Amid growing concern over the importation of illegal guns here, the luxurious Port Ferdinand is insisting it ought not be blamed for the entry of illegal weapons into the country.
The operators of Port Ferdinand Marina and Luxury Residences in Six Men’s, St Peter said there was no way illegal guns were entering the country via its facility.
Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith has held that the firearms that make their way onto the streets of Barbados and into the hands of killers were coming in through legal ports of entry.
As far back as August 2015 Griffith had said at a news conference that the Royal Barbados Police Force had information that “suggests they [guns] are coming through legitimate ports of entry, either assisted by officials, or not detected by them at our borders”, a claim he has since repeated.
Asked back then if some of the illegal weapons were entering the country through ports other than Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port, Griffith had also hinted that he was concerned about Port St Charles and Port Ferdinand.
“I won’t say we have evidence. I would say there are areas of concern. Obviously the criminal elements will look for the weakest points and it is something that we are very, very [worried about]. These are things which we have to take into consideration, but I wouldn’t say we have any evidence,” the top law enforcement officer had said.
However, with the number of illegal firearms seemingly growing and gun crimes on the increase, Bernard Sarme, the group general manager of Unna Resorts, operators of Port Ferdinand, was adamant yesterday that the luxury facility was not responsible.
Sarme told journalists covering a donation of more than eight cubic metres of concrete to help refurbish the old Six Men’s Shed on the border of St Peter and St Lucy, security at Port Ferdinand was much too strict for guns to be smuggled in.
“We have very nice security at Port Ferdinand. We have absolutely no problem. I am delighted to say that so far we have had no problem whatsoever,” he assured.
Over the past several months the country has witnessed a dramatic increase in gun violence, with 21 of the 25 murders committed so far this year being gun related, compared to 16 of the 22 violent deaths recorded last year.
This has left policymakers and the police hierarchy searching for answers, while critics and residents demand an end to the free flow of weapons.
Bridging to more favourable news, Sarme said the marina and luxury residences, a favourite spot for some of the world’s rich and famous, was “doing quite well”.
“Our business is increasing all the time and we are looking forward to a great season, absolutely,” he said.
The issue of gun violence has occupied the attention of both policymakers and lawmen, who have had to grapple with seemingly indiscriminate killings and apparent carnivals of gunshots in some of the most troublesome communities.
During a recent joint news conference with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, Griffith had said that lawmen were worried about both the murder rate and the rise in the use of illegal guns.
As a result, Brathwaite had said changes would be made to the anti-gun unit to make it more effective, while also warning that border control officials could soon be asked to undertake lie detector tests as part of Government’s fight against the importation of illegal guns.
“We need to move to the state where all agencies that look after our borders have to go through the same integrity testing, or shall I say polygraph . . . as required by our marine unit, by our Coast Guard, by certain sections of the Force if they want to serve in some sensitive positions. We really need to,” Brathwaite had said.
However, it was his previous assertion that customs officers were letting in the weapons that upset Akanni McDowall, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) president, who insisted that if there were any proof police should arrest those involved.
It was the NUPW which had previously expressed concerns about the transition of the border control unit to the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), which it said could result in a reduction of security at Port St Charles and Port Ferdinand.