EDITORIAL: All hands on deck
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 12:00am
MORE and more the issue of crime and violence is rearing its ugly head in this country and has become a major talking point not only among average Barbadians, but within political circles, with each side weighing in on the matter and giving their prescription for the ills that face the society today.
One Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) believes that Parliament should be reconvened from its summer recess, with the view of amending existing legislation, particularly in relation to firearms, to help curb the growing problem. On the other hand, a Government MP says that the penalties in the legislation are already strong and so increasing sentences by another five or ten years is not going to deter would-be criminals and gun smugglers. That MP further suggests that society and families are somewhat to blame for this growing problem, as they too often turn a blind eye to the youngsters’ deviant behaviour, then when they get into trouble, they act as though these persons never did a bad thing in their lives.
We do not intend to get in the middle of that debate, all we will say is that whether legislative amendments are needed or society is partly to blame, the problem seems to be getting worse and we need to work assiduously to get to the root of it. The issue of crime and violence in our country is no joking matter and we cannot be like the proverbial ostrich and bury our heads in the sand, hoping that it goes away. If we do that we may very well find ourselves in a situation like some of our Caribbean neighbours, who are recording an alarming number of murders and other crimes on an almost daily basis.
Compared to other countries within the Caribbean region and further afield, Barbados has been and remains a relatively safe place to live, work and have fun. Tourists to this country can attest to the latter, as crime against them remains quite low. But, we are seeing the development of some unsavoury behaviour across our nation and unless we take concerted steps to address it, it could damage the good reputation Barbados has worked so hard to achieve.
We do not want to tarnish that good reputation, as tourism is our main economic earner and if countries start to issue travel advisories to Barbados because of the crime and violence, we stand to lose out on thousands of potential visitors and millions in much-needed foreign exchange. The country then may not be able to recover from the fallout, which would send the economy into a deeper recession.
It is our firm belief that a whole-of-society approach is needed to tackle what appears to be increasing criminal activity. We all have a duty to keep crime down. Those who draft legislation have a duty to ensure that the relevant laws are in place and up to date to properly prosecute offenders; our law enforcement officers have a duty to bring the offenders before the court; and the prosecutors must work hard to secure convictions, which will hopefully deter others from following suit. Added to that, we the public must not be afraid to report crimes we know about.
All hands are needed on deck if we are to wrestle this problem to the ground and help to make Barbados the very best it can be.