On June 11, 2021, my newspaper column was captioned “Evil Stalks this Land”. I was then focusing on natural disasters and ones that were man made. At that time six months into the year, we had a total of 16 homicides. Now nine months into 2022 our homicide count appears to be 32. Before one was able to come to grips with those sour statistics, the nation was startled by the loss of five lives in a traffic accident at Old Sandy Bay, four of them on the spot and one later at the hospital. It was seven years ago that we had the Rock Gutter disaster that took the lives of seven students. Let us also remember that this was part of the area that we dubbed the Red Zone, an area that was largely evacuated during the 2021 volcanic eruption. Residents have not been able to fully resettle themselves when this tragic accident struck.
Fortunately, and I say this guardedly, for there is nothing fortunate about this, the victims were from a different part of the country.
Ironically, they were going to attend the funeral of a resident of Owia, not far north, who was the victim of a gunshot in an area not far removed from the home of the victims of the traffic accident. The man was incidentally among the 32 homicides for the year.
Accidents will occasionally happen. It is alleged that problems with the brakes were responsible for what happened at Old Sandy Bay. A full investigation has as yet not been done so we do not know for sure what happened and must await further details. Although I am not making any judgement on what happened with the van, we who drive on the roads often wonder how come there are not more accidents, with hustling mini vans, especially, daring to overtake other vehicles around corners in impossible situations. The authorities need to have these tracked and to put in place whatever is necessary to limit tragic accidents. Huge trucks often packed with material on roads not designed for them are a constant challenge to other road users. Let us not wait on more serious accidents before we act. The response should not only be to visit relatives and friends after and sympathise with them as they try to cope with their misfortunes. After investigating, measures must be put in place to limit these tragedies. Fortunately, these are not weekly or even monthly occurrences.
High on the national agenda should be vigorous efforts to bring the crime situation under control. While we could point to the frightening reality of 32 homicides, we often neglect the fact that with these are many who were lucky to have escaped death, but were often injured, sometimes seriously so. It will be interesting to find out how many unlicensed firearms we have in this country. But this is not the only serious issue. There is a lot of anger on the streets and in communities. Any slight disagreement is followed by threats to kill. There are weekends when the murder count is either, two, three or four. Last weekend it was three. Last Friday one at Ottley Hall/Buddy Gutter; on Saturday a 27-year-old male was found dead in his mother’s yard at Mala Village and then on Monday it was the turn of a 46-year-old at Redemption Sharpes. One news report referred to a salvo of gunshot piercing the silence of the community in the early morning.
It appears that the perpetrators of these crimes are under the impression that they will never be caught. Although much of this is discussed on social media, there is a disquieting silence from the authorities. Crime under any circumstances should demand urgent attention with a warning to others that measures are in place to bring all criminals to justice. We have been talking a lot about tourism, but let us remember that there is nothing that could deter visitors from visiting our country as the impression that crime has gotten out of hand. Let us take control of the evil that continues to stalk our country. We have to first start by seeing ourselves as one people regardless of political differences. Let us do what is best for the country and not what might score for the next election.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian