AG Wilkin: Peace Programme was “corrupt”

“The good people of this country cannot continue, or start to believe, that the Peace Programme was a good thing for our society. It was a corrupt programme.”

This was the assertion of Attorney General Garth Wilkin as he rose to address the “lies” he said were being told by MP Dr. Timothy Harris concerning the supposed success of the abandoned Peace Programme. 

The controversial programme, which was introduced by the Harris administration, paid known criminal actors to remain peaceful and call truces with rivals. Once the payments made from taxpayer dollars kept coming, the return would be reduced levels of crime.

The St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party was critical of this initiative which they posited was unsustainable in the long term and only a band aid solution for a much greater problem. 

Last week during the debate of the Firearms Amendment Bill 2024, Harris criticised the bill which was tabled by Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew. He also lauded his administration’s Peace Programme as being superior to the Labour administration’s move to increase the penalties for firearms crimes.

Wilkin said that the narrative that the Peace Programme was a success should not be allowed to take root as it was based upon “lies” being told by MP Harris.

“$60 million of state funds were spent on that programme between 2019 and 2022 of which $22 million is unaccounted for and of which $3.6 million was accounted for but syphoned off for cronies of the Member for Number 7 like his former permanent secretary, his brother, and other close associates. There was a term used today in this House, ‘Peace Dividend’. The only “Peace Dividend” was paid to cronies of the former administration, and the people must know the truth,” said Wilkin.

He also pointed out allegations that criminal elements who benefited significantly from the Peace Programme had used the money to better outfit their illegal operations. 

“A member of the management committee of the Peace Programme said publicly…that Peace money was being used to buy new and more advanced guns and ammunition,” said the attorney general. 

He also said available intelligence suggested that some of the recent gun crimes were retaliations over disputes about money paid out during the Peace Programme.

“The Peace Programme was corrupt and a bad thing for our country. End of story. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a stranger to the truth,” said AG Wilkin.

The Peace Programme was launched in 2019 by the failed Unity coalition which was led by Dr. Harris. It was sold to the public as an initiative that would open avenues for members of criminal groups to pursue legal activities.

The programme was heavily criticised by many for the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding it and poor oversight which opened many loopholes through which the initiative could be abused.

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