Former opposition leader Bishop Joseph Atherley is accusing the two main political parties of politicising crime and is urging law enforcement authorities to go after the financiers of gun imports.
Frowning on the recent spike in gun violence that has included brazen attacks in public spaces, Atherley said it is time for the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to stop blaming each other for the upsurge in crime.
“We need to get robust with matters of justice and sentencing, investigations, and police prosecutions. We need to get robust and tough with these things. We are dealing with this matter of crime and cannot, to date, put hands on the big people who may be involved in the importation of weapons into Barbados.
“We can only deal with the fella from down Black Rock and up in the Pine who shoots a person his own age or goes into somebody’s house. Who are the people that are importing the guns? This is what we should be dealing with at this time,” Atherley insisted.
Noting that the shootings and killings are threatening national security and peace, he said the challenge needed all hands on deck to find a solution.
“I will repeat what I have said before – that when these guys are tired training their guns on each other they will start to train them on the police authority and the next step is to train it on the governmental or political authorities. We have seen other countries go in that direction and that is a path upon which we have now embarked,” Atherley told Barbados TODAY.
Following an early morning shooting on Thursday, in Eagle Hall, St Michael, in which one man in a public service vehicle was shot and other frightened passengers jumped through the minivan’s windows, Acting Commissioner of Police Erwin Boyce warned perpetrators there would be zero tolerance to all gun-related crime.
The top cop said the Barbados Police Service intended to eliminate violence and the use of illegal firearms in society. He assured the public that lawmen were targeting criminals with vigour and relentlessly and at every level.
However, Atherley said even though the Police Service is playing its part to fight crime, a holistic, collaborative, national approach is needed to bring an end to the problem.
He said that while state agencies must do what is necessary to get the guns off the streets, institutions such as churches and community groups must assist lawmen.
“I lament the fact that I have not seen a ready enthusiasm for this. People seem to think that it is a problem that the Government must deal with. The Government can’t deal with this on its own, no matter what label the Government wears,” he contended.
“This is a very serious thing; we are talking about threats to our safety, we are talking about threats to our way of life, threats to our model of governance, and we are talking about threats to our economy. We have to get serious about this thing and take some drastic actions. It must be nationalistic, across-the-board action. This business of crime must not be a political football; we’ve got to deal with it,” he said.