Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Time for a new social dialogue

On too many days another death resulting from violence is reported. Nearly as often another road fatality is also reported. But for the medical care available, the number of murders and the number of road fatalities would be higher.

This newspaper has recorded the escalating incidences of violence in the country most markedly in New Providence, over the past decade. Murders for example escalated from 73 in 2008 to 146 by 2015. Since 2017 when we endured 122 murders, this capital offense has trended down even taking into account an uptick in 2017. With the recent rash of murders we can hardly take comfort in the fact that murders have been trending down over the past six months. The number remains painfully high.

And the murder count does not take into account the terrifyingly high number of other serious crimes: assaults, rapes, stabbings and gunshot wounds suffered annually, which the minister of health has termed an “epidemic of violence”.

Road fatalities provide another grim picture with the number of fatalities rising annually. According to police reports, deaths resulting from traffic accidents rose by some 29 percent between 2017 and 2018. The majority of fatalities are young male drivers, but no sector of the community is immune; females, pedestrians of all ages, including minor children, number among the victims.

The successes achieved, and there are many, still fall far short of what one would expect from the multiple initiatives – social, educational, legal and economic – undertaken to arrest the decline of our social condition.

Our country’s hefty expenditure on education and on anti-crime initiatives, bolstered by the large number of churches active in our communities and the multiple civic organizations committed to social affirmation, have failed to discourage many away from a wanton disregard for life and limb.

While substantial investment has been made on infrastructural improvements, road widening, the creation of new road corridors, the implementation of directional changes in traffic flows and the installation of sidewalks, these programs have not made our roads safe from reckless, crazed drivers.

Far too many Bahamians are angry with no socially acceptable means of expressing their anger. Far too many are alienated from any social contract which may have previously set the moral and political rules in our country.

It is time for a new social dialogue among all groups in our communities. It is time for political, religious and civic leaders to put our community needs ahead of any of the interests of their various callings. And it is time for all leaders to encourage and inspire families to accept responsibility for their members.

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