The national anxiety following seven or nine deaths in four days in Vieux Fort – depending on who you listened to – is to be expected, given the nature of the gangland-style executions never seen or heard of before in Fair Helen. Understandably, a growing level of fear permeates our society.
Also to be expected were the knee-jerk types of responses like suggesting that people should boycott Vieux Fort and calling for a return of the Death Penalty and bringing back the hangman and his noose. Thankfully, sober minds have prevailed with the whole island condemning the actions and supporting the government’s invitation for help from the Regional Security Service (RSS).
Students and teachers are back at school and the Minister of Education has offered assurances of safety and counseling for those most affected by the traumatic actions of those who place no value on life, who will do anything to exact revenge in such circumstances or to get even with those who may have exchanged fire with them.
The government has responded with new emergency laws and more powers for the police which we hope will help us to return to normal, with businesses operating again. But the country is not yet out of the woods, as the illegal guns continue to enter through secluded coves and bays, even in imported barrels of “household items” intercepted by Customs.
It is therefore timely that the World Customs Organization this week hosted a local activity here, sponsored by the US and involving local Customs and Excise officers, aimed at strengthening the capacity of the local officers to trace and interdict illegal drugs and weapons.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister addressed a nationally-televised function with bankers supported by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), addressing Minimum, Small, and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) and laid out his own view that more needs to be done to ease vulnerable people’s economic pains to dissuade citizens, particularly the youth, from thinking of turning to crime.
He appealed to banks, financial institutions, and those running them to be more considerate when politicians like himself recommend poor people for special consideration, as in his words, “wealth creation” should not only be for those with wealth.
Clearly, like everywhere that’s faced unprecedented levels of criminal activity of the gruesome nature experienced here last week, the police will be expected to find ways and mean to take the fight to the criminal gangs. The Police must, however, not only use traditional methods that may have worked in the past, they must also try new methods that have yielded results elsewhere – without the use of arms. We, the citizens, must be ready to brace for whatever consequences might come, given the unpredictability of the response from the more bold and brazen gangsters.
Parents and guardians, teachers and students, police officers and citizens have all shown patience while the nation awaits the responses from those responsible for national security. But this is also a time for citizens to start to step up their own roles in assisting, by doing more than just complaining. One very effective way in which we, the populace can assist the police is by providing them with intelligence, not only about what has happened, but also what is likely to happen in the future.
We are all involved and the whole society is being consumed. We must all take on the challenge and leave it to no one else.