Sunday Express Editorial

The closure of the police investigation into the murder of Asami Nagakiya raises too many questions and issues to be allowed to disappear into the past.

It is not enough for the Police Service simply to announce that its Cold Case Unit has determined that she was murdered by a man who was killed by the police in December 2016, and that its evidence has been seen and accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Even if the case were not a high-profile murder, as this certainly was, any decision to close a criminal case should be accompanied by a clear rationale.

The public should not be expected simply to accept the word of the police and DPP without question. To do so is to undermine the very foundation of the justice system built on open trials.

To quote the words of English philosopher/jurist Jeremy Bentham, “In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing... Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice.”

The announcement of the closure of the case on March 18 was surprising because the initial investigation had focused on someone known to Asami. What eventually led the police to conclude she was killed by David Allen, an apparent stranger previously convicted of another murder, is a puzzle that should be pieced together for the public’s benefit by those who would have had to prove their case in court, had the suspect been alive.

If Allen did indeed murder Asami, then the entire justice system should be on trial for allowing a confessed and convicted killer to be out and free to kill again. To attorneys close to the case, Allen, a fraudster and killer, succeeded in fooling the justice system and beating it.

A profile of Allen by Express journalist Richard Charan describes a life of crime and cunning so deeply disturbing that it is hard to escape the view that Allen was a mentally damaged individual with psychopathic tendencies.

When, at age 18, he robbed and killed TSTT engineer Darryl Baksh outside a nightclub, he had disguised himself as a vagrant on a pavement cardboard bed, easily tricking any passer-by into thinking he was a harmless, homeless man. When caught and charged, he presented himself as everything required to seduce the court—a youthful, tearful, remorseful first offender, eager to cooperate and plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter, thereby sparing himself a jury trial.

As pointed out by Charan, the four-year jail sentence given to Allen by Justice Mark Mohammed was less than what some get for trafficking marijuana. In jail, he was a model prisoner who signed up for courses and so impressed and won over his probation officer that he was released in four and a half years—free, as the police have now concluded, to kill Asami Nagakiya.

If their conclusion is correct, David Allen was a textbook case in how to con the system and should be required study for everyone in the justice system—from judges, down.

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The problem for St Vincent and the Grenadines and other Caribbean small states is that they’re not poor enough.

By standard World Bank macroeconomic measures such as Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, they’re not as badly off as sub-Saharan African countries.

The problem for St Vincent and the Grenadines and other Caribbean small states is that they’re not poor enough.

By standard World Bank macroeconomic measures such as Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, they’re not as badly off as sub-Saharan African countries. It means that when the bank and other multinational agencies decide on the allocation of aid and development dollars, they’re given less access and fewer concessions.

Correctly so, you could argue. The poverty and deprivation I saw in rural Sierra Leone in West Africa were far worse than I’d seen elsewhere, including Haiti. Added to that, the country hadn’t recovered from a brutish civil war abetted by notorious Liberian warlord Charles Taylor—the kind that saw unspeakable atrocities, such as soldiers carving foetuses out of the bellies of pregnant women.

SVG, Haiti and Guyana are underdeveloped countries, but not as much as Sierra Leone. However, regardless of the facts on the ground or the numbers in the computer, the bank recognised that GNI per capita was an incomplete measure of a country’s development.

All countries are rich or poor to degrees that are macroeconomically measurable. But when climate change can wipe out some of them, GNI measures can’t capture that. Additionally, in the case of Caribbean countries, they’re set back decades by hurricanes, as Grenada was by Ivan in 2004 and Dominica by Maria in 2017.

A Caribbean or Pacific small island state can go from middling prosperity to poverty in the course of one natural disaster.

In a report titled “Small States: Vulnerability and Concessional Finance”, the World Bank acknowledged calls by countries in its Small States Forum (SSF) “to include vulnerability as a criterion for accessing concessional resources”.

It said that work needed to be done in defining a Vulnerability Index. That report was in 2018. And yet as I recall, the index was an issue at SIDS 1994—the United Nations Global Conference on Sustainable Development held in Barbados 24 years earlier.

“SIDS” means Small Island Developing States. That is a misnomer, since big states were represented. The sight of Fidel Castro walking into the room and instantly causing a rock star stampede won’t be forgotten.

The World Bank’s Vulnerability Index incorporates “small states” of the SSF, including Namibia and Botswana. Namibia is two-thousand times bigger than St Vincent, four times Guyana, and mineral rich. Their resilience to shocks is much stronger than SVG’s. Why are they even in the small states conversation? This definitional elasticity doesn’t seem helpful to the cause of SIDS.

From SIDS 1994, the UN crafted the Barbados Programme of Action. Top of the list were climate change, and natural and environmental disasters. It’s remarkable that the World Bank was still talking about defining a Vulnerability Index more than two decades later.

Climate change continues to be the main consideration, but the volcanic eruptions on St Vincent should reopen the conversation.

Most Caribbean volcanoes do not seem to be a present danger in the way that La Soufriere in St Vincent is. Mount Liamuiga in St Kitts, for example, is a great hike. When you reach the top, you can descend into the crater.

Nonetheless, The UWI Seismic’s website says that “there are 19 ‘live’ (likely to erupt again) volcanoes in the Eastern Caribbean. Every island from Grenada to Saba is subject to the direct threat of volcanic eruptions”.

In St Vincent, overseas relief kicked in to ease water and other shortages. But short-term emergency measures are not enough.

Here’s the bind in which small Caribbean states find themselves. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) told them that no, they have to compete at market price to sell their bananas and sugar. No more preferential pricing that recognises their disadvantages on economies of scale.

WTO regulatory insensitivity effectively killed these industries. In many Caribbean SIDS, all their eggs are in one basket. If that isn’t acute vulnerability, I don’t know what is.

For Caribbean SIDS, we should have been at a place where development aid allocation matches a universally-agreed index; and we have strategic, joined-up planning/execution from the UN, the World Bank, the IMF and others.

Small states partially compensate by playing geopolitical games of influence. Getting money from China or Taiwan. Throwing in their lot with Japan on whaling, to the consternation of their own conservationists.

It’s not enough.

Last week I wrote about how Montserrat has done since the 1997 eruption. They are a British Overseas Territory, but the British-funded rebuild has been sluggish. In my two visits in 2007 and 2014, little changed. I was told in 2007 that a new airport would be built soon. To date, it hasn’t.

However Montserrat’s former premier Reuben Meade told me last week that “the Brits covered all of our expenses for the volcanic situation during and post eruption”.

“They continue to fund some 60 per cent of recurrent expenditure each year”.

Meade said the task of Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of SVG, will be hard.

“SVG will need to find a donor to fund the continuing evacuation expenses which will be very high. Their economy will be in freefall for quite some time. It’s going to be tough for them”.

For SVG, mother country largesse is not an option. They’re nearly broke. Even if La Soufriere stops erupting and the pandemic is eradicated tomorrow, they’ll need smarter, long-term development engagement by donor agencies. A true measure of their vulnerability would be a good start.