A former Member of Parliament is urging Caribbean leaders to come together to tackle the worrying epidemic of gun violence in the region.
Hamilton Lashley, who represented the St Michael South East constituency from 1994 to 2008, told Barbados TODAY that countries can no longer look at crime as a local problem.
“Each country in the Caribbean cannot treat it in isolation. There must be an urgent meeting at the Prime Ministerial level, at CARICOM level, or at the level of the Attorneys General or Ministers of Home Affairs in the region to tackle the outrageous levels of crime, particularly gun related crime, in the Caribbean as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“There must be an urgent meeting of the community leaders in the region and the so-called block leaders in the region,” he added, noting that a similar experiment was done with a criminal group in Thailand and it transformed the society.
Unless the issue is tackled seriously, Lashley said, the region’s vital tourism industry will be at risk, and “we are going to have far more killings in 2019 than we anticipated in this region”.
Lashley, a former Minister of Social Transformation, added that regional governments need to empower communities as well as invest government resources in non-governmental organizations, to tackle unemployment and develop more youth programmes, at the centre of which would be sport and cultural activity.
There is also a need for prison reform and rehabilitation, he added, saying that there are “far too many young people in this region who are sent to prison for ‘a five bag’ or ‘a spliff’.”
Lashley also suggested that one of the reasons the region has had such high levels of crime is bad policy planning by leaders.
“When you see the high crime rate in the region, first of all, it is by bad policy decisions . . . If we look into Jamaica, for instance, where you have the drug lords controlling the community rather than the governments . . . that is emerging in St Lucia, St Kitts, Trinidad and Tobago and all across the region,” he contended.
“The leaders in the country decided that they are going to deal with everything on an individualist nature and there needs to be a regional approach and urgency for the regional heads of government.”
Lashley also said the media has a role to play.
“Until the press decides that they are going to highlight the positive things that are happening in the communities in the region, then we are going to push the young people further away from us; then the violence in the region is going to increase tremendously,” he said.
The social activist further called for a regional policy to eliminate gun violence.
“Some people may say that it is impossible but . . . we must have a tougher policy to curb the importation of guns. It must be a regional approach,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY.