Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 26, 2019 (S.T.E.P.) — Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris has said his Team Unity Administration working with civilians came up with the Peace Initiative programme aimed at helping to bring peace to the country, and while the programme has so far achieved its goals he has warned that the opposition has promised if it gets back to government it will stop the programme.
“We started something, which no other government before us had tried – to deal with the question of crime and violence which was really killing the country,” said Prime Minister Harris on Saturday November 23 at the McKnight Community Centre when he addressed members of the Peace Initiative groups drawn from West Basseterre.
“We came up with a plan through the initiative of some civilian people, which we dubbed the Peace Initiative to try to give young people an opportunity towards something and to move away from that wicked life of crime; to move away from having to watch your back,” stated Dr Harris.
The government wanted young people to move away from being in a situation where they knew someday they will die by a bullet because that was one of the realities of the gang warfare, that someday one will die because one member is after another and the other way round, meaning that they had to watch their back all the time, while restricting their movements to the communities they lived.
“I want to say that that initiative has worked very well so far,” said the Honourable Prime Minister. “We want to congratulate all who have participated, all who have come to understand that we all need peace, and all who have come to understand that in our small country it could never be good that you of the Village can’t go to Central, or you can’t go to New Town – you could only work in your own area.”
With the success of the Peace Initiative programme, Prime Minister Harris observed that the country’s young men and women are seeing a better life, and are beginning to appreciate that when things are peaceful everyone benefits. He pointed out that they can now freely go to Fort Street, can go for the Music Festival, or even to Warner Park to watch a cricket match as all of them are free.
“These are benefits that all of us must have in our country despite the criticism from the opposition who said they will stop it if they get into government – there will be no more Peace Initiative,” said the Prime Minister. “They will not look out for the young people who have become victims of crime and violence. They are not in favour of that peace, so we have said for the initiatives and the support to continue, you need a Team Unity Government.”
The opposition, observed Dr Harris, is accusing the government of paying people for peace, and that Government is on the side of the criminals. He however said: “We are on the side of the country, and we said you can’t have the problem of people killing one another as often and as wickedly as it was happening.”
Prime Minister Harris was accompanied at the meeting by local contractor Mr Nubian Greaux who helped in bringing the groups together, and arranged for the members to have a meeting with him; Mr William Phillip, Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) Field Coordinator; and Mr Warren Thompson, Peoples Labour Party (PLP) Chairman.
During the course of the meeting, Prime Minister Harris said that the Team Unity Government has been looking for better opportunities for young people giving the example of the People Employment Programme (PEP) which had been set up by the previous government, meant to run for six months although it went beyond that proposed period.
When Team Unity came into office, PEP was transformed into Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) which offers real training opportunities to the country’s young people. The Prime Minister said: “We promised while in opposition that we will continue the People Employment Programme, but we will want to reorganise it. We organised it to prepare people to go on to other opportunities and to be better prepared for those new responsibilities.”
Thanking a local company, ELCO Limited, working on the Island Main Road rehabilitation at Bourryeau which has taken STEP trainees paying them $370 per week over the weekly stipend they receive from STEP, Prime Minister Harris said the Team Unity Government wants to get to a position where people can move from STEP and find better jobs.
“We are saying whenever a better opportunity comes we want you to take that opportunity, because it will not be good if you do not want to take it,” said the Honourable Prime Minister. “We have said that our programme (STEP) will be flexible enough. If during the peak of tourism season for example you get a job, doing whatever job at a hotel – security, landscaping, waiter, bartender, or office attendant, when things get slow (and) you want to come back, the STEP will take you.”