BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – PRIME MINISTER Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris has rubbished speculations that the relative calm experienced in the Federation in terms of serious crime, especially homicide, is a result of the Team Unity Government providing financial and other assistance to gangs.
Dr. Harris made this pronouncement, among other, at his last Monthly Press Conference when asked by a journalist to address the issue.
He however confirmed that there is dialogue taking place in an effort to reduce the level of crime in St. Kitts and Nevis, but categorically stated that there has never been any payment to criminal elements by his Government.
“The approach of this Government has always been that the crime problem, which we inherited in St. Kitts and Nevis after 20 years of one administration, could not be solved unless we had a buy-in of the entire community,” the PM said.
Dr. Harris noted that his Government had accepted that there was a need for engagement with all persons in the Federation and that dialogue is one of the initiatives.
He said the first one was chaired by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Osmond Petty.
“Mr Petty brought to the fore one of the first conferences at Marriott that brought all the stakeholders together - good men, bad men, service group and commercial entities. The focus at that convention, what is it that you can do to help, not what somebody else can do to help with the situation.
“And we took note of all the recommendations that had come from interested parties about how we move forward. And, yes, engagement with the criminal elements was considered to be important. In fact, it was suggested that we have to understand the cause, and to get at issues of causality we had to have conversations with the people.”
The Prime Minister, who also holds the portfolio of Minister of National Security, explained what took place at the Marriott Resort.
“We had to ask them what was happening and put all the pertinent facts together to come to understand the working of the mind. In that context, yes, they are responsible persons in the community who have begun that outreach with certain elements who are at-risk in the community, with a view to finding solutions going forward.
“The Government is supportive of every effort by any individual or any entity to preserve the peace and prosperity of St Kitts and Nevis, and to help others who would have gone astray, or who are inclined to go astray, to help them to get on the path of the narrow way of good behaviour, of responsible behaviour. And that policy really is now being tried elsewhere and it is now recommended.”
He was unwavered in his declaration that the Team Unity Administration did not offer any financial assistance to criminal elements, calling the speculations an act of “mischief”.
“There has been no payment by this Government to any criminal party. What this Government is committed to do, and we have said that we will help those who have come out of prison who are looking for a fresh start, we will help them to get a fresh start. We will invite the private sector to hire them. We will say to people in our communities, give them a chance to rehabilitate, give them a chance to earn their living, because if you continue to punish them, they having served the time, you are restricting their options to be on the good and peaceful path. So, we offer that!”
In an effort to give credence to the Government’s policy of assisting individuals who went contrary to the laws of the land, Dr. Harris made specific reference to the construction of the Sandy Point Police Station.
“We have said clearly that where there is work, every citizen, including those who would have infringed the law, is entitled to participate. That is why when we started the police station in Sandy Point, and there were persons from that community who approached the Parliamentary Representative, the Hon. Shawn Richards, to say yes we want to get real work. And this is what we want people to do, get involved in real and legitimate work.
“And they came to him. He was able to get a number of them on the programme. And when I talked to contractor Skeete, he tells me they are among the best performers on the job. That is what we want! If that is what people call pay, it is well deserved pay. That is what we are doing. We are helping persons who have been on the periphery, who have felt left out, who have felt denied opportunities. Where we can, in the private sector and in the public sector, we will help them to find work, but we don’t have any money to give away. So if people are working, they are entitled to pay or some other reward. That is what the Government’s programme is.”
The National Security Minister is adamant that the issue is a speculation and “behind it is a hidden agenda”.
“What people should really be saying and we are not hearing in the news, we have this calm in the society and all citizens should be commended. This is the peace dividend we’ve been talking about and we are now having it; and we are happy about it. Whatever we can do to ensure it lasts forever, this Government will do,” he added.
No one is too bad to become good and everyone deserves a second chance. And that will be the philosophy around which the Government mobilise…our people to constructive purposes.
He claimed that persons who were once part of gangs had said that they are no longer involved, and that the Team Unity Government wants them to finish with it forever. “We want them to find alternative opportunities and, if we can, we will help them.”