This letter is addressed to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Sir, following the recent protests staged by the people of severely challenged communities over the killing of three residents, you have made a masterful response and appointed a committee to undertake an analysis of the situation and make recommendations on the way forward.
I wish to say that I endorse this initiative. However, as you are aware, there are many programmes that have been established in the past and also currently exist, for example, MiLAT (Military-Led Academic Training Programme), Civilian Conservation Corps, etc. These programmes/initiatives have not had the desired effect, largely owing to the non-participation of those most in need of these skills enhancements due to its voluntary access as persons are not compelled to participate.
You yourself have cited that persons engaged in illegal, violent activity are largely those who are ill-prepared for legitimate work. Once a young man attains puberty and finds himself outside of a track leading to academic or skills achievement that would afford him an opportunity to earn a reasonable income, such a young man is ripe for the picking or influence of gang leaders and the illegal life.
Young females in a similar situation tend to act out their frustrations through a search for love, attention and financial support. The result is often teenage pregnancies—the child mother-single parent-several fathers syndrome.
In addition, we now have the additional factor of several children from such relationships being left to grow up without a father’s love or guidance and the hurt and pain from the scars of their fathers having been killed, either by the police or through gang violence, feeding another round of potential miscreants.
Many law-abiding citizens insulate themselves from any guilty feeling or identification with the plight of these unfortunate, underprivileged persons by pointing to opportunities provided and insist that they are responsible for their own unfortunate situation because they refuse to undertake the sacrifices and hard work required to get them out of this morass.
What is not appreciated is the overwhelming conditions and pressure faced by persons in challenged communities and the fact that people are very different and things do not resonate with everyone in the same way. Therefore, if we step back and take the view that we are all about helping to make Trinidad and Tobago a better place, then we must be willing to adopt a narrative to help even those who appear to be resistant to proper direction before those elders who are themselves lost get to these youths.
In this regard, some degree of coercion is needed. Youths from challenged communities with a potential for recruitment by the criminal element must be identified and compelled to enrol in some form of national skills empowerment, whether through sport, trade or academics.
I know you may say, “Well, we won’t get the support of the Opposition that is required to make such participation compulsory”. However, I beg to disagree since at this particular juncture, with all the pain, suffering and anguish being experienced by the population, the Opposition will not be able to survive the public outcry for support of such legislation.
Dr Rowley, I may not be correct or I may be completely misplaced, but I think the opportunity is there for the taking. Is it not worth a try?
East Dry River