Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley wants to know why no high ranking members of society is ever charged for smuggling weapons into Barbados.
Speaking in Parliament today on a resolution “to take note” of the Governor General’s Throne Speech, Atherley said the young men on the block who were being arrested did not have “the wherewithal to get guns into this country to the extent that seems to be the case”.
Instead, he suggested, it was the “big ups” who had the capacity to import the illegal guns, yet none was being made to pay.
“I’ve not heard of any big-ups being brought before the courts from the world of business, and charged with having been part of the supply chain bringing these guns into Barbados; any public servants being charged with reference to that type of activity; any persons out of the political class or practising politicians before the courts in relation to any matter such as that; any priests or pastors being arrested by the police and hauled before the courts because they are found to be a part of the supply chain of illegal arms coming into Barbados,” he said.
“Why is it that we cannot get a handle on his matter of illegal arms coming into Barbados and being made so easily accessible and available to minds which are then criminally disposed to the use of such for whatever purpose?” he queried.
At a news conference yesterday to update the country on the crime situation for the first six months of the year, Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith said overall crime remained at a “manageable level”, while revealing that assaults and wounding accounted for 14.5 per cent of the 4,054 crimes committed during the period.
The commissioner said there was an approximately 36 per cent decrease in firearms enabled crime, from 184 last year to 118 this year.
Atherley today said the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) had improved its crime detection ability over the years, but expressed disappointment that there was no crackdown on gun crimes.
He said following shootings involving members of working class communities, some of the young men would be jailed but “nobody goes on to say to us where the guns come from”.
The Opposition Leader described the situation as presenting “a serious danger to our democracy” and warned that soon the shooters would stop shooting each other and the guns and “will perhaps one day be trained at the police authority . . . at political personalities”.
For these reasons Atherley said “if we find that the police force locally here does not have the capacity to address the situation then I’m strongly suggesting we need to import the help, the capacity, from whatever recognized and capable international agency to address this matter”.
He said such a move would be a worthwhile investment, while stressing that “we need to get the help for the police which is necessary, and if it should come from outside . . . then that is in the interest of Barbados”.
The Opposition Leader said police from the rank of sergeant downwards should be paid “much more than they presently earn. The nature of their work has changed over time. It is now far more hazardous, dangerous”.
He spoke of the Police Commissioner lamenting that the Force was 100 members short of its optimum number, adding: “If we pay more we are likely to see an improvement in the recruitment prospects, not only of numbers but of quality persons presenting themselves to serve.”
Atherley explained that this pay raise should come after Barbados emerges from the current economic austerity period.
“Once we have come out on the other side of this deep, dark valley through which now tread, those for first consideration should be those who serve in the defence of this country in terms of law enforcement duties in a very hazardous world,” he said.