Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Accepting reality but keeping hope alive


HAVING been elected on the basis of bi-partisan support in the Electoral College, and having already been welcomed as a history-making figure just by her appointment alone thus far, president-elect Paula Mae Weekes is preparing to take office next month with overwhelming goodwill from across the society.

On top of that, she has graciously agreed to be questioned by reporters on some of the issues that are likely to be at the top of her agenda, about personal style, and about matters that appear to concern her regarding the social state of the nation.

“We couldn't be doing it the right way, and have the results that we have,” the president-elect said, when asked to comment on the crime situation in the country. This is in the context in which we recorded almost 500 murders in 2012, and already for this new year, the murder toll approaching 70, in 35 days.

Going deeper on this issue, no doubt with the acceptance of the fact that in a vast majority of cases, those involved in violent crime, ending up before the courts in those cases in which investigations lead to arrests and charges, she offered this lament. “We are failing our young people.”

Where such persons are held liable and are made to face the appropriate penalties, she has concerns about the system of punishment, with young people ending up in a prison system that itself needs significant overhaul.

From her own vantage points, both as a retired member of the upper bench in the judiciary, and as a high-ranking member of the local Anglican diocese, president-elect Weekes sees child abuse as a major issue. This itself leads to the development of troubled youngsters.

“You know, if something doesn't reverse the trend, they are going to end up as victims or as perpetrators,” is how she summed up her conviction in this regard.

None of this is entirely new to those of us who have been paying attention to the calamitous slide in social relations in our country over recent decades. Indeed, there have been many attempts by successive administrations, with the help of countless non-governmental organisations, civic and community groups in search of one kind or the other, for effective solutions.

What the president-elect is saying at this juncture is that, against our collective sense of anxiety, all of these efforts have not been delivering on expectations. Rather, it is a blemish on our national character that we painfully must acknowledge the reality of a crime and violence profile worsening with every passing day.

But as a people who have not, and will not lose hope, we can summon the will to be inspired anew by some of the sentiments being expressed by an in-coming national figure, our next Head of State to find the means by which we must re-commit on this question.

We can muster the resolve to come together once more, priest and politician, pundit and imam, across all communities and sectors, in a search for new ways to address a healing of our nation.