The recent arrest and subsequent charging of a teenage boy for three murders – one of them being his mother – has sent shockwaves through the country.
Eighteen-year-old Romario Antonio Roach of River Bay, St Lucy, has been accused of killing his mother Joann Roach, Dr Sarah Sutrina, a retired senior lecturer at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and Tyrone Austin.
In a small and tightly-knit society such as ours, developments like this are often deemed far-fetched and unthinkable.
What are the circumstances that could lead to such allegations being brought against this or any other teenager, whether in Barbados or elsewhere? Are there ever warning signs? Can anything be done to prevent such horrendous occurrences?
Questions must be asked when any teenager or his or her family are faced with such horrible circumstances.
It is easy to say that the answer is in prayer, although it can be for those who hold on to the belief of the transformative powers of higher beings. However, after our supplication has ended, what comes next?
For instance, how do we support or intervene in the homes of boys whose circumstances can lead them to become perpetrators of serious crimes?
When parents are struggling with their children who can they turn to in the immediate and long-term to provide support and resources to ensure the wellbeing of those children?
Community centres are more often than not filled with dust than they are with meaningful grassroots or governmental interventions. These turbulent times are ripe for mentorship programmes and community-led academic, technical and vocational interventions, staffed or volunteered by other young people to ensure maximum uptake.
Parents need guidance too. When the immediate needs of food, comfortable shelter, running water and electricity loom heavy on one’s mind, it can seem difficult to find the emotional resources to give psycho-social guidance.
And let’s be honest, some parents may not be able to provide it at all. Parents need mentorship as well, particularly in areas such as self-esteem building, active listening, conflict resolution and handling peer pressure.
These interventions need to be sustained long beyond a few weed-whackers and some lessons on how to use a back-hoe. Sadly, however, these are usually the efforts that require the most resources but find the most difficulty in obtaining funding and garnering political interest after general elections are won.
“Thoughts and prayers and reflection” have also been joined with calls for a Barbados ‘gone by’, where murders apparently did not exist, and people ‘lived in love.’
The reality is that this mythic, magical Barbados never existed and even if it did, calling for a return to that ‘place’ is an exercise in futility.
We should be spending our time, talent and resources on transforming our island for the challenges of today, and tomorrow.
This should mean the upheaval of the colonial-era systems of criminal justice, education, discipline and punishment. The great change which is so urgently needed can only come about by sitting and learning from activists, teachers, faith leaders and youth, to figure out where we are going wrong, and what should be done to right it.
The year has begun on a violent note, with nine murders – four of them by the gun – and over a dozen shootings.
Of those nine murders, four of the victims were younger than 40 and two of them were in their early 40s.
To make matters worse, along with Roach another young man – aged 32 – has also been charged in connection with one of the murders.
Those are lose-lose situations, as on one hand, young people are continually losing their lives to the violence, while another young person is being charged with the offence, leading in most cases to a lengthy stay at HMP Dodds. We are losing too many of our young human resources.
And while we try our best to search for answers to the causes of deviant behaviour and look to find solutions, let us not for one moment forget or trivialise the hurt and anguish of the victims and their families. They are the greater sufferers.