What If…?
R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
June 21, 2024

What If…?

As I ranged my mind through several possible topics for this week’s column, my thoughts were constantly interrupted by more reports of shootings and killing locally. Are we slipping back into a wild west-style existence with lawless gunmen on the rampage? Didn’t we just have an amnesty aimed at getting illegal guns off the streets? Surely, these shootings were not carried out with licensed weapons!

These killings can not but increase apprehension in the public about public safety, fears which would be heightened because of the Carnival season with large numbers of people, locals and visitors alike, moving about town and country. Of course, there are those who quickly reach for their political tar brush, their root cause for all evils in the society.

Others take out their police beating stick, hammering the law enforcement agency for both failing to stop these murderous actions and to apprehend the murderers. So how safe are we really? As I ask myself these questions, it dawned on me that we are approaching the end of the month of June and an alarm went off in the historical corner of my head.

It flashed back to the month of June 1981 when, in spite of impending Carnival activities there was widespread social unrest over some repressive legislation introduced in Parliament by the then government of Prime Minister Robert Milton Cato, aimed at curtailing both workers rights and wider citizen rights as a whole. It was not just citizens who were protesting, the country’s law officers were also at loggerheads with the government over long-standing claims for increased salaries and improved working conditions.

Can you imagine that? Even as thousands of demonstrators weekly marched the streets of the nation’s capital demanding the withdrawal of the “Dread Bills” as the repressive legislation was termed, as the threat of a general strike loomed, the police were themselves threatening industrial action, a withdrawal of their services.

That did not seem to faze the government which ignored the law officers, to the peril of the entire society. It reached the stage when the police saw it fit to make good their threat. On Tuesday, June 23, 1981, SVG witnessed the unprecedented spectacle of the shutdown of police operations. THE POLICE WERE ON SICK-OUT! As if to emphasize this to the public, for the first time the gates of Police Headquarters were closed to the public and the Magistrate Courts were without police.

To add to the horror the absence of police patrols that night led to a night of “Fear and Looting” as one newspaper described it, with business places in Kingstown looted. The attached photos give the picture.

But let us return to the present. Can you imagine what can happen, if we were for one reason or another deprived of the umbrella of police protection, for even one day, God forbid, as we would say. WHAT IF?


  • Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.