A social activist and former Minister of Social Transformation has warned against a return to the days when law enforcement officials acted to protect the elitist in Barbados.
Hamilton Lashley’s stern caution came today amid raging public debate over whether race played a role in the high level of police and emergency resources allocated to last weekend’s search for Caucasian Karen Harris.
Several law enforcement and emergency agencies joined the family and friends in looking for the Rowans Park, St George married mother of two, who was eventually found safe and sound about 24 hours later.
“I want to applaud the police, the Defence Force and all of the entities that were involved in the search for this white lady because I view a human life as sacred and if it took a million people to do that, that is fine,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY.
“However, I am hoping that the same level of intensity, in terms of organization and response that was given to Mrs Harris, [is afforded] when an ordinary, poor black person in this country goes and reports that their [relative is] missing.”
Lashley recalled that after the abolition of slavery, a militia was formed to protect the interest of the planter class in Barbados.
He said history should not repeat itself.
“I am hoping that our Royal Barbados Police Force would not become a militia that is there to protect the well-to-do or the better off in society, and at the same time not giving preference to those persons living in [lower-class communities],” Lashley said.
At the same time, the community activist insisted that an apology was in order for the watchman at Buttals Plantation, Trevor Sam, who alleged he was harassed and interrogated by three Caucasian men who were in Harris’ search party.
Sam told Barbados TODAY earlier this week he was on duty on the plantation when the trio pursued him, ordered him to he explain who he was and why he was there, and demanded the number of his employer.
His fright led him to give them the wrong number initially, but he later gave them the correct information and they contacted his boss.
“I shudder to think if that gentleman did not remember the number of his employer, what could have happened. In 2015, if the report is accurate that he was accosted by three Caucasians and then was interrogated verbally and he was so scared that he ran in a cane field and [hid], it brings back memories to me of the days of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep south of America when black people had to flee for their lives,” Lashley said, adding that the men’s pursuit of Sam in their vehicle brought to mind a picture of white people on a horse chasing blacks.
He said the watchman deserved an apology for the traumatic experience – one that Lashley said Sam would likely never forget.
“An apology is in order for the gentleman . . . Not only to him, but because he was working for an honest dollar, also to . . . his entire family. The situation could have been worse,” Lashley argued.