The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will launch, next year, a sports initiative intended to turn the nation’s youth away from crime amidst what Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said is a decision by some to become “armed entrepreneurs”.
In his address to mark the nation’s 39th anniversary of independence from Britain, on Saturday, Gonsalves said the programme will be a companion to the 10-year-old Pan Against Crime initiative.
He said the comprehensive sports programme will be conducted in conjunction with a sporting organisation interested in so doing.
He said that two national sporting organisations have raised the matter so far with him.
The announcement came in a speech in which the prime minister told the nation “it is painful and sobering that despite our immense progress in material and non-material terms, a small number of persons, mainly young males who are wholly unrepresentative of our nation’s young male population, have chosen a life of crime, especially violent crime”.
He said these persons have chosen to invest in “low-end but dangerous gun violence and have become ‘armed entrepreneurs’, living illegally off the fat of the land, making absolutely no contribution to the country’s development, sucking from it, and preying on innocent law-abiding people of all walks of life”.
Some persons who should know better make excuses for these persons and their criminal conduct, the prime minister said.
He said these “ridiculous excuses” come close to “bizarre justification”.
“The simple fact is that neither the society nor the economy commits violent crimes; it is the individual; that is where the responsibility lies,” he said, adding that there is no reason for any person in SVG to be violent toward another or to rob anyone.
“There are enough opportunities and support systems for anyone who considers himself or herself disadvantaged. Sensible people do not buy into this so-called ‘disadvantaged thesis’ as the cause of crimes,” Gonsalves.
He said it is important to note that most of the violent criminals are not truly disadvantaged.
“… they are greedy and covetous; they refuse to work;and they take some selfish pleasure in using violence against other persons. Yet, we must seek to rehabilitate them even as the legal system addresses the appropriate punishments”.
The prime minister said it continues to be the policy of his Unity Labour Party administration “to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”.
The coercive and other apparatuses of the state are doing their jobs, he said, but added that crime-fighting demands the practical support of all, including the family, the school, the community group, the church, and the media.
“What we do not need are cynical political operatives and some less-than-thoughtful radio hosts who tilt at the proverbial windmills and make absurd excuses for the violent criminal, but who, at the same time, traduce unfairly the solid and risky anti-crime efforts of the Police.
“Fighting crime and criminals in a liberal democracy is not always easy but our liberal and democratic values must always be maintained in this fight against violent criminals. To be sure, the tiny band of criminals will never win. On this fundamental matter, the government and people are ever more determined to constrain and defeat crime and criminals.”
Gonsalves said that, his comments notwithstanding, SVG is “overwhelmingly a peaceful and secure part of God’s earth.
“Let us bolster further its peace and security against the handful of violent criminals. Emphatically, we must not be dumb and soft on crime; and we stand askance from those who are playing smart with stupidness on this issue of crime. We must strive for peace on earth; and it begins with you and me, as the popular hymn avers,” he said.