Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has vowed that his administration would not sit idly by while there are “two justice systems running parallel to each other”.
In a strong condemnation of Monday’s shootings at Spring Garden Highway, which marred the climax of Grand Kadooment, Stuart said the “underworld justice system must be eliminated.
“One thing is very clear to me – if those who say gun violence is an incident of the drug trade and the existence of gangs in Barbados, it is clear that we now have two justice systems running parallel with each other,” the Prime Minister said in a statement issued through the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), 48 hours after the incident which claimed the life of 20-year-old Taried Junior Rock of 3rd Avenue, Chapman Lane, St Michael, and left at least 18 other people nursing gunshot injuries.
“I do not think that the bulk of the Barbadian population has any interest in having parallel systems of justice. I think most Barbadians still believe that our mainstream justice system is to be preferred even though they think that it needs to be markedly improved and needs to be more responsive to their needs.”
Stuart highlighted some of the challenges facing the “mainstream” justice system, making particular reference to lengthy delays and the amount of time that people must wait for decisions.
However, he suggested, nothing could justify the “underworld” system that has emerged here.
“There is the mainstream justice system, beset with complaints about delays, adjournments, the amount of time it takes to get decisions and that kind of thing; and there is the underworld justice system in which there is no scope for delay or adjournment of any kind. Once guilt is established justice is swiftly and ruthlessly dispensed and the question that we will ultimately have to ask ourselves is whether we can continue to have two justice systems running in our society,” he said.
The Prime Minister said there was a battle on for the country’s survival, and implored Barbadians to join the fight to stamp out the gun scourge.
“The battle is on for the very survival of Barbados as we have known it . . . .We can’t fight this battle if we are paralyzed by fear and we cannot win this battle if we believe that indifference is the best response to it.
“We don’t want a society in which our young people are more familiar with the sound of gunfire than they are with the sound of an orchestra. We have to strengthen our policing and our courts have to send very strong signals that as the guardians of the values of our society they are not going to tolerate this kind of behaviour,” he stressed, while expressing deep regret and profound sadness over the “senseless” loss of life and injuries.