The tourism minister in St. Lucia has apologized to three gay men – two from Atlanta – who were attacked and robbed while vacationing there as police announced the arrest of two suspects.
Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet called the attack “unacceptable behavior and our destination will not tolerate it,” according to the Associated Press.
The St. Lucia government also issued a statement, offering “sincere apologies” and a speedy recovery to the three men.
St Lucia does not condone such acts of violence appeared to be perpetrated by individuals whose views do not reflect sentiments of the majority of law-abiding citizens.
Whether or not this crime was motivated by anti-gay sentiment, or during the course of robbery, it is none-the-less unacceptable behaviour and our destination will not tolerate it. Our law enforcement authorities are pursuing this matter relentlessly.
We are saddened by the experience these three men suffered while staying with us, and while horrible crimes such as these can happen anywhere across the globe, we are deeply disappointed that it should have happened here. Our authorities will continue to provide updates on the police investigation.
Earlier this month, two gay men from Atlanta and another South Carolina were attacked and robbed at gunpoint while they were vacationing in on the Caribbean getaway. The two Atlanta men—Michael Baker, advancement director for HIV non-profit Positive Impact; and freelance writer Todd Wiggins, who is a founder of the AIDS Vaccine 200 – described the attack in explicit detail in Internet postings.
The men were attacked as they readied for dinner in a one-room mountain-top cottage Wiggins had rented in St. Lucia. Baker was on the trip with boyfriend Nick Smith. Tom Richman, Wiggins’ partner, was away in Seattle on business at the time of the attack.
On Monday, police said they have arrested two men in connection with the attack and are searching for three more. The robbers took about $1,800 in case and personal items, including two laptops and a watch. The men were injured in the attack and have said it was, in part, motivated by anti-gay bias.
“I have suffered a concussion, and both Todd and I had several stitches at the St. Lucia hospital,” Baker told the Associated Press. “We have not been notified by any St. Lucian authorities about arrests made. Additionally, our items, to the best of our knowledge, have not been returned.”
Wiggins, though, criticized coverage of the incident by gay media outlets.
“I feel that the gay media rushed to declare this a hate crime and the St. Lucian police and government officials rushed to dismiss the possibility that any part of the incident was a hate crime,” he told AP.
Tourism officials in St. Lucia have said the getaway is safe for gay visitors. But in 2008, the U.S. State Department cited long delays in trials and sentencing, violence against women, child abuse, discrimination against people with HIV, and “widespread social discrimination against homosexuals” in a report on human rights practices in St. Lucia.
Chastanet said the incident could tarnish the island’s reputation, according to the Jamaica Observer.
One of the sensitive issues in this regard is that two of the gentlemen are gay and there were some discriminatory remarks which were made to them, and which obviously offended them tremendously. Given the fact that homosexuality is against the law in St Lucia, the visitors harboured concerns about going to the police.
Photos via Facebook: Nick Smith and Michael Baker (top, left to right) in St. Lucia; Todd Wiggins and Tom Richland (second photo, left to right) in St. Lucia