Pay the more earnest heed

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Our hearts were broken when we heard the terrible news coming out of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Seems, a very bad actor/s decided that a score had to be settled, and that score would be settled in the most wanton and indiscriminate manner – at a public space in downtown Kingstown.  Such a shame. Never in our wildest imaginings did we ever think that any of our idyllic Eastern Caribbean islands would descend into such an orgy of violence. But descend precipitously, we have, and this totally unacceptable situation must be decisively addressed.

We certainly extend our sincerest condolences to the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We feel their pain, and deep sense of loss. Not to mention their apprehensiveness. We urge them to stand strong and not give in to fear. May the five souls that perished in the carnage, Rest in Peace.

Meantime, we are hearing reports of other shootings around St Vincent, but the authorities have assured us that they are all false, and they are appealing to the public to refrain from disseminating any information that is not true. That sort of thoughtless rumormongering can only heighten the climate of fear and paranoia. According to Loop News, quoting the Royal St Vincent Police Force (RSVPF), “The public is reassured that despite the regrettable spate of violence that is currently being experienced in St Vincent and the Grenadines, SVG is still a safe place.  The RSVPF noted one week ago the island concluded a successful, enjoyable and generally adverse incident-free Vincy Mas. Thousands of people enjoyed the carnival and had fun in a safe environment.  The Police Commissioner said the serious crimes that are being committed are by and large committed by a very small group of people against others of the same ilk.  We advise persons to settle their differences in a more mature, civilised and amicable manner. Also, we strongly advocate that persons respect the rights to life of each other . . .” [Loop Caribbean News, July 20, 2023]

Of course, we here in Antigua and Barbuda must redouble our efforts to keep our fair nation safe. When we see those sorts of things happening in other locales, we ought to pay the more earnest heed. Mercifully, so far, we’ve only had one killing, the tragic shooting of Roudi Shamarly on May22, on DeSouza Road, in broad daylight. Our hearts were rent in twain. So sad! May swift and sure justice be meted out in that case.

And may the day never come when we see more of those broad-daylight stick-ups, or experience the sort of killings that we have seen in some of our neighbouring territories, especially the larger ones. That sort of mindless violence would cripple our tourism industry, the business sector, and other areas of our economy, and folks would certainly not be able to freely enjoy the benefits of “life, love and the pursuit of happiness.”  A pox on those who have declared war on the decent, law-abiding citizens of their countries. May they have their day of reckoning.

What is worthy of note is that, a few short weeks ago, all hell seemed to have broken loose here in Antigua and Barbuda. There were a bunch of daylight stick-ups, a rape, and a killing. The young punks seemed to have taken over the joint and were brazenly brandishing weapons and acting with impunity. The citizenry was aghast, and there was a clamour for something serious to be done by the authorities. To their credit, law enforcement acted expeditiously, and several arrests were made in a number of the crimes in that aforementioned spate of lawlessness. Actually, since those arrests were made, there has been a noticeable decline in the crime-and-violence situation in Antigua and Barbuda, but we must remain vigilant.

We have been advocating on these pages for the authorities to step up their stop-and-search activities on the roadways, increase their mobile patrols and visibility at nights, and engage in more undercover surveillance.  We are big believers in community policing, and suggest that more engagement with the community will result in more tips and more alerts. The motto of the New York City Police Department is “Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect,” and we believe that a similar mantra ought to be our watchword here in Antigua and Barbuda. If our men and women in uniform engage the public in a courteous, professional and respectful manner, we suggest that those sorts of engagements will yield great crime-solving dividends.

Of course, we are more than a bit dismayed that we are not hearing word of more gun interdictions. Only a handful of guns have been intercepted at the Deepwater Harbour, and at the V C Bird Airport. This can only mean that persons in high places are turning a blind eye to gun trafficking, or guns are being smuggled into our State by way of our many beaches. The blood of a victim of gun violence is on the hands of those who facilitate the importation of guns into Antigua and Barbuda.

And then there is this strange thing called ‘karma.’ The gun-runner, or the trigger-happy gun-slinger may indiscriminately fire a few rounds, spilling innocent blood, but rest assured, he, or an innocent family member, or a dear friend of his, will fall to the bullets of another crazy punk. Think cosmic justice. Think karma.  Just ask William Shakespeare. He wrote several plays on the irony of life and death, and the retributive way in which the wheels of justice turn.

We have often called for a gun amnesty here in Antigua and Barbuda, what with the many illegal and unlicensed guns at the disposal of those with crime and murder in their hearts. The authorities should set aside funds for an amnesty and a gun buyback program, no questions asked. Parents who know of a wayward child with a gun hidden in the closet, should pick it up and take it to the nearest police station, or to a member of the clergy. A girlfriend or a boyfriend who is aware of a gun under the mattress, should take it to the authorities. The life that you save, could be your own. And yes, you will be saving our society from more heartbreak as a result of a shooting. Plus, you could be sparing your loved one from some serious jail time.

The Jamaican reggae artist Baby Wayne, in his 1992 hit, MAMA, warns against a life of crime and violence. May our young people be guided accordingly. “Bwoy, me a tell you man…who can’t hear, will feel / ‘Bout unuh a badman and gunman / And when time me go a Halfway Tree court, me see unuh all bawl fi unuh mother and unuh father / A tell dem ’bout, fi get money fi pay lawyer / Mama, yuh murderer a cry, a pure teardrops and water come outta him eye / Mama, yuh murderer a bawl / Him deh a courthouse and hear him name call / Mama, him all a sweat inna him pants / When him judge say, “give him a life sentence” / Mama, you should-a see how him galang / When di judge tri’ di case and say dat, “him fi hang” / ‘Bout dem haunted, kill man, and get wanted / Me nuh response fi you and no lawyer business / Yuh haunted, kill man, and get wanted / Me nuh response fi you and court house business / Yuh madda warn you, before certain things gwan / Gi’ you a pick axe, and a file, and machete fi go farm / Yuh never did waan that, ’bout you waan live big / A pure gun you waan sling, like you a Two-Gun Kid / Well, watch him everyday, nuh stop program wicked / With him gun pon him finger, have it a spin like a gig / The last bwoy try a ting, a three piece rapid / Police round him up, and rope him up like pig / And in front a di judge him start cry like olive . . . . Mama!!!”

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