by Ernie Seon CASTRIES, St. Lucia, May 31, CMC — Tourism officials on Wednesday expressed concern over the likely impact on visitor arrivals of a “damaging” picture of the country’s human rights status in the latest US State Department Human Rights Report.
Director of Tourism Louis Lewis said that as with any other issue related to crime, tourism authorities are concerned about the latest US state department report which cites police killings as one of the main human rights breaches in St. Lucia.
“When developments such as the release of the state department report … it diverts the board’s attention from efforts to maintain a sustainable tourism industry, Lewis said.
“It diverts us from the normal practice of promoting the destination and we have to instead get into mitigating the fall out of these issues.
“So crime regardless of the source, continues to pose challenges for us and while it is one of those threats that we would like to see go away, we know it will always be with us, so it for us to rally the support of the country as a whole and continue to focus on promoting the destination,” Lewis said.
The 2011 human rights report said there were a dozen potentially unlawful, fatal police shootings during the year, some allegedly committed by officers in an unofficial police task force.
It was a reference to allegation of a so-called police death squad with a reported hit-list of criminal suspects. The charges have been denied by both the police and the former and current administrations.
Noting that the Director of Public Prosecutions reviews all police shootings resulting in death and refers matters for inquest, the report disclosed that the 12 police shootings were all in varying stages of review, with three pending coroner’s inquest.
While noting that the new Labour administration took steps to expedite investigations and reviews of these cases, the human rights report said there was only limited progress in the DPP reviews and other investigations of unlawful killings dating back to 2006.
But in a reaction Wednesday, DPP Victoria Charles-Clarke said that there are several inaccuracies in the US report on St. Lucia.
“The reality is that every case that has been referred to me by the police involving a fatal police shooting has been reviewed, in some cases I have requested additional evidence, in other cases they have been sent to the coroner for inquest to be conducted,” Charles-Clarke told reporters.
Tourism officials said they were implementing a strategic plan and on Wednesday hosted a one day consultation to update its staff on the measures.
The plan addresses a number of factors, including the latest changes in world trends and their impact on the tourism industry.
“It’s really discussion of the strategic direction for the next five years, we have taken a look at all of the factors that affect the industry and also the performance of the tourist board as an organisation,” Lewis said.
He continued: “We are looking at what our strategic direction will be with regard to marketing, marketing intelligence, special events and resource planning.
“The whole objective is to ensure that given all the challenges that exist in the wider world that we remain effective and continue to attract arrivals that could make tourism an economic development that can continue on a sustainable path,” Lewis said.
The United States is St Lucia’s main tourist market, followed by the United Kingdom.