Govt minister, priest troubled by recent gun incident at Westbury cemetery
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler today joined with a local Anglican cleric in expressing alarm over a recent gun incident at the graveside a funeral, which the senior Government official said underscored the problem of small arms entry into Barbados.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a private function held this evening, Sinckler said both as a citizen and a member of the Freundel Stuart administration he was deeply troubled that there seemed to be “a plethora of small arms in Barbados so readily available and so easily carried by individuals”.
“It is of very deep concern I know to the whole Government and to all of us as citizens. We don’t manufacture guns here so it means it has to be coming from somewhere,” said Sinckler, adding, “what is troubling to all of us is how easily it seems as though these deadly weapons can find their way into Barbados and then into the hands of the wrong people. So we have to be very concerned.”
The Minister of Finance, who as the minister with responsibility for the Customs department has oversight of border security, said the agency was working with the security forces “to try and beef our inspection and work at the borders, both airport and seaport, particularly where cargo is concerned to ensure we put some kind of halt to this seemingly free-flow of weapons in the country”.
Commenting on Monday’s publicized incident, which occurred at Westbury Cemetery in the neighbouring constituency, the representative for St Michael North West further admitted that he was “really bothered” about the incident, while noting that he attended “quite a few” funerals.
“The kind of things you see taking place at funerals nowadays, it really is very, very bothersome when you see what is happening with people drinking alcohol at funerals and pouring it into the grave and having fights [and] arguments, it really is quite concerning and it is something we have to address and nip in the bud. That is just not the Barbados we want,” he insisted.
In a separate interview, Reverend Michael Clarke also commented on Monday’s incident in which a Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Selby was accosted by three young men after he took possession of a firearm, which was spotted lying precariously at the graveside at the funeral of late Leading Seaman Adrianna Sobers.
A video recording of the incident suggests that the gun had been misplaced by one of the mourners and the men, who snatched the weapon from Selby, were sent to retrieve it.
Describing the situation as “sick”, Rector of St Thomas Parish Church Reverend Michael Clarke said it should serve as a wake-up call to the Church, which he said urgently needs to re-examine its message and its relationship with the community.
He said as much as he was alarmed at the development, it was an indication that “certain things have gone unchecked”.
“We have held places like the Church off limits in many regards, but the fact is the Church is a part of the community and if the community is sick the sickness will come to the Church,” he warned.
“Any time those kinds of things can happen it means that we are losing sense of, or have lost sense of, who we are as individuals. And once you have lost sense of who you are as individuals or a part of the human family, it is a sickness.
“It is a spiritual sickness, but it is a sickness nonetheless,” he emphasized, “and we have to be aware of that”.
The Anglican cleric also sought to caution the Church that it should never seek to “fight” crime.
“In a sense it is a wake-up call for the Church to begin to look at the kind of ministry that it is offering to our community”.
“The whole idea of focusing on people getting to heaven, that is archaic now,” he said.
“We have got to begin to look more at how we relate to individuals and not just those who come to Church or work with us but individuals on a whole. We are all one,” said Clarke.
“So when it comes to our doorsteps . . . we have to ask what have we not done, what we were supposed to have done in this individual life.”
While acknowledging that it was a very difficult time for Barbadian institutions on the whole, he said the Church was particularly challenged, not just in terms of “the moral fabric but the whole spiritual dimension of our people.
“It is almost non existent now because we have bought into materialism,” he said.
However, Clarke said the recent occurrence would not cause him to alter his approach to funeral services involving non-members, pointing out that a funeral service was a prime opportunity to minister to them.
He suggested that while members of the Royal Barbados Police Force continued to offer protection at some funerals, it was also a time for everyone “to cooperate and make sure that if [the police] are not aware of something, we make sure they are aware.
“Beyond that it is a slow process. One of re-education [and] helping persons to discover who they are,” he said.