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EDITORIAL: Law must rule, not the mob

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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Within the past ten days two grave events have occurred in this island, shocking all right thinking Barbadians into introspection about where this society has come from and where it goes from here.
The first of these was the henious tragedy that took place in Tudor Street. That incident shows such disrespect for another’s property and such a reckless disregard for human life, that one wonders what must have been going through the minds of the perpetrators as they planned their dastardly deed.
Little wonder then that there has been such overwhelming condemnation by our community of citizens, because such callous acts instantly agitate the sensibilities of even the most unruffled of us; and there is every understanding, though never any acceptance, of an emotional response which cries out for immediate justice, and fuels a temptation to take the law into one’s hands.
After all, the blood of Abel cried out from the very ground on which it was spilt.
The other event received less publicity, but is equally grave because it draws attention to the dangers which may follow in the train of raw emotions and confused motives let loose with barely a leavening of reason.
Last Thursday’s Daily Nation showed on its Back Page a picture of a young man tied up to a pole with red ropes. The accompanying caption told us it was a Citizens’ Arrest and that residents of Nelson Street pounced on a man suspectedof committing a crime and tied him to a utility pole until the police arrived . . . .
That was as much as a newspaper with its limitations of still photography could show us, but on YouTube later that evening, the full horror of what can only be described as the misplaced rule of the mob could be downloaded by anyone in the world with access to a computer.
A knowledge of our language was not necessary because actions spoke louder than words, as the tied up young man was punched and kicked and otherwise assaulted by a very few emotionally worked up, wrongheaded members of the crowd.
Mob rule is as destructive to the peace and stability of this island as is the firebombing and robbery of the Store in Tudor Street. In fact it may be even more destructive because of the insidious nature of its dangers, barely concealed by the quiet acceptance by many of the motives excusing the act.
But we are ruled under a Constitution which proclaims and upholds the rule of law; and the rule of law condemns with equal force and disapproves the actions in Nelson Street as vehemently as it condemns the robbery and firebombing in Tudor Street.
Among other things, the rule of law protects our right to life, and our right to property, as well as our right not to be punished, except in accordance with the law, and of course the right of any accused person to a fair trial within a reasonable time.
Tying a man suspected of committing a crime to a pole and beating him is the rule of the mob, and such actions grievously undermine and offend the rule of law; and it matters not how heinous might be the suspicions or allegations raised against him.
It is for the police to investigate, and for the courts to punish, after, and only after, a jury of one’s peers have determined guilt. There cannot be the slightest compromise of this principle if peace, order and good governance of this or any other democratic society is to be possible.
To do otherwise is to court anarchy and the ultimate destruction of our people, our society and our economy. Every voice that condemns Tudor Street should equally oppose the incident on Nelson Street. Silence is not an option!