Saying that the country “cannot afford” the tens of millions of dollars being spent on the Barbados Defence Force (BDF), Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn has called on Government to reimagine the role of the armed forces .
He said while the BDF had provided sterling service over the years, the cost to the taxpayer of maintaining it was high compared to the limited tasks executed by the Force daily.
Speaking during Wednesday’s debate in the Senate on the Defence (Amendment) Bill, 2021, he suggested that the BDF numbers and expertise could be better utilized as a paramilitary arm of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
“The Barbados Defence Force, to my mind, is an encumbrance Barbados cannot afford. You see the resources that you pump into the Barbados Defence Force every year. This year it’s supposedly $54 568 495, but there will be a supplementary because it surpassed this the last time and everything [is] going up. Next year it is estimated to cost $101 483 927. These are resources that can be better spent equipping the police, giving them the resources that they need, and some of those same Defence Force people can be retrained to be police officers,” Senator Franklyn argued.
“It is taking too much money from the Treasury when that money could be better utilized to provide other services that the country needs. There is nothing for them to do, but we have a whole set of criminals out there and the police don’t have enough manpower to be visible everywhere. Provide some of those resources to the police.”
The Opposition Senator suggested the BDF officers could form a Special Services Unit that performs some military duties.
“If then the police still need assistance, you might have a part-time regiment, as we had before, that will then assist the police in a state of emergency. You are finding now [Barbados Defence Force] people with nothing to do as soldiers, finding themselves in all aspects of our society when they are not necessary and when they are not trained for it,” he said.
Referencing several instances within the past few years when BDF personnel assisted police, Franklyn said soldiers were frequently being used outside their main mandates and should be repurposed within the RBPF where possible.
“Over the years… the Governor General is called upon to give his or her assent to the Defence Force being used to assist the police on a continual basis. That should only be done in aid of the civil power when the police are unable to carry out their function [and] where there is a breakdown of law and order and the police can’t handle everything,” he added.