop

Governor Augustus Jaspert has hinted that the 21 prisoners sent to St Lucia after Hurricane Irma damaged Her Majesty’s Prison are likely to remain in that country possibly for nine months, but some St Lucians are still not happy that their government opted to accept high-risk prisoners instead of otherwise helping the hurricane-battered British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The BVI sent the prisoners after St Lucian Prime Minister Allen Chastanet offered to accept them; this after the BVI’s only correctional facility was severely damaged, resulting in what authorities claimed was a massive prison break.

Meanwhile, Alva Baptiste, who is an opposition parliamentarian and former minister for external affairs in St Lucia, has become the latest high-profile citizen to lash out against the decision to accept the BVI prisoners. According to him, it was a knee-jerk reaction to impress the international community.

Baptiste also claimed that, based on information he has received, some of the BVI prisoners are extremely rude to prison authorities.

“I don’t think that should have been our priority [to accept the prisoners], and I have been told that some of those prisoners are extremely rude; they are extremely disrespectful to the staff at the Bordelais Correctional Facility; and I don’t think we should develop any tolerance for this type of foolishness,” Baptiste said.

He, in a news story aired on MBC Television in St Lucia, also questioned the assistance being offered, adding that the BVI is not a full member of either the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) or CARICOM. The BVI, which is still owned by Britain, is merely an associate member of both blocs.

“I heard a few people trying to compare the BVI situation to the Grenada situation; that after the hurricane we took in prisoners from Grenada. Grenada is part of the OECS,” Baptiste reasoned, adding that both St Lucia and Grenada share the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, and they co-operate on several matters through their full membership of CARICOM.

“Even going to the BVI as a St Lucian, unless you can show a certain amount of money coming into the BVI, you are not going to be allowed entry – based on what many St Lucians have told me about going to the BVI,” Baptiste further claimed.

Prior to this addition to the controversy, there was a fiery debate among St Lucians who think they were not told the full truth – that most of the BVI prisoners are high-risk. A number of them are convicted of serious offences ranging from gun possession to attempted murder and murder.

Meanwhile, during a press conference early this month, the BVI governor, Jaspert, was asked how long his prisoners will remain in St Lucia.

“For now, I estimate that we will take about six or nine months. But it (work on the prison) is something we are prioritizing,” he replied.

The St Lucian prime minister, Chastanet, previously gave an assurance that the BVI prisoners will not pose any threat to national security. “Let me take the opportunity to assure all St Lucians that your security is not being put at risk. But I think this is the humane thing for us to have done at a time when our brothers and sisters and our friends and family need us the most. It is the most important time for us to stand up and be counted,” he said recently. Prime Minister Chastanet is also the current chairman of the OECS.

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