A Government legislator has accused the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) of ‘butting’ about like bulls and goats when it comes to social legislation introduced by the Freundel Stuart administration.
Speaking in the Upper Chamber yesterday during debate on the Police (Amendment) Bill 2017, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Senator Jepter Ince listed seven pieces of legislation previously brought to Parliament by the Stuart Government which he said were opposed by the BLP.
“When we [sought] to address problems that are of a social nature, problems that threaten to destroy the moral fabric of this society, [we] were opposed by the Barbados Labour Party whenever it was put before this Senate and the other place [the House of Assembly],” Ince said, adding, “you would always hear, ‘I agree, but’; and everything is butting . . . you butting and that is all.
“You butting like a goat or bull. ‘It is good, but’,” Ince complained.
He also accused the Opposition of stalling the passage of key amendments by asking that the Bills be sent to one committee or the other.
“The only thing I haven’t heard is, ‘send it to the Barbados Accountants Association,’” he added facetiously.
Responding to fears expressed by Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams during debate on the Police (Amendment) Bill 2017, the Government Senator rejected suggestions that civil liberties such as freedom of speech and protection from unreasonable searches or cruel punishment would be a thing of the past.
In fact, he suggested that the real fear should be the implications of not taking tough action in the face of a changing society under threat from a criminal element with no respect for law and order.
“And when your economic and social viability are threatened and action is not taken, then let us examine what is going to happen. Tell me what is going to happen. So are we to throw our hands in the air and say…oh, oh, take no action?” Ince asked.
“So allow the criminals . . . persons with criminal intent and deviant behaviour to do as they want, do as they please, go where they want, intimidate who they want, have no respect for law and order and let us go home and drink tea and sing the hallelujah chorus. That is what the Opposition is saying,” he suggested.
In making her contribution to the debate, Government Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner called for an increase in the salaries of police officers and provision for injury and death benefits.
In making an impassioned plea for greater compensation for members of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), Sandiford-Garner argued that their current level of pay was not enough to attract persons to join, lamenting that even police horses and vehicles appeared to receive more financial care than officers.
Drawing on her experience as a victim of violent crime
and coming from a family of police officers, Sandiford-
Garner, who is parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, said she understood the life of law enforcers and the constraints under which they worked.
“If the members of the Royal Barbados Police Force are not comfortable in their jobs, you then find that there may be gaps between performance and the execution of their duties.
“I want to use this opportunity to emphasize the importance of taking care of those persons and I mean proper [care]. I say this in the context [that] I come from a family of police officers. I am very well aware of the life of policemen and women
. . . and it is not an easy life. The compensation is not at all a compensation that would attract you to the profession,” the Government senator said.
Sandiford-Garner, the ruling Democratic Labour Party candidate for St Andrew, also pointed out that “when a police officer is injured in a vehicular accident, unless they have personal health insurance they have to scramble to take care of those injuries.
“If a police officer falls off a horse, that horse is insured, but not the police. I know of men who have been injured on jobs who are darn near broke because they cannot pull on savings anymore to attend to physiotherapy,” she further lamented, adding that this was something that agencies, such as the Police Association, needed to examine.
In his contribution to the discussion, Independent Senator Alwin Adams called for the setting up of an independent police complaints commission which would make aggrieved citizens feel their issues were being fairly handled and that police were not looking after their own.
However, he focused most of his speech on the local ZR culture on which he contended there was more talk and little action.
Adams, a retired school principal, warned that “until and unless we seriously begin to look at that, we are going to find that generations of young people will continue to spiral out of control and present us with a recurring decimal in relation to crime in this country”.
Another independent, Senator John Watson, told the Chamber that because of the concerns surrounding the additional powers of the police and fears of abuse, the Bill should be put on hold to allow for wider public consultation.