Saturday, January 20, 2018

Civil society presents unified voice, offers suggestions

TACKLE white-collar crime, promote public servants on merit and make budgetary decisions that promote social growth.
These were some of the suggestions made yesterday for tackling crime at the root, when civil society met to kick-off its ant-crime initiative, “Side by Side We Stand”, in partnership with Caribbean Communications Network (CCN), parent company of the Express and TV6.
It was the first phase of the initiative, which convenor, journalist Sunity Maharaj, said yesterday is likely to result in a document intended to help guide in the fight against crime.
The event on the International Waterfront, Port of Spain, brought together a number of non-governmental organisations, citizens and members of the business community.
President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud, in his address, said the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago was comprised of 41 people who were concerned with ­party ­interests, and that this was as a result of a framework introduced to T&T at Independence, which no longer works.
Aboud said this country is at a crisis point and faces a serious management problem.
Among his suggestions were that public servants, such as police officers and teachers, be promoted on the basis of academic and performance merit and that the jobs of MPs should be to serve constituents and not the Parliament.
Unified voice

Also speaking was Dr James Armstrong, president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Constructive Industry (JCC), who said this country's lack of proper procurement legislation remained an incentive for crime.
He also called for T&T's architecture, particularly the planning that goes into urban and rural development, to be focused more on being socially beneficial and fostering ­productive, peaceful communities.
Speaking to the media after the rally, chair of the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) Victor Hart said he wanted to see more focus on white-collar crime, which is linked to its blue-collar counterpart.
Hart applauded the initiative kicked off yesterday, and said T&T needed an umbrella body that would bring together all of civil society, which is at this time “fragmented”, and allow the movement to speak with a unified voice.
Also speaking or present yesterday was Hazel Brown, co-ordinator of the Network of NGOs; Jamaal Shabazz, founder at the Morvant/Caledonia United Football Club; Colin Robinson, spokesperson for the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO); Damian Prescod, chair of the sport-based NGO Empire of Dreams; and Sherna Alexander Benjamin, for the Organisation of Abused and Battered Women.
Maharaj said yesterday's rally was the start and discussions would continue among interested groups.
Asked how she would address those ­citizens who may feel the movement is another talk shop unlikely to produce ­results, Maharaj said it was important to keep ­trying.
She said citizens must demand change and that civil society should remember the most powerful place to be, in advocating for change, is outside the political system.
One lobby that citizens should make now, she said, is for the Government to set up an interface with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
The Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago also yesterday gave details of an anti-crime mobile app designed to make it easier for citizens and community watch groups to dissemi­nate information quickly and safely.
The app, CSAFE, is available at the mobile app stores.