Barbados is a really blessed place. In fact, it is so blessed we may be able to compare it to Eden — before the Bible recorded the sin of Adam and Eve, of course.
Certainly we can’t be compared to Trinidad and Tobago, where with all their oil wealth and booming export sector, they can’t get violent crime under control. So far for the year, not even nearly 100 days old, but already they have had to contend with 92 murders.
And certainly, we can’t be compared to Jamaica, where not only have there been an awful lot of killings, but in many instances the method of the killing appeared designed to evoke maximum fear in the population.
Now add to the list of “can’t be compared to” the supposed paradise called The Bahamas, where shootings are almost as many as named islands.
What could we possibly have to worry about when we compare ourselves with these neighbouring territories?
Two British tourists, a couple, were shot yesterday in the heart of our Eden, Bridgetown in broad daylight as they made their way back to the cruise ship that had brought them here just hours earlier. Imagine that: shot, in the heart of paradise on a peaceful Sunday afternoon.
No doubt, to stem the inevitable negative publicity that will arise from this episode in the British press, our officials will “do the comparisons” to demonstrate without a doubt that Barbados is a safe place — a safe tourist destination.
And maybe it is, when juxtaposed against some other locations. But we are fast becoming a shadow of our former self, and until as a nation we accept that and arrive at the conclusion that each of us has a role to play in outwardly demonstrating that “enough is enough” and we will no longer allow rogues and vagabonds to determine how we live or the comfort level of our guests, it will continue to slide.
There are persons among us who know who robbed and shot those tourists, and who committed so many other crimes in this country in recent times, but they refuse to inform the police, for whatever reason. We may flog the cops for not solving some of these crimes, but it really is a flogging that ought to be administered to the entire country because daily we see all kinds of wrong and determine that we are not getting involved.
How long will it be before it comes home in a personal way and we have no choice but to speak out — even shout?
And while some may consider it unrelated, we believe that the ease with which our leaders at all levels breach rules and get away with it sends a clear, but undesirable, message to others that they too can do the same. The problem is that the laws the “others” choose to break are often of the violent variety we experienced yesterday in the City.
We can bet that some politician/Member of Parliament will express horror over the City event, and rightfully so, but is it not these same politicians that continue to flout election rules by blatantly refusing to remove posters that should have disappeared since the night of February 20? Why has no prosecution taken place? After all, the posters are everywhere for everyone to see.
As a society we need to send one strong message to all when it comes to law breaking, regardless of the importance we choose to attach to the specific law. Just compare how we act here routinely with the action taken by the US Food and Drug Administration last week. That watchdog agency permanently closed Butterfly Bakery Inc. in New Jersey after sugar was found in its “sugar free” products and saturated fat found in its “fat free” items. In Barbados, violations of this nature are the subject of jokes, not serious action.
When New York was overrun by violence a few decades ago, the mayor determined there would be one clear course to a solution: To end the big crimes they would start with the little ones. If you were caught spitting on the sidewalk you felt the full weight of the law. Now compare New York today!
Yesterday, Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin employed his “big stick”, as he has referred to it in the past — the Special Services Unit — in a firm and decisive reaction to the shooting/robbery incident in Bridgetown and we support him 100 per cent. But, as has become patently clear just around the corner in Trinidad to everyone but the authorities, such action cannot be the primary response.
There has to be a national uprising against crime and lawlessness and against the perpetrators of such action, so they understand that whether they live in New Orleans or Fort George Heights, Green Park Lane or Millennium Heights they will be routed. Whether or not we understand or appreciate it the impact of crime will be felt by us all eventually, if we don’t act now.
What will we choose to do?