by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Given CARICOM’s deep concern about the unprecedented levels of crime in the region, CARICOM Heads of Governments met in Trinidad in April 2023 and focused their attention on “Violence as a Public Health Issue.”
Whilst a guest on the May 24, 2023 edition of ‘Issues’, Prime Minister Hon. Dr Terrance Drew shared feedback from the regional symposium. He said an assessment by the Regional Security System (RSS) suggested that there would be an increase in acts of crime in the region.
“When we went to Trinidad, and I spoke on the panel in Trinidad – looking at violence from a public health standpoint, part of the RSS assessment was that there would be an increase in criminal activity throughout the OECS or the Caribbean, which we have all seen; and it’s because the economies are opening back up, the countries are opening back up. Nonetheless, we’re making sure we take strict measures.”
Countries agreed to take strict measures to ensure peace, security and sustainable development of their countries. Prime Minister Drew said for St. Kitts and Nevis, a Task Force is expected to be launched shortly, creating a path for the country to deal with crime.
“This is actually going to be linked to dealing with violence from a public health standpoint. We’re actually been putting a Task Force together since I came back from Trinidad. That Task Force should be formed this week… I think I am meeting with them on Friday; if not Friday, very early next week. That Task Force is the implementation of the plan of dealing with violence from a public health standpoint.”
Included in the Declarations by the Heads of CARICOM on Crime and violence as a public health issue, they agreed to “Empower and engage young people as positive content developers to offset the negative impact of social media and engage with the creative industries to re-engineer culturally acceptable norms” and “Develop and implement targeted programmes and strategies to address young vulnerable youth at risk of becoming perpetrators and victims of crime,” amongst others.
Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Drew gave the public some insight into the Alternative Lifestyle Pathway Programme,
“We are seeking to upgrade the programme and make the programme sustainable and to make it make sense from all aspects. So, for people to say or suggest that the programme was abandoned, that has not been so. That is far, far from the truth.”
The Prime Minister highlighted various areas which will be prioritised within the programme when it is relaunched. The aim is for programme participants to become certified and contribute positively to the country.
“We’re going to launch the new aspect of the programme in about, within a month; because the programme [needs] to be studied, understood and then [we’ll] start to put structures in place to do that. So, I can say we are doing that work. We have been doing that work, and those details we will give. We will change the name of the programme, for example. We have a different structure, in terms of the management of the programme, which we have to. We have different aspects to the programme in terms of training. We have different tracks- small business tracks, community development tracks, counselling tracks, mentorship tracks. [We’ll have] these different tracks so that we can track out people, those who are the participants, in every area, to see where they’re at and where we can capture them. So, that is why we’re going to have all these; so that people can become certified in different areas; people can become small business people, people might participate in community advancement and development, and in addition to that, you have a part of the programme that deals with mentoring and so forth. So, these are the aspects of the programme that are going to be rolled out.”
Prime Minister Drew explained that a holistic approach would be taken to ensure the programme’s success, a whole-society approach involving collaboration across local ministries and sectors.
“We have, of course, our local people involved, from many different ministries, and we also have consultations from persons who have done programmes like these, from the outside as well. We will also make sure that we give the update with respect to the programme, but we have started a process of re-registering to know who are the persons in the programme and so forth,” said Dr Drew.
Dr Drew emphasised that the matter of crime and violence is not unique to the Federation but is a regional phenomenon that needs to be curtailed. He said the Government would make the necessary investments and develop policies to deal with crime and violence.