I write as a concerned citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines regarding what appears to be not only an upsurge in gun-related crimes, but also a deliberate targeting of financial institutions and other places of commercial activities, and well calculated violent reprisals of one kind or the other in our beloved nation. The familiar results are the untimely death of productive citizens, a financial burden on our already over-extended development resources and broken and unreconciled communities.
The Church, which has traditionally been a “force for good” in this country, has an obligation as the prophetic voice of the people to enter the conversation on “the causes and consequences of crime and criminality” with the specific aim of assisting in their prevention, if not, their containment.
It is against this backdrop that I am proposing that the Churches take the lead in concert with other Civil Society organisations on the following:
1.The call for and the administration of a Gun Amnesty in collaboration with the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force
•In order for this to gain broad acceptance, it cannot be managed by the Police Force, instead it ought to be managed by an impartial but credible and competent organization with appropriate guidance, and procedural policies so as to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of the participants and the process itself.
•A significant financial incentive must be determined by the management of the Amnesty to be paid to individuals in exchange for the recovery of illegal guns.
•A public education awareness programme be initiated to ultimately persuade individuals and communities possessing illegal guns to come forward and reassure them that no punitive measures will be taken against participants.
2.The hosting of a national conference involving a broad section of the Church, relevant state and private sector institutions and the NGO community to examine the sources, effects, costs, and remedies of “violence in our society”.
3.The issuing of a strong call for the strengthening of the resources of the National Commission on Crime Prevention (NCCP) in order to realistically address policy initiatives and practical programmes in the prevention of violent crime.
These suggestions are by no means a panacea for the crime situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, they can be the beginning steps of a more fulsome engagement with important sectors in our society on the question of crime prevention and containment.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].