Editorial: A possible useful recourse?
There has been, for certain, no shortage of suggestions or initiatives as to how the country should cope with the current unnerving spate of gun crime. Officialdom has responded cosmetically by re-allocating the portfolio of the protection of civic order from its recent repository in the Ministry of Home Affairs back to its traditional home in the Office of the Attorney General. Joint patrols of the police officers and members of the Defence Force have resumed, now on a more sustained basis. Both the Honourable Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet have directed words of warning and of supplication respectively to the faceless perpetrators.
In addition, the governing administration has sought to engage the services of the more recent former Commissioners of Police, one only of whom was available, as consultants to assist in quelling the current scourge. There have been calls for expertise in criminology. We have even sought divine intervention by designating one recent weekend as a period for national prayer against the criminality. And, of course, the Force itself would have designed response strategies of its own, although, for obvious reasons, these are unlikely to be exposed for public examination.
In all the current excitement however, a piece of legislation, controversial in its introduction, but, nevertheless, firmly ensconced on the statute books as the Police (Amendment) Act 2018, (assented to by the Governor General on February 9 last year) seems to have been forgotten. That it was one of the last legislative efforts by the outgone Democratic Labour Party administration serves only to add to its unpopularity with the current regime, apart from the actuality that its provisions were generally widely condemned, politically and otherwise, as being unnecessarily draconian.
Indeed, as we recall, there were even suggestions that this enactment was all part of a wider scheme by the DLP administration to cement itself in power and to declare a state of national emergency.
Now that the cold light of reason and history has exposed these unwarranted claims for what they were, and given the existence of the law, a wise administration might consider whether its provisions might not assist with the current spate of gun crime that, as some would have it, is mainly the consequence of a fight for turf among rival communities.
In this context, the provision of the Act for, inter alia, the imposition of curfews or special investigation periods in designated areas, increased police powers of the stop and search of individuals, and the establishment of cordons sanitaires in any area of Barbados fits neatly into what may now be needed to treat the problem as publicly diagnosed.
We are aware, however, that any such application of the Act at this stage might well appear to be a U-turn by the same administration which spoke so passionately and eloquently against its passage when in Opposition. At the same time, however, we believe that this matter is to be set above partisan politics since it concerns the safety and security of the citizenry.
We would therefore be interested in hearing the views of the high command of the Royal Barbados Police Force on the potential efficacy of the measures provided in the Police (Amendment) Act for dealing with the current situation.