St. Kitts – Nevis Calls For “An Attitude Change”

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Federation Govt. Seeks Help In Stopping Crime

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
December 14, 2008 (CUOPM)

A passionate appeal from St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas to all sectors of the community  set new standards and chart a course away from gun and gang violence.

Speaking at the opening session of a National Consultation on Crime on Friday, Prime Minister Douglas challenged his own ministers of government, public servants, entertainers, religious leaders, journalists, businessmen, parents and the youth to create an era of new behavioral, attitudinal, and societal standards, so that a much more humane, a much more self-respecting, more stable and safe existence could be shared by all.

“Today, I would like today to throw out the idea that gun and gang crime may indeed have everything to do with all of us.  Because if we truly want to stop having to lament and wring our hands, if we want to begin making real headway, we are all going to have to bring keen powers of discernment to this problem.  We are all going to have to insist on bold new behaviours and standards ““ standards ““ on how we rear our own children”¦”¦what we instill in them”¦”¦.how they interact with each other”¦ we conduct ourselves”¦”¦.how we live together as a people – because crime does not exist in a vacuum”¦ grows out of the society in which it is found,” said Dr. Douglas to some 250 participants and thousands of listeners via several radio stations.

“As a society, we are going to have to come at gang and gun crime backwards..sideways and every other way that holds even the slightest promise of denting, cracking and eventually breaking whatever habits, behaviours, and practices – large or small – create, first in little ways, then in larger ways, the wayward, don’t-care attitudes and behaviors that later morph into the mindless brutality that we have all witnessed as a people of late,” said Dr. Douglas.

“Albert Einstein once said that proof of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.  With this in mind, therefore, we cannot come here, have a stimulating discussion, only to leave and continue thinking exactly as we have been thinking before, behaving exactly as we have been behaving, and shrugging at exactly the same realities that we’ve shrugged at for years, all the while expecting crime to abate on its own – for that would, indeed, be proof of our own insanity,” warned Prime Minister Douglas.

“I beseech the Church to take a long hard look at itself, and to identify ways in which it must change if we are have any chance of improving the way our young people regard themselves, the way they regard life, and they way they regard each other.  Because it is, after all, their utter disregard and contempt for each other that allows them to wipe each other out – without a second thought,” said Dr. Douglas.

He called on everyone in government ““ civil servants and government ministers alike ““ “to take a long hard look at ourselves and at existing government policies and practices, with a view towards identifying and changing those policies and practices that may inadvertently and unintentionally work against young people leading responsible, respectable and respectful lives.”

“Radio and television station managers”¦”¦DJ’s”¦.video producers and others in the media:  You are uniquely and powerfully positioned to counter and dampen the appeal of thug culture”¦.you can dampen glamorized lawlessness”¦. and you as media personnel and cultural artistes can dampen crass carnality ““ all of which are major contributors to the problems we are facing today, and so much of which is promoted via the print and electronic media, both here and abroad, we believe that we can make a difference in this regard,” said Dr. Douglas, who asked for new standards to which those in the entertainment industry can contribution in battling this plague that has beset St. Kitts and Nevis.

“We have invited our own entertainers here today and we want them to share of their experience and give a commitment as to how we can move forward together,” said Dr. Douglas.

In appealing to the business community, Prime Minister Douglas questioned approved merchandising policy, advertising images and jingles that “create a new mindset, a new atmosphere, a new ethos and frame of reference for your customers ““ and our people?  Are there ways in which you might be even more assertive in the establishment of socially-stabilizing, youth-based activities here in this federation?”

“What I am really asking Ladies and Gentlemen, is whether we in St. Kitts and Nevis are confident enough, and visionary enough, whether we are serious enough to try to reshape and redirect our society for ourselves …… do what is right for us as a people – whether other countries are advocating these types of changes or not,” he said.

Pointing to several influences that shape a society, Prime Minister Douglas singled out the annual Carnival celebrations which take place in a few days.

“That is always a happy time. We are a free and joyous people, and for that I am truly grateful. But it is also true that normal behavioral restraints sometimes elude us.  Sometimes, especially during carnival, we fail to identify the boundaries between exuberant celebration and revolting excess. What will we see on the streets this carnival? What will we hear in the lyrics of our calypsos? Can we afford to continue pretending that what we embrace as our own celebratory “culture” does not also seep into and shape who and what we are when the music stops? That it has no impact on how we see each other, and relate to each other throughout the rest of the year? Is this what we are thinking? That for a moment of carnival we can do this but then it goes away for the rest of the year,” he asked.

Dr. Douglas issued an appeal to calypsonians, songwriters, stage and street performers.

“How can you help? How can you make your own contribution in changing the society and eventually having the type of people that we want to have as Kittitians and Nevisians,” he asked.

Dr. Douglas said that the criminal justice system will continue to handle existing criminals, but society’s challenge, however, is to create an environment that does not produce a never-ending stream of new criminals.

“And this requires us to promote those habits, both minor and major, that enhance our own people’s dignity, their humanity, their automatic differentiation between the appropriate and the inappropriate – from earliest childhood to very old age.  And it requires us to recognize and reject those specific habits that speed a society’s downward slide which we want to stop,” he said at the opening session.

“I ask that as we discuss gang and gun violence, we look beyond the immediacy of the stabbing and shooting and killing to see that these acts are the final manifestations of lifetimes of no controls, no restraints, no standards, too much space being given to our young people with no guidance to them.  Lifetimes of waywardness and lawlessness.  Lifetimes of human behaviour that is running amok.  If we accept and understand that, then we can then begin to work backwards and identify those ways in which all of us may have been unthinkingly accepting, encouraging, or endorsing that wayward, wild, and “own-way” behaviors, not realizing the power of these behaviours to take root, grow into a broader societal slackness”¦.coarseness”¦.and then harden into unthinking brutality that we are seeing,” said the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security to the participants which included the clergy, political leaders, lawyers, judicial officers, police officers, parents, youths, educators and guidance counselor.

“The physician that is still in me asks that we not simply lament the obviousness of the disease.  Instead, I ask that we get down to the more difficult work of identifying the far less obvious that is the truly deadly bacterium, virus, or pathogen that caused this particular disease.  It is not the guns that are our problem.  It is not the drugs that are our problem.  It is the factors that damaged the minds”¦.and damaged the souls”¦.and damaged the psyches that now reach for the drugs”¦.and reach for the guns”¦.that are our problem.         And in order to identify and eradicate these factors, each and every one of us must step forward to do our part,” said Dr. Douglas.

Prime Minister Douglas thanked the Honourable Mark Brantley, Leader of the Opposition, for the time and energy he has invested in analyzing the issue of crime and violence, and for the insights and recommendations that he has shared with his government.

He also thanked the Honourable Joseph Parry, Premier of Nevis, “who has given every indication of his commitment to be a steady and reliable partner on this path on which we are about to embark.”

Following the presentations including situational analyses by Commissioner of Police, Mr. Austin Williams, FBI Representative, Mr. Mark  Mershon and Criminologist and terrorism Expert, Dr. Lionel Rawlins, the 250 participants, who were divided into groups spent the next three hours in intense discussion before submitting their recommendations by their respective rapporteurs.

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