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Prime Minister Drew discusses future of “Peace Program”; says administration will target youth to prevent recruitment


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The future of the Alternative Lifestyle Pathway Fund (“Peace Program”) has been on the minds of many in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis since the new administration settled into office.

There has been continued public discourse on the Peace Programme, which was introduced several years ago under the Team Unity Administration. Locally, individuals have had extensive debates about the millions of dollars that fund the Peace Programme annually, alleging that the participants do not receive honest pay. In contrast, the country has seen a decline in criminal activity since the inception of the Programme.

Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew had previously reported rampant corruption within the program, with the monthly budget for the program averaging EC$2 million and the increase in participants of the program by more than 100 percent between June and August of 2022, from 600 to about 1,300 people during the height of campaign season for the August 2022 election.

The Prime Minister has promised to revamp and erase the corrupt practices within the program’s operations; however, there have been questions circulating about the existence and continuance of the program.

During a special interview with the Press on February 3, Dr. Drew said the payment continues with the stipulation being that participants of the program are appropriately registered so that Social Security is paid and the program can effectively reduce the number of people who turn to nefarious forms of living.

“We are saying that people must work for what they get, and that is why we are putting in all these training programs and options for people…We have to establish a principle here that in St. Kitts and Nevis, if you are paid, then it’s because it would have worked. And so that is a national principle that we have to abide by, and so, that is one of the principles that must be introduced into the Peace Program because, as you know, they were in the program and the Alternative Lifestyle Program, they were not paying any Social Security, they were receiving payment, they were not paying any Social Security or any Social levy. So it means then, therefore, that they were not given the opportunity to even have a protected or secure future through the Social Security program. So we want to put that in place.”

The Prime Minister reinforced the government’s desire to have the people who are a part of the program move on from the program and continue as contributing citizens of the Federation. The Prime Minister emphasised the need to care about the future of youth in St. Kitts and Nevis. Thus the Government must create avenues and opportunities to decrease youth recruitment into the criminal elements in the Federation.

“We want to give them real options so that they can have an option to really move on, which is what we want; for you to have an option to move on so that the life of criminality is not a life that is attractive and is not the life that we want our people to be in so, we are going to dig deep because we care about our young men. We have to care about our young people, and I care about them, and so I want to give them opportunities for them really, to advance themselves and to move on and to make sure that there is no recruitment of the young people. That is why we are putting in another program [that] will deal with that group of young men who might be susceptible to being recruited. So that once and for all, everyone can have an opportunity to live a life decent here in St. Kitts and Nevis.”

There is growing concern about the effects the changes to the program will have on the public. The three recent murders since the start of 2023 have somewhat created fear of criminal activity escalating in the country. Prime Minister Drew assured the public that the Ministry of National Security is working assiduously to end any disputes.

One journalist during the interview highlighted the recent killings in St. Kitts and suggested that there is waning confidence in law enforcement, and asked what assurance the Prime Minister could provide to concerned citizens.

“We are strengthening those areas, the apparatus; to strengthen the administrative and the structure of the Police Force so they know that what is being done to have a transition to a new Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner and having all the other parts fill in along with the necessary training and the resources that these things are in place so that we can have a strengthened security apparatus.

The Prime Minister continued, “it’s not just the Police, The Defence Force, also we are strengthening that significantly. We have increased their base pay, we have given them more barracks, we have given them a gym so that we can improve their conditions so that that again, can have to engender goodwill with them so that they can function well. And when you look at another apparatus as well, you have Customs, Immigration, all of them work together, along with the others, to make sure that we are kept safe. And so we have been working steadily in these areas and will see the culmination at least outwardly with the selection and the strengthening of the structure of the Police Force.”

The Alternative Lifestyle Pathway Programme was launched on March 13, 2019, and was expected to be an initiative with an expiry date. Now the program’s longevity, relevance, viability and what it has colloquially done for the country’s crime rate are being questioned.


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