Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokesman on Home Affairs Dale Marshall has described the latest amendment to be presented to Parliament by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration as nothing but an election ploy that is too little, too late.
Marshall today gave several Government ministers a failing grade for waiting until “the eve of an election” to present various pieces of legislation or amendments. The highly anticipated general election is due by the middle of this year.
“I am not at all surprised because in recent months we have seen a number of underperforming ministers coming to this Chamber to check the box as far as new pieces of legislation goes. So we had amendments to the Road Traffic Act, we had a new Praedial Larceny Bill and now we have a Police Amendment Act,” Marshall said in making his contribution to debate on the Police Amendment Bill, which, among other things, seeks to give police more power during curfews and in cordoned off areas.
“It seems apparent to us that on the eve of an election all of the Government ministers are lining up so that they are able to present a report card to this country with various boxes checked,” he said.
However, the Opposition spokesman said it was nothing short of “disrespect” that a national consultation was not held before the latest bill was laid in Parliament this morning by Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite.
“The fact of the matter is that when a Government intends to increase police powers one must expect a certain level of consultation and courtesy,” Marshall, a former Attorney General, said.
“Mr Speaker, I checked up to this morning and I have received confirmation that the Bar Association of Barbados has not been consulted, no part of civil society that we have checked have been consulted. This is curious sir, because all of last year there were shootings and the society was almost paralyzed by fear,” he said.
Marshall insisted that the Freundel Stuart administration was not serious about tackling crime, while he argued that the Royal Barbados Police Force was not adequately resourced to effectively carry out its duties.
Marshall also questioned why the Attorney General had not been more vocal on the crime issue last year when the population seemed to have been living in fear.
“He didn’t say, ‘don’t panic’ then, but now he comes to this Chamber to say, ‘don’t panic’. Mr Speaker, too late because Barbadians have been panicking now for a long time.
“All of last year they were panicking; they have begun to panic this year and I honestly feel this check-the-box exercise the Attorney General is engaged in is too little and too late,” Marshall said.
Asking for the promised anti-gang legislation, Marshall said Brathwaite had made several promises over the years on which he had not delivered.
“He promised a Bail Act which, in his words, would stop people from getting bail within 18 months if they were charged with certain offences . . . so I am wondering if we can even expect that to come next week. What about the Asset Forfeiture [legislation]? Is that in the pipeline as well? What about the three judges that he said would be put in the Estimates? Is that in the pipeline too? This administration really is not serious, and has never been serious about dealing with the issue of crime in Barbados,” the Opposition spokesman said.