News over the weekend that warring gangs in urban Barbados had finally pledged to put their differences aside was welcomed – for some at least. Others are sceptical, believing it to be mere lip service.
It was reported that 200 men from different blocks and communities gathered in The City last Thursday and promised an end to the recent spate of violent incidents that resulted from their wars.
The well-known group Red Sea and a break-out faction 64 from Deacons Farm, St Michael, and the Choppers of Chapman Lane, The City reportedly signed a peace treaty and were later seen together in photos posted on social media.
At the forefront of the truce was 64-year-old Winston Iston Bull Branch, a resident of Chapman Lane who intervened after Government efforts led by Minister with responsibility for Crime Prevention Corey Lane to get the groups in one location were unsuccessful.
Some people have praised the peacemaker and those who agreed to bury the hatchet, while others have said they will believe there is really a truce when the gang members turn in their guns.
Former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is among those who have advised Barbadians not to celebrate just yet, saying that the agreement is only phase one.
“Phase two will have to be that the Minister with responsibility for Crime Prevention and the Attorney General are going to lead all of those young men, on a day appointed, to Central Police Station to hand over their firearms because if the truce breaks down, you can’t afford for those people to be still armed because we will be back at square one,” he said at a Democratic Labour Party branch meeting.
His sentiments were echoed by Roger Husbands, the director of Drug Education and Counselling Services, who said while the truce was a good first step, it was not enough.
“If we are doing something like this that is public, don’t only talk, tell us how we are going to get these young people to stop, how you are going to get these young people to put down the guns. Are they going to hand over the guns?” he asked.
Many on social media and on call-in programmes are in agreement with these views.
It would be interesting to hear the position of the Barbados Police Service on the development.
It was not so long ago that Police Commissioner Richard Boyce said that the Force was close to bringing the perpetrators of recent crimes, who were “well-known” to the police, to justice.
Is the Police Service satisfied with a “signed truce” as guns remain in the hands of those who have shown in the past they have no misgivings about using them?
Commissioner Boyce had said at the time: “We know that there are some groups, two to three groups, which are creating most of the problems for us. We know who they are and we are working tirelessly, assiduously in dealing with those groups. Once we get to the bottom of it, once we are able to dismantle those groups, I think that we will be able to go into public spaces without that fear.”
As long as guns remain in the hands of those who have no qualms about using them, we remain in danger and at risk.
So, while we laud the truce and all those involved in brokering the deal, we would feel safer if the guns are handed in and the Police Service make good on their promise to dismantle the groups.