May 7, 2013

Layou incident not reflective of the spirit of Vincy Mas

Tue May 7, 2013

One hopes thaT the shootings over the weekend, which left two dead and two hospitalized are not a sign of things to come for Vincy Mas 2013.{{more}}

Our annual cultural festival was launched with the usual fanfare last Saturday. There were the usual whistle stop street parties, which proceeded along the Leeward and Windward coasts, converging in Kingstown at the Solidarity Inc Car Park, where the official kick-off ceremony and competition was held.

During that official ceremony, chairman of the Carnival Development Corporation Dennis Ambrose said an “unfortunate incident” had occurred during one of the whistle stops, which was not “reflective of the spirit of Carnival”.

Ambrose was referring to the shooting of two young men by police in Layou. Police say the young men got out of hand, but some eyewitnesses’ version of what happened is different.

In separate incidents, two other young men were murdered in Kingstown in less than 24 hours of each other. While these murders seem not to have any connection to Carnival activities, they came within hours of the Layou shootings and in relatively close proximity of each other.

These back-to-back incidents are worrying and do not send a good signal to residents of our country in general, or patrons of Vincy Mas in particular, whether they live here or come in from overseas for the festival.

The majority of people who patronize the various activities of Vincy Mas feel safer when there is a strong police presence. Over the last two years, except for isolated incidents at some rural carnivals, there have been very few reported incidents of violence.

Much of the credit for this rests with the police and excellent job they usually do during the carnival season. Their stop and search operations and strong presence on the streets and at shows have been very effective in keeping violent incidents at a minimum.

We, therefore, urge the public to fully co-operate with the police as they seek to keep the peace. At the same time, we ask our law enforcement officers to exercise discretion when carrying out their duties. While we expect them to keep a firm grip on things, we do not expect them to use more force than necessary in carrying out their duties, as has been alleged by some onlookers on Saturday in Layou.

Our investigations indicate that the crowd gathered in Layou was very displeased with the manner in which the police operations were carried out, and at one point, the crowd became so rowdy that the Special Services Unit of the police force had to be called in to provide back-up for the police already present.

Whatever the case, we call for the entire Layou incident and the shooting of the two young men to be thoroughly investigated. If anyone, whether police or civilian, is found to have acted outside of the law, those persons should be dealt with by the justice system. We agree with the CDC chairman that what happened in Layou was not reflective of the spirit of Vincy Mas. We, therefore, hope that with the co-operation of the public and the vigilance and professionalism of the police, the rest of the season will proceed without incident.