Editorial: Immediate action … lift rug … sweep!

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Remember our opinion that the serious allegation of unwanted sexual advances being levelled against a senior male police officer in the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda required immediate action?  Further, do you remember that we opined that “in this case, it is not a single incident and the usual “sweep-it-under-the-carpet” “he said, he said” response is not an option for the Police Force” because “people are demanding to know?”  Well, we were wrong. We admit it. There, are you happy?
We were criticised for our naivete but we brushed-off the criticism due to the fact that there were four complaints.  We surmised that there were just too many individuals complaining about a single individual for the situation to be ignored.  It genuinely did not seem possible that in this age of the global #metoo movement, and the sensitisation of people towards the need to listen to people who complain about these types of behaviour, that we would have been told that an investigation would not be pursued.
We should have seen the signs, because the first hint that nothing would be done was the fact that one complaint was almost two years old.  The second and more glaring hint was when Prime Minister Gaston Browne brushed aside the allegations without an investigation. To hear the holder of the highest office of the land state, “you know anybody can make an allegation, it doesn’t have to be true“ was extremely disappointing.  And adding, “I am not aware that there’s any veracity to those statements,” was completely unnecessary. But while the PM’s points are technically true, the counterargument is also true. What if the allegations are true? Why dismiss the complaints of four men and favour the person accused of what could be criminal activity? Is that the reason for an investigation?
With the Police Service Commission refusing to talk on the matter and not committing to an investigation, they have suffered significant damage to their reputation as being impartial.  The red herrings being thrown around – that there are no official complaints before the PSC leaves the public to shake its collective head in disbelief. This is just an attempt to take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge of the procedures.  The junior police officers have made official complaints to their supervisors who should, in turn, refer the matter to the PSC.
Meanwhile, it seems that the chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Attorney Kelvin John, has decided that the public is not worthy of a comment on such a serious matter.  He has chosen to remain mum while the attorney general has pointed his finger in the commission’s direction and the prime minister said that he is not involved in any decisions taken by the PSC in relation to any possible probe into sexual harassment complaints against a senior male cop by several of his male subordinates.  Is that the hang-up here? Is it because this is a case of guys complaining about another guy’s inappropriate advances? If it is, then get over it because in the final analysis, the discomfort anyone may feel discussing this topic pales in comparison to that felt by a victim of crude sexual harassment.
We have been wrong before, but we do not think that this is an issue that is going away.  Too many people know about it and too many people want to know more about it. Justice may be delayed but eventually, justice will not be denied.  The likely outcome is that social media will lead to social justice and those that seek to sweep it under the carpet today will answer to karma tomorrow.  
Having said that, we continue to urge those in authority to do the right thing.  Do not dismiss the complaints as nothing more than “he said, he said.” Do not show the world that certain people are above the law in Antigua and Barbuda.  And do not take the final shreds of a tattered relationship between the public and the police and tear them apart. Mending that kind of damage is a near insurmountable task.
So while politicians and others play football with this matter, there are four young men that feel aggrieved and see no justice on the horizon.  Not even an investigation into their allegations. Others sit on the sidelines shaking their heads, convinced that there will never be justice when it comes to matters such as this.  And in the wider community, the respect for the police slips and the reputation of the PSC suffers another black eye. All for what? And we ask that question genuinely. Isn’t ‘investigating’ one of the key jobs of the police and by extension the PSC?  How does a serious allegation such as this get shelved for almost two years? Only in Antigua!

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