Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley has called on law enforcement authorities to address the threat posed by criminals, as lawmakers moved to enact legislation to secure the ports of entry.
During debate on amendments to the Customs Act which were approved this afternoon, Atherley called on authorities to step up their game in halting the movement of illegal guns through the ports.
He told the House: “Mr Deputy Speaker, you and I both know that these things don’t move on their own.
“These are inanimate objects that do not have a life of their own so they are moving at the hand and mind and brain of somebody or somebodies somewhere.
“And we can have all the advance passenger information, all the advance cargo information, but we’ve got to treat to the criminal element that so interposes itself in the process as to seek to counter every positive initiative that the Governments of Barbados over time have sought to put in place.”
Atherley argued that criminals need to be dealt with at all levels of society.
He declared: “A guy from Black Rock shoots a guy from Brittons Hill; we will bury the guy from Brittons Hill and lock up the guy from Black Rock.
“But we don’t ever touch the big hand that puts the guns in those small hands.
“I am simply saying primary responsibility is to protect this country and we put in place these systems to help us better do that, but we’ve got to make sure that no effort is spared to get the people who do their very best, despite these systems to achieve the criminal purposes among us to the detriment of all of us.”
The Opposition Leader urged the Government to reach a level of sophistication in crime prevention “that matches or surpasses that of the criminal element”. Atherley said criminals are “organising” and “assuming better levels of sophistication all of the time”.
The MP for St Michael West also called for an improvement in revenue collection at the Customs Department, which he hopes will ease the burden of taxation.
“And I really hope that that is an objective that is achieved in short order because there are those who would tell you the Customs is one of the biggest potential departments of revenue generation for Barbados and a lot of revenue is lost by deficiencies in the system,” said Atherley.
“If we can improve our revenue collection, in this case through the customs department, we can reduce our over reliance on otherwise burdensome measures of taxation.”
To achieve this, he added, Government also needs to get a handle on “this business of profiteering that is pursued by some among us”.
“Profit making is fine, profiteering is then another issue and hopefully we can treat to that to ease the burden on some of the rest of us,” Atherley said.