More resources should be deployed for fighting corruption, money laundering and embezzlement, and checks and balances instituted to keep high-ranking officials, including politicians, in line. The report also recommended National Service Scheme (involving vocational institutions, youth camps and correctional institutions).
This is one of the recommendations of the report No Time to Quit— Engaging Youth at Risk, which was prepared by Prof Selwyn Ryan, Dr Indira Rampersad, Dr Marjorie Thorpe and Dr Lennox Bernard, which was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
Among the recommendations for dealing with the drug crisis and crime in the report are: 1) the Ministry of National Security "diligently" pursue white-collar criminals and that laws should be instituted to deal with campaign financing, "whereby there should be limits to financing; transparency in recording financing, thus holding political parties to greater accountability".
The report also recommended national and regional policies which facilitate in-depth financial investigations and asset seizures to seize profits from corruption rings, drug traffickers and organised crime groups. It recommends employment creation should be considered to compensate for job losses in Central Trinidad due to the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd, recreational facilities and education and training to alleviate a growing alcohol abuse and domestic violence problem in Central Trinidad.
The report also suggests the use of advanced technology to intercept air and sea drug traffickers, more integration and co-operation among stakeholder agencies (religious, non-governmental organisations, security agencies, etc) and more in-depth research to identify the at-risk communities and their causes and consequences.
The report also suggest the institution of a parole system, Government increase in subventions to young offenders' institutions, establish an institution for young female offenders and family courts in all communities,
In its general findings, the report found while African men are insecure economically, Indian men have an "identity crisis". Both groups are also at risk.
It found while black women are doing less well than women of Indian and other ethnic minorities, they generally are doing better than black boys. It also found that the data across the Caribbean showed economic insecurities of many black males had given rise to certain kinds of hypermasculine behaviours, such as the use of violent and coarse language, having many women, with monogamy being seen as a sign of weakness.
Looking at the emergence of criminal gangs, the report found the gangs were fuelled by drugs but most young boys joined the gangs for "benign reasons".
"Some...did so because they valued the reputations, respect and...believe they had acquired the power and esteem which they longed and hoped for, in order to gain access to women's bodies.... The prizes (of gang membership) were flashy clothes, souped-up cars, hot women, a reputation for meanness and, most important, ownership of one of the many brand-name guns that are popular in the ghetto," Ryan said.
He added, however, some were persuaded to join gangs out of fear of the consequences for not doing so, and some were known to have been killed because they refused to join the gang or wanted to get out since the fear is that those who gave up membership might become "snitchers" to the police. "Many also claim the gangs provided them with the homes and sodalities (brotherhood) which they did not get at home or in the mainstream community," Ryan said.
Focusing on the East Port of Spain areas, a hotbed of crime, Ryan said the general approach of all political parties has been to "throw money" at the problem of poverty and dispossession. He also noted that as allocations to the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) increased, so did the homicides.The recommendations included the endorsing of the plan to regenerate East Port of Spain.
But Rampersad said the perception that young black males alone were at risk was an erroneous one. She noted the East Indian home was a natural environment for drinking.
"Indian children are exposed to alcohol from quite early as their elders often send them, sometimes from age five, for a "pint or nip of puncheon" in the village shops. Rampersad added that alcohol consumption among East Indian males also seemed to have stemmed from the "young Indian men in Central Trinidad...facing a self-emasculating identity crisis" of "finding themselves in a diverse society traditionally dominated by the more assertive and aggressive Afro-Trinidadian, who typifies what has traditionally been promoted as males".
She said in recent times, this emasculation has been compounded by the now highly educated population of independent, Indo-Trinidadian women who threaten the stability of the traditional Indian home where women were predominantly housewives.
Rampersad said the contention is this has resulted in higher rates of domestic violence and divorce as the men resort to "rum". "The woman, and at times even the children, naturally become helpless victims of domestic abuse, which sometimes ends in suicide and homicide," she noted.
She also said some social scientists believed there was a link between chutney lyrics and violence. She said the crisis among East Indians then was generally one of alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
However, Ryan said the Indian family remained more resilient and risk-resistant than its Afro-Trinidadian counterpart and had so far been better able to address the issues that afflict the creole (black) family.
"The evidence, such as it is, points to the conclusion that the Indian family, extended and nuclear, is still viable and support their young members while the single parent is still prevalent in 'hot-spot' type communities....While they were at risk for several social pathologies, Indo-Trinidadian youths are not as seriously at risk as a group.
"What the figures show is that Indo-Trinidadians were less likely to live in 'hot-spot' neighbourhoods where handguns and drugs were easily available than Afro-Trinidadians and would be less likely to be affected negatively by these facts."
Ryan said the data however confirmed that young black males are not all underachievers. "Indeed, the majority do well as they have always done," he said. He noted that black males were part of a generation which is in crisis all over the world where women are outperforming men in every field.
But he stressed: "Poor blacks have to be enabled to catch up and compete. The road ahead will be long and winding, but it is one that the entire society has to take preemptively. Not to do so is to court unsustainable social conflict which may occur sooner rather than later," he said.