In last Sunday’s column, I sought to inject some reality into the discussions about what to do about violent crime.
In the course of that column I referred yet again to the impunity with which murder and other crimes are committed and had a bit of a sardonic smile that it has taken so many so long to see that the impunity factor was at the heart of our crisis.
The column also reflected yet again on the lack of political will and law enforcement’s failure to disrupt the drug trade, which have bred and maintained the impunity factor.
This is what I wrote in May 2003: “We must pressure the Government, whoever they are, to take back control of the resources of the State from cronies and pardners, armed or unarmed. That is a political job. It is not the job of the police. Their job is to attack first, and with urgency and integrity, the drug trade that underlies the gang murders.”
That column, published 13 years ago, continued: “If any Government does not act independently of the criminal element in the society, whether they are grassroots bandits or the ‘devils in disguise’ in our Westwood Parks, the regulation of society in the interest of the common good will eventually become impossible. The laws of the land will have legal validity but will cease to be effective.”
It must be clearly understood that law enforcement failure is not a failure of the police alone. It includes the Coastguard, the Customs and the Inland Revenue—the latter being able to strike by assessments of conspicuous consumption.
The Judiciary also has a responsibility to increase the speed of the delivery of criminal justice beyond “working like molasses running uphill.”
The molasses comparison comes from a recent editorial in the Barbados Nation newspaper. Earlier this month, Barbados was thrown into a state of shock when a drug trade operative was gunned down at the entrance to a restaurant, and within the compound of the busiest area in Warrens—the Massy complex. The security camera video of the shooting was released.
In the words of the editorial: “There was no need for a single Barbadian to speculate or gossip about what occurred. In living colour, the world saw the killers and the victim, the multiple flashes from the muzzles of the guns, and the deliberateness of the murderers as they carried out their execution.”
Commenting on another shooting, the editorial pointed out the obvious wider danger: “Taken with the reports of the apparent use of AK-47 assault rifles during the gunplay at Wotton, we do not believe that under the circumstances, many people will apply much weight to the oft-offered suggestions that ordinary Barbadians need not worry since these shootings and resultant deaths really relate to members of the underworld settling scores.”
Readers will recall reference a few weeks ago to reports of a former Attorney General and Chief Justice of Barbados, Sir David Simmons, having spoken on Barbados radio about the dangers of politicians “lying in bed with the underworld”.
As indicated then, Sir David was reported as saying that “throughout the Caribbean, especially Trinidad and Jamaica, there was evidence which showed political parties embraced gang leaders and drug lords” including politicians involving those criminals in State-funded projects.
Forgive me therefore if I regard all current talk about co-operation on legislation as largely irrelevant. Tinkering with bail, the jury system and the laws of evidence are plasters for a big, in your face, running sore, which can be curtailed only by an all out bi-partisan attack on the drug trade and on corruption facilitated by the out-of-control state enterprise and statutory authority system and sawatee Chairpersons.
The state enterprise/statutory authority system also masks incompetence and undermines accountability. For example, a Minister of Sport refers the media for answers from the Sportt Company.
It is massively ironic that there is now controversy about occupation of lands in the Chaguaramas peninsula.
Why did Dr Eric Williams march to get the US base out of there only for new occupiers to be let in under circumstances in which Ministerial accountability and underlying policy for the use of valuable State lands and public access to parkland are so far very opaque?
Since 2002, I have maintained in these columns that the state enterprise/statutory authority system leaves plenty of wriggle room for Ministers and no means of knowing whether the Boardroom has acted in response to clandestine Ministerial nods and winks.
The Barbados gun down took place just before the opening of the Barbados law term. Ours opened two days ago.
One comment on the Nation’s editorial took the form of a quote from Ecclesiastes: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
And so say all of us.