Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley is calling on the Freundel Stuart administration to offer concrete solutions to this country’s crime problems.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday night (August 9, 2017), Mottley said the Barbados Labour Party was willing to support the Government in any reasonable national security measures to remove guns from the streets.
She said the shooting incidents, like the one which occurred on Grand Kadooment Day that resulted in one death and 20 others being shot, could destroy the country’s reputation as a safe place, and the livelihoods of its citizens.
Below is the full text of Ms. Mottley’s statement:
About 48 hours ago, our country, and indeed our neighbours in the region, were shaken by an uncharacteristic display of senseless and lethal violence that left Barbadians and visitors to our national festival fearful for their personal safety.
At the outset I wish to extend my sympathy to the family of Taried Rock and best wishes for a speedy healing and recovery to all those injured and otherwise affected on Kadooment Day. I cannot imagine the pain that your families are enduring especially since none of you expected this end to your Kadooment Day when you awoke Monday morning.
Indeed, an occurrence of such magnitude in any democratically governed country would normally elicit the announcement of concrete plans ensuring that Barbadians may go about their ordinary business without having to panic or be anxious.
It is even moreso when the regional and international community are watching us as they are aware that we will be hosting our regional cultural festival, CARIFESTA X111, at the end of next week for ten days and persons coming to our shores will want to know that these matters are being addressed.
While we appreciate the moral message delivered by the Prime Minister and indeed the Christian Council, we remain deeply concerned that it is only the Prime Minister and his Government who constitute the Executive of the Country and who are the majority in Parliament.
In simple terms, the only persons who can provide resources to the police or the courts or the social agencies or partner with communities and civil society, or who can facilitate the passage of legislation is the Prime Minister and his Government.
What makes Mr. Stuart’s failure to provide specific concrete measures more troubling is that he is also the Minister of Defence and National Security. He is therefore doubly charged with taking control of the situation and providing the leadership that Barbadians expect of their Prime Minister.
In addition, we have had the unusual spectacle of four different members of the Government, including three members of his Cabinet, expressing their views and their desires. Views and desires do NOT constitute a strategy. Nor does elegance of language substitute for clear, defined initiatives or resources being provided to the relevant institutions.
What they all lacked, the Prime Minister and his ministers, was the consistency and the priority to be given for the necessary actions required to give Barbadians comfort at this difficult time.
In other words, what is the legislation that you will bring rather than have an Attorney General mull over the situation and options? What are the resources to be provided to a beleaguered Police Force? What measures will be put in place to modernise our criminal justice system to ensure that people face the Courts in quick order for crimes that are committed?
I can assure the Prime Minister and all Barbadians that the Barbados Labour Party is willing to support the Government, with the appropriate consultation, in any reasonable national security measures to remove the guns from our streets and tackle their entry into our island.
In our Covenant of Hope which we launched in 2016 we commit on page 26 under the Heading of Fiscal Governance that the first claim on public expenditure must be those resources necessary to keep our citizens safe.
We therefore understand the importance of a non-partisan approach to matters of national concern, just as we recognise that multi-faceted solutions are required to tackle an issue that is rooted largely in the social conditions in some sections of our community. The time for action is now. We simply cannot afford any other horrific incident.
The Barbados Labour Party’s Parliamentarians are ready to play our part to support any firm, fair and effective action to end the senseless violence that has claimed seven lives from sixteen shooting incidents between May 1 and July 31 this year, even before the incident on Monday.
If Parliament is to be recalled from its summer recess, as it was in the emergency ensuing after the fire at Glendairy Prisons in 2005, we will be actively involved in the consideration of all measures placed before the Parliament.
My call for concrete action from the Prime Minister is therefore not about politics.
Stray bullets do not care if someone is a Dem or a Bee, if they’re rich or poor, old or young. Anyone can become an innocent victim of indiscriminate behavior. Barbadians must be able to go about their ordinary business daily without having to fear someone attacking or robbing them. That must be our simple but noble objective. It is to Barbadians that we owe this first duty.
In addition to our enviable reputation for being a safe place to live and to work, we also have the same reputation as a safe place to visit and to be entertained. These incidents can potentially destroy that reputation and in fact, impact our two major earners, tourism and international business. These pay our bills.
As for Crop Over specifically, several people often book for the following Crop Over after having a great time at the one they attended. We only need confirmation of this from the back page of one today’s publications.
If those in attendance this year do not have the calm assurance that the Barbadian authorities can manage this situation, they may not be inclined to return.
This will impact everyone – from hoteliers to the women and men involved in selling from fish cakes to craft. Many are depending on that money they make for back-to-school purchases.
Similarly, there are those involved in watersports, or who drive taxis, or depend on car rentals. All are at risk of further losses.
This is why the Prime Minister must give leadership to this entire process. All of us as Barbadians stand to lose if the perception goes abroad that Barbados is no longer a safe place to live or visit.
I want to urge those with influence in our communities to persuade our young men and women in particular to end this cycle of violence. Indeed our entertainers have already done so. There will be no happy endings for anyone involved if it continues to escalate unabated.
While we support an effective and responsive system of law and order, I want to remind Barbadians we are also committed to re-introducing as a matter of urgency the training and mentorship programmes that helped our young people negotiate their passage to adulthood.
Of course, it is also crucial that people have access to a livable income and opportunities for economic and social advancement if we are to return to the social stability to which so many generations of Barbadians have contributed and were accustomed.
This is our Barbados. It is all of us who must now act decisively to preserve our way of life.