Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Stephen Lashley has slammed the “reckless elements” behind Monday’s explosion of gunfire at Spring Garden during Grand Kadooment, suggesting they ought to pay with their lives.
There was one fatality and at least 18 other people, including a six-year-old child, suffered gunshot wounds after gunmen opened fired in the waning moments of the street jump up.
The outbreak incensed Lashley, who complained that the “senseless act of violence” had left a stain on what had been up until then an otherwise violence-free Crop Over festival.
“This is one of our most highlighted aspects of the festival. It sells Barbados and Crop Over to the rest of the world. What happened yesterday is certainly not the image that we as a people wish to project,” the minister said.
Stressing the importance of Crop Over to the island’s tourism, Lashley said every Barbadian had “a vested interest in ensuring that it is kept safe”, adding that the festival’s protection must be everyone’s priority.
And stopping just short of calling for the return of the hangman, the minister said “these isolated incidents” threatened to do untold damage to the country.
“In addition to putting people in harm’s way, these isolated incidents mar the image of our festival and of our country. When we have reckless elements who seem to want to spoil an otherwise spectacular and safe Crop Over, then it tells us that our work is not yet over as we work together to rid Barbados of violence of any kind.
“This upsets me personally. . . . It is really a tragedy and a pity that persons, who are bent on creating disturbances and in breaking the law, can do the kind of damage to our reputation . . . . I feel very strongly that these offenders should be rooted out and they should be made to pay the highest penalty for their action,” he said.
“When I spoke of the whole question of the highest penalty, I really mean the highest penalty.”
While stressing it was for the courts to decide the penalty for the perpetrators of such crimes, the Minister of Culture insisted he was entitled to express an opinion on the matter.
And he repeated that “persons who are guilty of gun violence should really feel the full weight of the law”.
This, he suggested, would act as a deterrent and strengthen the hands of the authorities in their zero tolerance approach to crime.
”I believe that the use of guns in Barbados is something that should be visited with a zero tolerance approach particularly where you are using guns to apparently solve issues and doing it in the public domain where innocent lives are at stake. That particular act should be uprooted from our society. Everything should be done to make sure that it does not happen,” the minister noted.