Small Islands Voice Global Forum
How much more? (crime and violence)
I am still reeling from the brutal killing of a young man and the stabbing of his brother in an incident straight out of ‘The Godfather’ or some other gang movie. In a bold and daring display of disregard for human life in our small island, several young men stopped a bus in a small village, forced the driver and passengers from the vehicle and proceeded to hack and stab the two young men. It is alleged that the activity was gang-related.
The horrible thing is that the young man who died was not known to be a gang member. He was not at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was simply trying to get from Point A to Point B when he was brutally attacked by persons who might have had some grievances with his brother. Anywhere I turned last night I heard the same shock and disbelief voiced by everyone. The young victim was decent, well liked and respected his elders. The fact that his death was perpetrated by a group of youngsters just ‘next door’, and in such a daring manner, has incensed quite a number of people. In fact, most folks whom I spoke to are calling for a return of the death penalty as a solution to the increase of murders we have seen for the year. In the past three weeks alone there have been at least three murders. For the year the total murders stand in the region of seven. The number of stabbings and assaults with machetes is just as alarming.
For a small-island country such as ours, this trend is truly disturbing. Our attitude cannot be business as usual. There needs to be a palpable sense of urgency by all parties involved: the schools, parents, the police and the general public. All persons who inflict violence on others must know that they will be dealt the harshest punishment allowed under the law. What I find particularly scary is that a lot of the persons committing violence are young people, in many cases teenagers. I find it quite difficult to understand the existence of a culture that would allow these young folks to think that they can walk around with weapons and attack each other and anyone else who they think is related, or from the same area.
Have we so failed as a society that our young people feel that the only way to resolve differences is to destroy lives and property? I think we need to be asking some hard questions if we want to stamp out this epidemic of youth violence. A famous African proverb maintains that it takes a village to raise a child. If we subscribe to this belief then it holds that if our children develop into monsters then we as a society have failed and will ultimately suffer the consequences.
I would like to encourage the authorities to be swift and forceful in dealing with youth violence. Those youth who are contributing to the gang culture need to know that there are serious consequences to their lifestyle. Perhaps the establishment of a gang unit in the police force could target these gangs and make their lives so uncomfortable that they have no choice but to lead productive lives. More community policing including foot and bike patrol is desperately needed.
Parents have a pivotal role to play in helping us to reclaim our country. They need to talk to their children and encourage non-violent methods to resolve differences. If your child is showing signs of gang involvement, try and seek intervention early on. Do not make excuses for his or her suspicious behaviour.
One young life has ended tragically and a gentle spirit is no longer present to calm the other restless spirits whom he befriended. Let’s pay a lasting tribute to this young man by reclaiming our country from these criminal elements that have cast terror in our lives and are holding our peace hostage.
Adapted from a newspaper article published in a Caribbean island, 2003
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