Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Maxine McClean today snubbed suggestions that the Freundel Stuart administration had failed to take charge of rising gun violence in the country even as Opposition MP Kerrie Symmonds warned that the Government could not adopt “a business as usual approach” to the problem.
The two legislators traded strong views on the Sunday edition of Down to Brass Tacks, which examined solutions to the scourge.
McClean argued there was clear evidence that the police were working to arrest the problem while the Government was continuing efforts to strengthen the country’s response.
“Clearly something is happening, how many people have been apprehended and charged with murder in the last year? How many unsolved murders have they been? Those are the kinds of things that indicate that something is happening. Clearly there is intelligence that is being shared, that is being used. I cannot get into those discussions but you cannot say that there is no action happening.”
McClean, who suggested that the recent gunplay was occurring among players in the illegal drug trade, stressed that Barbados had to take a closer look at the root causes of crime, especially changing values among youth.
“The increase use of guns to settle disputes is really a pattern of what we are seeing among young people. People are using weapons to settle what I would call disputes in the areas of drug dealing.
“You have to ask yourself why is it that particularly young men, because they are ones seen losing their lives, getting injured and charged with crime, why is it that our young men are attracted to engagement in this and I don’t think it is only poverty. It is not simply a case of poverty. In my generation a lot of people did not turn to criminal activities. So one of the things we have to look at is what are the values that are being demonstrated.”
Symmonds, the St James Central MP was however adamant that the country was anxious to see a level of response that would “assuage their collective concerns that Barbados is in fact able to deal effectively with crime.
“It cannot be seen to be business as usual. I am saying to you that the positions that the country is looking at where it is and viewing government’s response strategy thus far, we get the impression that this is a business as usual situation in circumstances where it cannot be accommodated.”
Symmonds made a case for the Government to provide more training opportunities for young people so they earn their own money.
“There are literally thousand of young people out there who are leaving school unaccredited and they have to be treated as though they are being salvaged and that is my concern.
“We now need to decentralize the opportunities for people to access skills training and be able to finance a way of life for themselves in a wholesome manner after the education system has failed them,” he stressed.