YES IS NOT THE ANSWER YES is not the answer to the problem of crime in our society. Normally I would applaud the government for the launching of the YES program. It is a good program whose aim is to offer skills training to unemployed young people. It is not the first time that such a program has been imitated in St. Kitts. When the Labour Party regained the administration in 1995 they launched a Work Experience Program through which many young people, mainly Labour Party supporters got a six-month stint of work with the minimum wage. A few years later in 2000 the same exercise was repeated. In the summer of that year hundreds of young people were drafted into a work-training program with a guaranteed a wage of $200 per week. It was not quite the same as the work experience program. It was more like a short-term skills training exercise but the purpose and impact were the same as in the ’95 program. In 1995, it was designed to provide work training for the hundreds of young people of Labour Party orientation who could not get work under the PAM Government. In 2004 the purpose of the activity was to offer young people an inducement to vote in the elections held later that year. It is an interesting point to note that in 1995 when the employment program was launched, nothing in its development had anything to do directly with violent crime and that in spite of the large-scale effort at gainfully employing willing young people who wanted a job, there were many who did not join the program because they were obviously not interested in training for an honest job of work. They preferred to drop out of high school, rob for a living, snort on cocaine and loaf about. They drifted into crime and thumbed their noses at honest means of living. In 1998, crime began to be a serious problem in this country as these drop-outs from the system settled in the dance-hall ghettos, flexed their muscle against the system. None of the youth employment strategies made any direct impact on them, and criminal activity among the young spiraled to dizzying levels. It is obvious from past experience that youth who are bound for lives of crime cannot be induced into honest and sober living with a mere offer of work. They do not want to work. Their upbringing did not prepare them for work. Their parents pampered them, let them go to bed late at night, and rise late at mornings. Their parents were slack with them and in front of them. They did not teach them good manners or respect for authority. By the time they reached teen age therefore, they fell out of parental control and lost respect for their teachers. The season of crime, developed over the past ten years, has reached its zenith. It cannot get much worse than our recent penchant for killing by the double. Our youth have been so dangerously demoralized that they seem to get a high from cold blooded murder. We desperately want a remedy for this malady but the answer is not YES. The YES program is designed for normal youth. It will not solve the problem of crime. When it comes to being an antidote to criminal behaviour YES is a joke which makes the teenage potential criminal laugh the most. YES calls for discipline and will appeal to the young person who is out of work and wants to be trained for a job. The young criminals do not want any jobs. They feel that the money which an 8 to 4 job will provide is too small. They want big money which can only be achieved by winning the lottery, robbing a vault, kidnapping somebody’s son, daughter or wife or trafficking in drugs. As a sideline this lifestyle might include gunning down a rival or being gunned down by one but this eventuality does not deter them from their pursuit of instant wealth. They laugh at YES and slap their carbines into their weapons ready to pursue their gangster lifestyle. Since YES cannot stop them, something else should. They should be picked up for National Service in a National Service program designed for their re-education and their eventual readjustment to normal civil society. I have advocated this strategy and think it worth repeating. I am determined to repeat it because I am convinced that this is the only way to stem the rising tide of death which defiles the youth segment of society. I am fighting for government’s acceptance of this idea, not because it is my idea. In fact it is not even my idea. It was tried before successfully in Trinidad since the days of Eric Williams. It was tried in Barbados with satisfactory results. It is being tried in St. Vincent. I believe that wherever there is a problem of youth delinquency this is the most successful strategy. The secret of its success is that takes away from our young criminals the freedom to terrorize the society which breeds them. It removes them from their natural habitat and forces them to adjust to a disciplined lifestyle. It gets them conditioned to the new and more acceptable mode of conduct and as it does in the domain of the lower animals, tames and domesticates them and makes them fit for civilized life when they graduate from this National Service. The authorities should consider that this would be an acceptable way to dispose of the millions accumulating under the SIDF.
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