This week’s Barbados Editorial adds to the commentary about the rising pubic concern about crime.
While the national crime rate is not the direct legal responsibility of the governing administration, opposition parties everywhere are never slow to go on the offensive whenever this reaches an electorally unacceptable level, that is, whenever there is the public expression of popular discontent with the status quo. This is understandable; the perception of an electoral advantage is strategically enticing to any political grouping.
In our view, however, any political approach to crime should be bipartisan or non-partisan even since, first, like the rain, crime is no respecter of persons, and it falls alike on the government and opposition members and supporters without discrimination and, second, a propensity for crime is unlikely to be abated by something as mundane as a change in governing administration. Indeed, our regional neighbour, Trinidad & Tobago where, if anything, the crime rate has increased exponentially since a change in administrations, is a case in point in this regard.
It was therefore of more than passing interest to read in a recent issue of Barbados Advocate of a colloquium between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in that jurisdiction that has by now become globally notorious for its murder rate that significantly exceeds one victim per day for this year so far.
Unsurprisingly, their meeting appears to have revealed little in the way of bold new initiatives to combat the scourge, although this is in no way to belittle this laudable bi-partisan political effort. According to the report, they agreed that preliminary enquiries in the magistrate’s courts should be abolished, that there should be effective co-operation between the governing administration and the opposition, and that there should be the right legislation to increase the effectiveness of the police in apprehending criminal offenders.
Regrettably, and we say this mainly because of the unlikelihood of its future execution, both sides agreed that the death penalty should remain the law of the land.
We are minded to counsel that there should be a similar collaboration locally, especially at this critical time. As Dr. Rowley intimated after the meeting, “mutual respect was necessary between the Government and Opposition”, and there was agreement that a Joint Select Committee be established to be chaired by an Independent Senator, “to ensure that the political acrimony that may exist between [the] sides does not affect the work…”
In Barbados, the Attorney General has rightly been taken to task for his recent assertion that the upsurge in crime, especially gun crimes, is not his fault. At a strictly literal level of expression, he may be right, but then no one is accusing him of having committed the offences himself.
However, good governance entails the creation of the appropriate laws and policies to ensure a socially just and orderly society. Moreover, under the Westminster system of governance that we purport to follow, a policymaker is never allowed to say “it is not my fault” in respect of any foul up that might occur under his or her watch. It was not the fault of then British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington in 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falklands but he was in charge of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office that had failed to foresee this development; nor was it his fault in the Crichel Down affair in 1954 when the Minister of Agriculture resigned despite the fact that all mistakes were made by civil servants without his knowledge.
Nevertheless, calls for the resignation of the Attorney General at this time are clear political bluster; after all, faithful adherence to the Westminster model is not, and has never been, the system of governance we practice in this country.