PM: Let’s protect our youths before it’s too late
YOUTH involvement in crime was the focal concern of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in her message for Youth International Day, observed yesterday under the theme “Youth Migration—Development Forward”.
Persad-Bissessar said the theme is “ironic”, given that Trinidad and Tobago stands to lose many of its young people to attractions abroad and more to criminal activity.
While a large portion of T&T’s younger generation is being encouraged by global demands, the more pressing issue is the section that is drawn to crime, particularly the young men, said the PM.
“A section of our young population is attracted by gang activity. According to data from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, there are close to 100 gangs operating in the country.
“Most of the members are young men, aged between 14 and 25. These young men look up to the gang leaders. They love the culture. They feel they are not wanted by either their parents or teachers. They feel no one cares too much for them. But what is the spin-off effect? They are being wiped out. Just look at the television news at nights, or read the daily newspapers. Our young men are being dealt a deadly blow because of their association with gangs.
“Look at the persons being taken to court in handcuffs,” she stated.
“They are before the courts charged with offences such as murder, robbery with aggravation, and kidnapping. They are also involved in the drug trade. The youths are everywhere in the criminal world.”
Persad-Bissessar added: “Look at how mothers hold their stomachs and cry over the loss of their sons. These youths die for no reason. And while the theme for this year’s International Youth Day is ‘Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward’, our youths are migrating to the great beyond.”
The Prime Minister appealed to parents, teachers and churches to get more involved in protecting young people, before it is too late.
“We must watch our young men grow. We must be proud of them when they graduate to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers...We must not be lining up at mortuaries, funeral homes, or cemeteries.”
The PM said change must be apparent by the time International Youth Day 2014 comes around.
“We must ensure that our youths are not involved in criminal activity,” she said.
“We must ensure that our young men are not killed by rival gangs or by the police. We must uplift them, and ensure that theme, ‘Moving Development Forward’, means that our youths are moving forward in the right direction.”
International Youth Day, observed annually on August 12, came about on December 17, 1999, when the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, August 8-12, 1998).
This year’s theme is aimed at raising awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with youth migration. In 2010, there were an estimated 27 million international young migrants.
“We must engage young people in discussions on their migration experiences,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“Young people make up a significant share of the global number of international migrants. While migration can often offer valuable opportunities and contribute to the development of communities and society at large, it can also pose risks and lead to unacceptable situations, including discrimination and exploitation.
“In Trinidad and Tobago, we must be careful that we do not lose our young people. Young people are attracted by what is out there in the world today. They are attracted by the bright lights abroad.”