Prime Minister Freundel Stuart gave an assurance yesterday that corrections will be made to whatever is “wrong” with Government’s proposed fingerprinting measures that have attracted strident public criticism.
Without going into details and acknowledging that the matter was “sub judice”, Stuart told the House of Assembly, during debate on amendments to the Immigration Act, the security measure was being reviewed.
Back in February, the Immigration Department had announced that all persons, except holders of diplomatic passports and children under the age of 16, would be fingerprinted upon entering and leaving the country,. The measure was to take effect on April 1 but was delayed following the harsh criticism.
The move is also being challenged in court by attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong, who has received the support of the Barbados Bar Association.
Stuart told the House: “If we have to reverse ourselves on certain issues, we will do that but the matter is under review and I don’t want to anticipate what those doing the review will have to say.”
“The idea that the Government is obsessively and compulsively setting out to fingerprint Barbadians leaving or coming back home, that is not the mindset of the Prime Minister of Barbados,” Stuart added.
“It is certainly not the mindset of any of the officials around the Prime Minister of Barbados. I think that some issues have been raised and if those issues turn out to be issues of merit, we are prepared to make wrong things right.”
While stressing that Government was “not strong headed or wrongheaded on this issue”, Stuart expressed concern about forged documents and the abuse of Barbadian passports by non-nationals as well as Barbadians.
He warned that some “strange things” have been happening “around here involving our own people”, while making it clear that he was not suggesting that an “inductive leap” should be made because of a few instances to try to criminalize the entire society.
“I am saying that it was in that spirit that the Immigration Department and the Ministry of Defence and Security and all the Office of the Attorney General and all the agencies involved confronted this issue,” he explained.
“But I am certainly not evangelical about it. I am certainly not so obsessed with it that I would turn a blind eye to the constitutional niceties that have to be observed or to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Barbadians,” he added.
Stuart stressed that “whatever has to be made right will be made right, and made right in such a way that the fundamental rights and freedoms of Barbadians will be respected and all of the issues of law, both the substantive issues of law and procedural issues, will be dealt with and the whole situation purified”.