Central Leeward MP Orando Brewster says one of the recent murders in Layou took place near his home but no criminal would chase him out of the town.
He told the peace march and rally in Layou on Friday he was not living in the Central Leeward town because he had no choice.
“Layou is where my heart is. I had a choice some years ago whether to stay in a bigger country or to return home to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And I chose to come back to St. Vincent and the Grenadines but also to come back to the place where I was born and where I was raised and no criminal is going to run me from this, our town. No criminal is going to run us out of this wonderful town,” Brewster said.
In 2020, Brewster, who holds a degree in medicine, was elected to a five-year term as MP for Central Leeward.
Layou has come into focus after it recorded four murders in six weeks, including a killing in the mountains one day before the march and rally.
Brewster urged Layou residents to stand with each other in saying that they will not accept any more crime or killing in the community.
“Tomorrow is going to be a brighter day. Don’t lose hope, don’t give up,” Brewster said.
“This is our community and we know that we will get Layou back to the place that we once called this lovely hometown. We will get it back. We will get it right and we will not make the criminals overtake our lovely community.”
Brewster told the rally that Layou is “overwhelming … an excellent and a wonderful town.
“This is that I brag and I boast about — the town of Layou,” he said, noting that the town has produced outstanding citizens, including the “ABC Of Calypso”, Alston “Becket” Cyrus, and sports people such as Ezra Hendrickson, Shandel Samuel, Myron Samuel, and, in netball, the Christopher sisters.
“And Layou has overwhelmingly been a good and decent community. I don’t want all of the negative that we see happening today or in the past few weeks to overshadow the good of what Layou has produced over the years,” Brewster said.
He said the community is “not lacking in infrastructural development”, noting that it has a clinic, a learning resource centre, schools, hardcourt and a playing field.
“… and we must utilise all of these tools to make sure that we stamp out all of the criminal activities that are happening here in our community.”
He noted the presence of students at the rally, adding that when he was growing up in Layou, people could have walked the street without fear.
“And I don’t want my son or my daughter, or, as a matter of fact, anyone, any parents, when they send their kids out they have to be wondering whether or not they’re going to return home,” Brewster said.
“And it’s important that we start to tackle this issue from the foundation. It starts in our home,” Brewster said, adding that poverty should not be blamed for the upsurge in crime.
“Because I did not come from a home of riches. I did not come from a family of wealth. But I decided at a very young age that I’m going to be responsible. And I want our youth to take up not the guns but the responsibility to be decent and outstanding citizens, not only of our community in Layou but in St. Vincent and the wider world,” the Central Leeward MP said.
“Before you pick up a gun, think about picking up a sporting discipline, think about joining a community-based organisation, think about volunteering and helping to improve our communities.”
He said the government alone cannot deal with crime and violence.
“This is a team effort. We have to make sure that every sector of our community is on board with fighting crime and violence in our society.”
Brewster noted that the theme for the rally was “Love is the Answer”, adding that this is something that Becket sang about. “Before we take up the guns, let us love our brothers and our sisters.”
He said the rally was not about political affiliation. “It is not about NDP (New Democratic Party) or it’s not about ULP (Unity Labour Party).
“One life lost is not to be blamed on any political side. A life lost means there’s a grieving home, a grieving mother, a grieving father, a grieving brother and a grieving sister, and one mother’s cry is all mothers’ cry.”
Brewster said that when he was a primary school student in Layou, children were expected to be respectful to and greet their elders.
“Now, I see some of our youngsters, no regard, no respect for the elderly in the community,” he said, adding that gone are the days when people would go to the elders to help them settle differences.
“That is the community that I grew up in. And that is the community that we must embrace and we must enhance. We have to settle our differences without the guns, without the weapons that will take the life of our future generation.”
The MP noted that it is young people who are being murdered.
“So if we take out our next generation at this time, it is only going to be weeping, mourning and gnashing of teeth in our near future,” Brewster said, and welcomed the presence of the churches at the event.
“Reach out to those who are in the streets. Talk to them. Sometimes they only need someone to put their hand over and say, ‘Bother, it’s gonna be alright. I would work with you.’ Sometimes you only need a comforting word to say, ‘Man this is not the way to go. There is another way.’
“It is our responsibility, every one of us, for us to make sure that we back our community. It is our responsibility to make sure that we secure the future of the younger generation. I could not miss this today. I could not miss an event like this. Because as a leader I believe that you should lead.”