Another Heather Cole Column – We Need Solutions to We Big Problems
“Babylon system is a vampire sucking the blood of the suffers.”
A drought causes cracks in the soil exposing what is beneath the surface of the earth. It seems that a 9-year drought in Barbados has exposed every problem that laid dormant in its society. Barbados has a crime problem that if not arrested will make life miserable on its 166 square miles, affecting not only the lives of the persons who live there but also inflicting reputational damage on the tourist industry.
Gun related crime has become a fundamental threat to the rule of law, the conduct of good governance and an imposition on society. The combination of these three elements suggests that gun violence is now normalized in the public domain. If left unchallenged, it is implicit that little Barbados will reach the ranks of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica with their rampant gun related crimes.
Over time both political parties have failed to take the necessary action to reduce gun violence. Their actions were never enough and have fallen short of addressing the source of the problem. However, society on a whole must be willing to go the extra step to eradicate this fraction of crime from the island.
It is not good enough to only have reactionary measures. For decades, we have thrown our own under the bus with excessive punishments when in essence the triggers were really pulled by some persons who live in grand houses far away from the turmoil that they created.
To date gun related crimes that end in murder have reached epic proportions and the entire island is having discussions about this topic. I have listened to the Acting Commissioner of Police, The Attorney General, Members of the Opposition and read statements by the leaders of two of the newly formed Political Parties on this matter. One thing that stands out in my mind is that this storm has created the perfect example of over-analysis of gun related crime in Barbados.
In their analysis, most solutions were to address a symptom of the problem. Very few persons even stopped to consider the real problem. When they did, some did not provide a solution.
We all know that some words can frame a narrative, while some can twist it completely out of context, causing us to lose the true focus of the problem. We also know that personalized narratives are specific and that the interpretation of generalized narratives varies according to who is reading it.
I listened carefully to the narrative of the Acting Commissioner of Police. It was specific but I realized from his statement that there is no holistic approach to solving gun related crime in Barbados. The Acting Commissioner’s focus is clearly on one aspect of the problem as he is now seeking to have dialog with other law enforcement agencies on the matter. It leads one to the conclusion that to date he has been satisfied to fight a battle while a raging war is going on.
In his narrative, the Attorney General was too generalized and not coherent. It was almost as though he was complicit to the crime of importing guns. He blamed the presence of the sea as an enabler to the crime. Then he spoke of addressing the problem of importing guns after the fact. I did not see the rationale for making a customs officers take a lie detector test after he had let the contraband into the island. The concept must be prevention. He did not mention any linkages of the economic deprivation and the growth of poverty as impacting or increasing gun related crime.
In my opinion, the root cause of the problem is the importation of guns. My solution is therefore simple, removing the importers of drugs, the persons who turn a blind eye to the importation or accept bribes, and removing from society the persons who sell the youth a false sense of attainment and recognition.
My solutions to this crisis comprise, an investment in body cameras that all customs officers must wear on duty. All items entering the island through the ports of entry and the post office must be scanned.
In these days of advanced technology, it cannot be too difficult to develop an application to track the movement of vessels in the sea that are possibly bringing in guns and drugs. The coast guard and its patrols need to be enhanced. The police must be empowered to go after people in high places who are known gun and drug importers. We as a people must not elect politicians who are rumored or known to engage in corruption. We must press them to ensure that the laws are implemented.
And what about our youth who are the targets of the importers? It is no revelation that Barbados has failed its youth. It is the end result of breeding discontent and hopelessness for decades. Every time one passes and sees young men liming on the block it is an acknowledgement of a failed education system that only awards academic excellence and throws crumbs or nothing at all to the other abilities.
The most vulnerable are now reaping what we have allowed to be sown. If we are all content to leave things just as they are and only make a public outcry when another person is murdered, we must change our Coat of Arms, removing the word “pride”, because there will be nothing left to be proud of 10 years from now.
As Elombe Mottley recently related to me, we must open community based avenues by which our youth can become recognized and feel a sense of accomplishment through sports, the arts and social activities. We can no longer choose to ignore the drug dealers and gun peddlers who are filling up their heads with a false sense of pride which makes them choose violence and reckless indifference.
In the final analysis, until we acknowledge the real problem, and implement meaningful solutions to deal with the problems as well as the consequences of the problems, we will be fighting a battle but will never win the war.