Letter to Editor
Monday, 25 February 2013 02:31
By Samantha Marshall
On two separate occasions, I wrote open letters, on what I consider to be the burning issue of crime. My first letter, written in January to Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, reminded him of the Joint Parliamentary Committee he chairs to recommend and develop with the law enforcement authorities strategies to deal with the curtailing of crime, in particular rape.
I highlighted the fact that from the time of the establishment of the Committee, since November 2009, the prime minister had not called a single meeting to address these problems. In the meantime, our women continue to be in fear of the indignity of being raped, and armed robberies continue to escalate.
Earlier, for the month of February, seeing that nothing meaningful had been done, I penned another open letter to the Editor of Caribarena. My objective was to awaken the consciousness of our people about this national issue permeating and terrorising our people and our country. Since then, despite pointedly calling upon our churches and non-governmental organisations, I have not heard their voices rise up in support of our women who are violated, or of the rising criminal activity that is coming nearer and nearer home to many.
Over the past week, a couple, reportedly sitting in their car in the village of Willikes, was held up by masked gunmen.
While the woman escaped any physical harm, her male companion remains in a serious condition at the Mount St John’s Medical Centre receiving care for gunshot wounds.
Also, the Brownies Baker Shop in the Point area was held up and robbed, and there still remains a national numbness that is difficult to understand.
And most recently, on Saturday the 23rd February, 2013 the owners and patrons of a new restaurant, Oceanus, in the vicinity of Valley Church, were held up at gunpoint. This, I understand, has resulted in at least 2 persons nursing gunshot wounds.
But when I speak out, there are those in the blogosphere who simply wish to attach a political label to my concerns; or to demand of me to either come up with solutions or “shut up”.
Such outbursts are indeed alarming and a demonstration of the kind of unpleasantness that we seem to embrace, rather than being each other’s neighbours. The reality is that crime has taken over our streets. No one is safe anymore. We need to join hands and take back our streets, our country. We need the government to make the control of crime a national priority. The mere fact that the prime minister is the chairman of a Parliamentary committee which was established over 2 years ago on the recommendation of a Member of the Opposition, and has failed to hold one single meeting to date, is in my view a strong indication that it is the PM and his government of which answers should be demanded.
It is the Government that has all the resources at their disposal, and it is they upon whom we must rely to harness all possible resources to manage crime in a way that engenders fear in the criminals of being caught, and dealt with in accordance with the law. It is up to the government to give confidence to us in this nation that something is being done.
To those who are of the view that I should come up with suggestions or shut up, I will make one suggestion, but I will certainly not shut up.
When the UPP government wanted to give the impression to the public that they were going to lock-up certain members of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, they brought in an attorney from Guyana, swore him in as a special constable to arm him with the authority to carry out what would have been the role of the police.
I want to recommend, as one of the short term resolutions, that Baldwin Spencer take such steps as are necessary to put more “boots” on the ground by taking at least 50 of the Civil Defence men, swearing them in as special constables, and letting them join with the police to augment the force’s patrolling of every nook and cranny of Antigua.
Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. If the prime minister is serious about this, I invite him to contact the Leader of the Opposition, and both should agree to go to Parliament and pass a resolution to bring this into being. It is cost effective, as there is scarcity of resources, and with members of the Defence Force joining our police on the beat, armed and ready to meet criminal challenges, I am sure that we will be on the road to taking back our streets and most of all, our country.