Barbados wrapped up another Crop Over festival with organisers beaming at the success to which the island has become accustomed, but what people are now left to grapple with is one souring incident of gun violence and death.
On the evening of Kadooment Day, the flagship event that attracts thousands of local and overseas costumed revelers a gunman, or gunmen, opened fire killing the apparently intended victim but in the process wounding another six persons.
Some 14 others suffered injuries received in the rush to get out of the line of fire on Spring Garden where the festival culminated with a massive street party on Aug. 07.
Though the island has been having more than its fair share of gun-related violence and deaths, none expected it to spill into this showcase event that annually attracts droves of international celebrities and other persons from across the world seeking a fun, rum, sun and an all-round good time.
The disbelief that enveloped Barbadians was perhaps best represented by Prime Minister Freundel’s statement at a Crop Over after-party two days later when he ignored the incident in his recap of the 2017 two months of festivities.
He spoke of Monday’s Grand Kadooment as a time, “when we saw a blaze of colour, form and movement along the streets of Barbados culminating at the Spring Garden Highway.
“In all of this we can pat ourselves on the shoulders because we conducted ourselves with impressive dignity, and with sobriety put up the best face of Barbados.”
“Barbadians have been served a menu of very impressive events, all of which have been substantially and resoundingly patronized by Barbadians here and by visitors to this country from our Diaspora, and the tourists who treat Barbados as their second home.”
The country’s leader did however appear to pull his head out of the sand some days later when he commented on the overall situation of violent crime, which has seen so far 22 mostly gun-related deaths, including the one at Kadooment Day.
“We have to do some repair work if we are to be able to deal with this problem more effectively.
“It didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to end overnight, but we have to steer ourselves and ready ourselves to deal with the challenges thrown up by these occurrences.”
Stuart’s admission that gun violence did not suddenly descend on Barbados was echoed by Anglican Priest Hugh Sandiford on Sunday, Aug. 13.
“In recent times there’ve been too many shootings in our beloved Barbados,” Sandiford said, and continued, “if we reflect on Barbados you would realise that we heard the term crime and violence being used approximately 20 years ago.
“Many of us did not take it seriously then… We sat and did nothing 20 years ago. We’ve brought our pigs to fine market.”
And while the people agonize, not only over the amount of gun violence but also the way it violated their precious street party, Opposition Member of Parliament and former attorney General, Dale Marshall sounded a rallying call for the nation to preserve its normally peaceful fun-filled festival.
“Barbados and Crop Over belong to us all and we must not surrender to the forces who would seek to destroy our country and our way of life.”