Monday 24 February, 2020

Journalist apologizes to Francis for 'Cash for Guns' error

Home Affairs and National Security Minister Hermangild Francis maintains government has no plans to reinstate a firearm amnesty on the island.

Francis was responding to an article written by journalist Earl Bousquet in the August 8, 2019 issue of THE VOICE Newspaper in which Bousquet said he saw a television clip of the Minister making the disclosure.

Bousquet has since apologized saying that having reviewed the news item that gave rise to his article, he is now satisfied that his thoughts in that regard were not generated by what the Minister said. He further stated that what was quoted in the article was really a quote from the prime minister and that he might have unintentionally put words in the wrong mouth for which he will always profusely apologize, as this is not his style.

In the article headlined “Is the guns-for-cash amnesty back on track?” which was carried in THE VOICE Newspaper, Bousquet wrote, “The TV clip I saw of Senator Hermangild Francis making the disclosure did not disclose exactly whether the amnesty will involve payments and guarantees of no prosecution.”

Francis took umbrage with the article and its headline, saying the article appears to be insinuating that the government would implement a ‘guns for cash amnesty’.

Saint Lucia had a 'cash for guns' amnesty under the Saint Lucia Labour Party administration at a time when Minister Francis was Deputy Police Commissioner back in the 2000s.

Francis said the article by Bousquet seems to imply that the programme was being revisited for implementation.

The Minister said he is not a proponent of this type of crime-fighting strategy 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 but criminal elements would not very easily submit or volunteer their weapons.

“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 apologize for that statement he has made about me. I have never endorsed it and I will never endorse the Guns for Cash Amnesty,” Francis said.

Minister Francis noted that his position on the issue has been consistent from his tenure as Deputy Commissioner of Police within the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force to the present.

“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.

According to the Home Affairs and National Security Minister, police are working assiduously to stem the proliferation of illegal guns. He noted that members of the public should also report any information that they have on illegal firearms activity to the Police or call the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force Crime Hotline 45CRIME or 4527463.

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