Hundreds of young people from all walks of life, including students from secondary schools and tertiary institutions, members of youth organizations, differently-abled youth, incarcerated youth and youth from faith-based institutions, asked questions about government policies and how they would impact their human development and continue the positive sustainable and economic growth of the twin-island Federation.
A vast number of topics were raised including plans for the construction of the ultra-modern Basseterre High School, consideration of stem cell research, investment in sports development, safety and security at schools, protections for differently-abled youth, reform plans for the Joseph N. France General Hospital, and scholarship opportunities.
Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris noted that safety and security remain a top priority for the government. He said that law enforcement has been very proactive and has had increased visibility on the roads and in communities. Dr. Harris noted that schools can be a recruiting ground for antisocial actors and said that the introduction of programmes such as the Explorers Groups, and other initiatives by the police community intervention group is designed to protect students from such dangers.
Deputy Prime Minister Richards spoke about sports investment and said that the government has spent millions of dollars to upgrade sporting facilities around the island. He said that several capital projects in the 2019 Budget will see upgrades to playing fields in Cayon, Conaree, Saddlers, Challengers, St. Peter’s, Palmetto Point and Trinity. He added that millions have also been spent to support sporting associations and individual athletes, particularly during major international sporting events such as the Olympic Games. The deputy prime minister cited the recent investment of approximately $15,000 to assist the Special Olympics team who will compete in the World Games in Abu Dhabi from March 14 to 21, 2019 as an example.
Minister of State with responsibility for Health, Honourable Wendy Phipps, noted that the government has contemplated stem cell research, but does not subscribe to embryonic stem cell research based on ethical implications. She said the issue of adult stem cell research will continue to be discussed.
As it relates to scholarships, persons were encouraged to contact the Human Resource Management Department. In relation to the Basseterre High School, the audience was assured that the necessary protections are in place to protect the aquifer and that the government was proceeding based on reports from several experts in the field.
The engagement was lively, and organizers said that they were satisfied and very pleased with the overall event.
Minister Honourable Lindsay Grant, said that given the representation at the forum, he felt confident that the future of the twin-island Federation “is in good hands.”
Other Cabinet members on the panel included Senior Minister Honourable Vance Amory, Attorney General Honourable Vincent Byron Jr., Minister Honourable Eugene Hamilton, and Minister Honourable Mark Brantley. Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Senator Akilah Byron-Nisbett, also sat on the panel.
Minister Brantley, who is also Premier of Nevis, encouraged the young people to stay focused and said it’s not where you have been, or where you are in life, but rather where you are going.