Friday, 21 October 2022 14:44

St Lucia turns spotlight on Skillibeng after on-stage gun incident

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The Royal St Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) says that an investigation is underway into an off-duty member of their ranks, who was seen on stage with Skillibeng with an open-carry firearm at the Onyx concert olast weekend.

Videos from the concert show that, at one point, Skillibeng gestured to the rank and another security guard, to come onto the center stage. 

It appears the entertainer, who was at the time performing his single Badman, wanted assistance to get closer and engage with the crowd. That’s when the rank in question, dressed in all-white casual wear and strapped with what appeared to be a rifle or submachine gun, appeared center stage to stand guard beside the Crocodile Teeth artist.

The armed man also returned when the concertgoers attempted to climb on the stage.

The firearm was not a standard-issue weapon and was, in fact, a prohibited item, Assistant Commissioner of Police George Nicholas told the media during a press conference on Wednesday.

“That particular officer was not part of the approved list signed by the Commissioner of Police,” Nicholas said.

“The commissioner has advised that an investigation be launched into this matter and all the circumstances surrounding the officer being on stage with the firearm will be looked at,” he added.

Senior government minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire has also expressed concerns about whether the weapon had been authorized.

The Castries South MP also told reporters that prior to the event, which was held at the Daren Sammy Cricket Grounds in Beausejour, Gros Islet, on Saturday (October, 15), the police confirmed that they were not going to approve the concert.

Hilaire stated that the police had seen the event, headlined by Dancehall artist Skillibeng, as a threat to the fight against gang crime.

“We need to ask some serious questions. As far as I knew, the police took a position that they were not approving the show because the individual in question is someone who has been involved in singing, and promoting music that glorifies crime and gun violence. And I know because I was in discussion with the police force,” the minister said.

Similar to the recent remarks from Guyana’s opposition leader Aubrey Norton, who proclaimed Skillibeng as the “worst of Dancehall music”, Hilaire noted that the St. Lucia police have established that once someone promotes or sings songs glorifying violence, they will not be allowed to perform in the country.

The minister further noted that his conversation with the police at 4.30 on Friday, determined that the event was seen as a threat in itself because they were not satisfied that security was fully in place. “The police were very clear that they were not going to approve it on the grounds of national security and events security,” he said.

The MP is now focused on finding out who was involved in approving the event.

“We need to know who is that somebody and under what circumstances they approved it — What assurances were given to that individual to make that decision?” he stated to reporters.

Hilaire also expressed concerns about whether someone overturned the decision, as a result of being misled. He declared that if a promoter were to mislead the police, there would be calls for serious discussions regarding that promoter’s role within Saint Lucia’s creative space.

Additionally, the minister insisted that the nation’s creative space can not have individuals with open-carry firearms on stage. As such, he questioned who authorized the individual with the firearm to be on stage and whether the promoter informed the police.

The Onyx organizers have since issued an apology and stated that the member of their contracted security guards acted on his “best judgment” to have an open-carry weapon on stage. They also highlighted that it was an incident-free event.

“We take all public concerns seriously and wish to highlight that all safety precautions to protect performers and patrons were in full effect. All our security personnel were members of the Royal St Lucia Police Force. Their officers are licensed and authorized to provide armed services.”

 

“While we made no demands for specialized security services, we trusted that our contractors would exercise the best judgment based on their assessment of the concert’s requirements and their professional experience.”

However, MP Hilaire stated that anyone who goes on stage at a public event with an open-carry firearm constitutes an “incident.”

“To say to me, as the promoters did, it was incident free – so what is incident free? You mean there was no shoot-out, and therefore, it was a success?” Hilaire told reporters.

“It was pointed at the crowd. What if people had rushed the stage what would have happened? Would you have shot the crowd?”

“Why was it necessary for an open-carry firearm on stage?” Hilaire continued.

The minister now insists that someone needs to account for that.

“The promoters who were involved in this will have to account,” he declared.

Onyx featured Skillibeng, alongside Saint Lucia’s leading stars and Dennery Segment artists like Ezra De Fun Machine, Hollywood HP, Cooyah Fyah, and Sean.