We have long had a tradition in Barbados of civility and respect for the rule of law. This, even as many will question the level of civil discourse and behaviour that is witnessed daily in this country.
Often when the country has been through some of its worst periods of economic downturn and other shocks, it was generally believed that these occasions might have devolved into civil unrest and widespread criminality.
Yes, there was the period of the 1930s when Barbadians took matters into their own hands and rioted over deep economic and social inequality faced by the black majority population.
We in Barbados were swept up in the total rejection of British colonial rule in the region and the economically depressive state which made life total misery for the dispossessed, who for the most part, were black and descendants of the enslaved.
Writer Gloria Kostadinova in a 2014 blog post discussed “the complexity of poverty and its multilevel impacts on Caribbean countries”.
She argued that “poverty affects societies on a social, cultural, psychological and political level, resulting in increased crime and violence”.
Moreover, nations easily became “entangled in a vicious cycle that perpetuates these problems”, that “poverty causes crime and violence, which then further inhibits a country’s growth and development, thus leading to more poverty and inequality”.
The twin evils of low educational achievement and poverty have been real causes of delinquency and criminal behaviour here.
At the same time, however, we have failed to emphasise the influence of human conditions such as greed, envy, and selfishness as strong influencers on behaviour whether one is poor or rich.
We reject any suggestion that criminality is exclusive to the poorly educated or those living in poverty. We know that to be an untruth.
Faced with a situation in which so many Barbadian youngsters, particularly young males, are leaving school with little or no certification, in a country that provides free education from nursery to tertiary, begs for a re-evaluation of our educational system.
This is an important segue to discussion on the sentencing this week by High Court Judge Carlisle Greaves of three young men to 25 years in prison for a shooting spree in a St Lucy neighbourhood that left one man severely injured and imperilled the lives of several villagers.
Justice Greaves was asked by prosecutors to send a strong message following the three men’s conviction by a jury, and yesterday he did.
Andre Omar Jackman, notoriously known as Lord Evil and Punchies of Stroud Bay; Kaeron Sylvian Moore, 35, also of Stroud Bay; and Shane Hakeem Omar Babb, 35, of Ellis Road, Crab Hill, were unanimously convicted earlier in the year after nearly 60 days of trial for using a firearm without a licence on September 30, 2018, and endangering the lives of Reshawn Greaves and Michael Abbott.
The comments of Justice Greaves as he presided over the sentencing phase of the matter were instructive and contextualised some of the issues of crime and criminal behaviour that our society faces. Unless recognised and addressed, they could spell doom for generations of Barbadians to come.
Despite the glowing tributes about Lord Evil and pleas for a lenient sentence, the Judge was not impressed, questioning whether Jackman was truly the quiet family man or really a highly feared individual.
“It seems our gunmen are determined not to drop their guns. The courts are therefore left with the only alternative of imposing heavy sentences to assist in keeping the community safe from gunmen,” he said.
In justifying his decision to impose long sentences on the convicted men, Greaves said “Failure to do so, will erode the confidence of the community, retard their willingness to assist the law by offering statements and evidence, identify and convict the culprit.
“[It] will embolden the offenders who will think they can do as they please, including the intimidation of witnesses, not only from the community but even among those in authority.”
Of Lord Evil the Justice Greaves described him as a man who “must think himself lord of the realm; indeed, a law onto himself and answerable to no man; a lord above the law”.
While justifications can always be found for one’s actions, those who are tasked with the maintenance of law and order in this country must also ensure they can be depended on to protect those of us who believe in civility and the rule of law.