Democratic Labour Party President Verla Depeiza has accused Government of neglecting myriad social ill, like ‘spiralling out of control’ crime, while being preoccupied with economic challenges.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, DePeiza said the seven-month-old government is only now coming to grips with the realities of tackling crime.
“There hasn’t been anything done. We have had a lot of movement in relation to the economy. I am not in favour of all of it but we have had a lot of movement in relation to the economy, but nothing in relation to any social issue at all, including gun violence. It is as though only the economy matters,” she said, while indicating that many of country’s problems, particularly those relating to crime need to be tackled at a societal level.
“It has to start with that social investigation. We have to get to the root cause of the violence. Until we do that, it will not matter who is in power, [or] who is running the country. If we don’t find the answers to those questions… then we will be spinning top in mud. There is nothing that we can do outside of investigating and tackling the social component and that really should be the focus,” she said.
Earlier this week, Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde delivered an impassioned plea for young people to put down their weapons.
“My wish is for the young people of this country to put all the weapons of destruction in a bag, a box – I don’t care what container they put all these weapons in – and put them away, bury them. That is my one Christmas wish,” he said.
But with three of this year’s 27 murders occurring this month, along with numerous shootings and stabbings, Depeiza suggested that Forde was out of his depth in his efforts to tackle violence. Instead, she said there was a “subculture in Barbados that has to be addressed”.
“I think it has to be frontally addressed, and it is more than teaching young boys foreign languages off the blocks. What’s the point in learning a foreign language, but you have no opportunity to travel or to actually use the skills in some meaningful way? It is not about platitude. We need as a country to get our heads around what is causing all the violence, and only when we come to grips with that, will we be able to find solutions to it. I don’t think it is an insurmountable problem, but it has to be dealt with seriously,” she said.
DePeiza accused Attorney General Dale Marshall and Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson of failing to make any definitive steps to tackle the country’s problems.
“We have two persons wearing the same hat right now and a conversation from either of the two of them would be good right now… we have an attorney general and a minister of home affairs. One person used to wear the same hat before. We have not been told what the division of duties really is between the two of them. So either or both of them could speak and it would help.
“I think that the reality of politics and the reality of government has hit home. When in opposition, there was a lot of talk coming from the Barbados Labour Party about the past administration not getting crime under control. There was also a lot of talk [of] methods that could be used for gun control, but now that they’re there, I think they’re finding that it is not that simple.”
While Government has taken certain steps to address Barbadians more directly and improve its public relations, said Depeiza, she believes government can do a better job of connecting with the society’s most vulnerable elements.
“I have been very careful not to come out and do too much criticizing, because it is a little bit more than having the right legislation in place. I heard the Commissioner of Police calling for no bail for people accused of gun crime, but it is more than that. We have to get an understanding first of what takes people to that point.
“Address those issues, because it has that hard social component, not just underlying, but running all through it. And if we don’t get to grips with that, no matter what we put on the books, it will not work,” she stressed.