EDITORIAL - Fighting back

In expressing his sympathies to the families affected by Monday’s mass casualties, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s declaration of two justice systems in Barbados is a stark admission that must be addressed with the gravitas such a statement deserves. He further spoke about the rise of the underworld justice system, maintaining that it has no place in Barbados. Most importantly, he urged, “We can’t fight this battle if we are paralysed by fear and we cannot win this battle if we believe that indifference is the best
response to it.”

Since the incidents on Kadooment Day, many persons have been commenting on possible solutions, ranging from moving the parade route to the ABC Highway to resuming capital punishment as a way of weeding out the bad apples. The Prime Minister himself also called for a multi-dimensional approach from Government, Opposition, church, home, youth organisation and every other such grouping in society to help solve the problem.

However, there are questions that we must collectively ask before putting any measures in place: if these incidents had happened far way from Grand Kadooment, would there be the same national uproar as experienced over the last few days? If the shootings took place in communities of lower socio-economic backgrounds, would we care as much?

Because however you dice it, there has been a certain hands-off approach from those of us who have not been directly affected by the gun play that has rocked the nation over the past months. The fact that it erupted in such dramatic scenes and with tragic consequences on a bigger, more public stage where innocent bystanders were wounded has caused for some deep soul-searching among residents – are some of us to blame?

School is a microcosm of society and for years now teachers and principals have been singing the same tune – some youth are exhibiting dissident and disturbing behaviours from a young age. Several speech days have not only focused on the positive achievements of children, but on the worrying trend of drug use, violence and other examples of deviance. Those from the ‘underworld’ can only win the hearts and minds of youth who are susceptible, who feel they have no one or place to turn to when they are in need of help – emotionally, financially or morally.

If we are to fight back against this violence, it won’t be solely through the judicial and legal forces; there must be another approach that influences and turns the tide away from those who see ‘thug’ life as glamorous, respectable or as a way out of poverty; where years ago, those same persons would have tried vocational or academic work to make an honest living and escape their circumstances. Going further, Chief Magistrate Christopher Birch has noted that respect has to be given to those hard-working, entrepreneurial young people who come from humble beginnings but whose occupations may not engender a high level of regard. If that is the case, it only stands to reason that some may turn to another avenue they feel rewards them financially and psychologically.

The battle is not only fought on the streets, by ‘cleansing’ certain communities of their illegal firearms and rounding up those guilty of Monday’s crimes. This particular battle will only be considered won when more at-risk youth turn away from this criminal underworld to seek their rightful place in professions and activities that lift the country and themselves. It is up to those of us who are in positions to help – whether by purchasing a product/service from an entrepreneur or lending a listening ear and timely advice – to do all we

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