Barbadians will not be held hostage to a few criminal elements involved in a turf war. This is Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s strong warning tonight as she announced that just under 100 soldiers will be joining their police counterparts in a major fightback effort which requires “all hands on deck”.
Referencing mostly the perpetrators of gun violence, PM Mottley said police have sacrificed two off days a month and additional vehicles offered by the Barbados Defence Force have been placed at the immediate disposal of all law and order forces all in an effort to wrestle the crime situation in Barbados which she declared was “nowhere as bad” as in other countries of the region.
“We are not prepared under any circumstances to admit that it is business as usual when eight people can lose their lives in this country in the month of January. We are not prepared under any circumstances for people to believe that they can use or walk around with guns as if they are toys, as if they are badges of honour,” said Mottley, who addressed the spate of shootings and deaths for the first time at a press conference convened at Parliament tonight.
Noting that the crime situation was endemic to the region and not a peculiar problem to Barbados, Mottley acknowledged that since taking office last May, her efforts have primarily been focused on the repair of the Barbados economy. However, she assured Barbadians following a meeting of the Regional Security System (RSS) that later transitioned to a National Security Council meeting on Barbados, that the scourge of gun violence has now got her full attention and vowed that no effort would be spared to stamp it out.
“If people are so consumed and so much in love with guns, then they should ask me to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs to find a war some part of the world that we can allow them to go and be part of. But they must not begin to believe that they can walk about Barbados with guns and walk about shooting people any part of this country.
“Not bout here,” the Prime Minister stressed.
Noting that one regret was not focussing on crime fully from the outset of her administration, Mottley said she placed her attention on stabilizing the economy which was in a critical state . . . .
“If it is one regret I have is perhaps that I should have taken control of it from day one, but I was focused on the economy fully and the debt,” she added.
Flanked by Attorney General Dale Marshall and Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, Mottley warned the criminal element that if they persist with these acts “then they must understand that they are going to feel the full weight of the law because what is at stake is our way of life. Barbados is not going to be held hostage by people who want to terrorize ordinary people walking up and down the street,” she said, confirming reports that many of the shooting incidents stemmed from “a turf war between people living here and cross there”.
While not going into too much detail, Mottley revealed that Government will be fast-tracking several pieces of legislation over the next few weeks, while simultaneously increasing the resources of the police, border security and the court system.
“Our Government will establish an anti-corruption and terrorism entity within the Ministry of National Security to supplement the work of the police. It is not going to be a huge agency, but it’s critical that people come to work every day to fight corruption because that is part and parcel of the cancer.
“What we are fighting in this country [goes back] to matters that the Commissioner of Police raised as far back as three years ago, regarding difficulties that they have experienced with respect to the port and other areas where guns come in. We need to get on top of these issues institutionally,” she explained.
Also in attendance at the press briefing was former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin who Mottley said would be lending “his skills” to the crime fight. No details were revealed on the form his contribution would take. Dottin was sent on administrative leave during the previous Democratic Labour Party administration’s tenure amid allegations of illegal wiretapping being carried out by the Royal Barbados Police Force. Dottin has since retired.
Additionally, Mottley promised to fix issues of police promotion, which she suggested had the effect of eroding morale within the Royal Barbados Police Force.
“We are satisfied that the greatest cannibalization of the Royal Barbados Police Force took place in the last few years. It cannot be allowed to happen again. You cannot attack an institution and expect it to prosper…
“You cannot have successive Commissioners of Police making recommendations for promotions in the police force based on their perception of performance and merit and discipline, and then have a Police Service Commission completely ignoring those recommendations and choosing to promote who they want on criteria known only to them,” she lamented.
Also addressing the briefing were Marshall and Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith.