Friday, April 27, 2007

The Rising Violence

By Marcus Mottley

The Rising Violence: Let's Take Action - Now!

There is a growing sense of helplessness among Antiguans as we hear and read about the increasing acts of violence - particularly gun violence - that seems to be spinning out of control.

There might have been a time when some people felt that they were safe from the robberies and hold ups that were once the primary acts of violence. Now, everyone realizes that he or she is at risk. We realize that our children are at risk. And we realize that our elderly are at risk.

This is serious.

What is even more serious... and frightening, is the apparent inability of our law enforcement to catch the perpetrators of these violent acts. I am not even talking about preventing the violence... I am referencing 'catching the criminals'. The fact that our law enforcement... who has been agitating for higher salaries... can't catch these criminals means that we are all at risk for the criminals to continue their rampage of violence, thefts, break-ins and other acts of lawlessness.

As an aside... or maybe this is central to the whole issue... is the fact that our law enforcement officers don't seem to understand that there is a correlation between performance, productivity, results... ---- and pay raise!

The Government needs to take immediate and strong action. Now. There is no bigger crisis existing in our nation today than the threat that the violence poses to all of us. It threatens our economy. It threatens our daily lives. It threatens us while we sleep. It threatens our feelings of being safe. It threatens us as we go to work. It threatens us as we go home from work. It threatens us on the bus and in our cars. It threatens us in our homes... our supposedly safe havens. It threatens our children at school and at play.

The Government needs to demand action from the police... and if we don't get results - we need to replace the police leadership with highly trained, highly skilled, results oriented, proven law enforcement leaders from where-ever we can get them. Now for me that is a stretch - since I am adamantly opposed to bringing foreign nationals to our shores and putting them in leadership positions. But we are in a crisis... and so we need to contract the kind of police leadership that presents a modern, sophisticated, technological approach to getting the results that we need. And then we need to give our own young and upcoming police world class training. When we get that new leadership we then need to make available to them the sophisticated forensic and investigative instruments and technology that they need to get the job done.

The Government also needs to begin a comprehensive multi-dimensional violence prevention campaign. This campaign should have several facets:
  1. Violence prevention targeted to adults and involve public education in conflict resolution & negotiation and anger management.
  2. Mechanisms available to the public that include mediation services and conflict resolution services. Some of these should be availed through the courts whereby individuals might be 'sentenced' to attend anger management or conflict resolutions classes.
  3. Violence prevention targeted to young adults and teenagers who are out of school. This would involve education in some of the above subjects. However, two key areas of focus would be job skills training and drug prevention education.
  4. Violence prevention and drug education activities at all schools and at all grade levels. The focal points of these school-based trainings would be: Life skills (effective communication, conflict resolution, self-esteem building, study skills for academic success, how to deal with negative peer pressure and bullying, etc.), values education and character building educational programming.
  5. An integrated and comprehensive island-wide network of after-school activities involving academics (home-work help, remedial work, etc), guided sports activities (with a values education component), performing arts (plays, dance, etc), computer & technology, and art.
  6. Treatment programs for drug addiction and alcoholism. The Government needs to contract with qualified counseling professionals to provide confidential and ongoing treatment services to addicts and alcoholics. Such services should be provided at every clinic.
  7. Rehabilitation Services for Juvenile Offenders. This is seen by well placed officials as a critical need. Such services would include some of those mentioned above.
  8. A Probation and Parole Office should be developed to monitor and track the activities of criminal offenders. This office should also oversee the provision of re-entry programs for offenders who are re-entering society. These services would entail job training, mental health services and substance abuse services.
I could go on. But I think that you get the picture. The Government has to develop and implement NOW a comprehensive and integrated program to deal with this menace to society. Failure to adequately address the crisis of violence in our society will lead to such deterioration that it will negatively impact the bright future of our twin island state.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

They Chased Us Away

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

What has happened in Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean during the current Cricket World Cup showcase has a huge significance for us.

The most critical issue of course is the draconian, colonialistic restrictions that CWC organizers placed on the islands hosting the matches.

The very nature of the restrictions placed on us by CWC organizers reminds me of what I have read of our colonial history. CWC came to our shores… used our facilities… had us spend millions of dollars of infrastructural development and then restricted us from putting our stamp on the games. They restricted us from marketing our local products. They restricted our local companies from marketing their services. They restricted our people from behaving and acting like Antiguans, Barbudans, Guyanese, Trinidadians, Barbadians, Jamaicans, Kittians, Grenadians, St. Lucians… They restricted us from being who we are.

And we allowed them. We kowtowed to them. We said, “Yes Masah!” “Anything you say, Masah!” “You get anything you want, Masah.” "You want anything else, Sah?"

Veteran cricket writer Tony Becca says it is the International Cricket Council (ICC) that is responsible for the poor involvement of the local people in the showpiece event. “They (the ICC and organizers) want tourists from other parts of the World to come but ignored the local populations” Becca said. He also said, “I have covered many World Cups and what I saw (in the past) was that the majority of the crowd has been local.” He continued, “The ICC thought the World Cup as a golden goose and chased the local people out assuming that large numbers would come from abroad and they would not need local support.”

And so, they chased us away.

One hundred US dollars for a ticket! That is $270 Eastern Caribbean Dollars. In a region where many people don’t even earn that in a week… the CWC organizers were really catering to the rich, the elite business class and to the so-called tourists.

So, they chased us away.

And the seats which were available to the local populations were limited. Very limited. At least… they were limited until the last moment when CWC realized that their thousands and thousands of tourists just weren’t coming.

And they lied about the numbers.

At first we heard that 50,000 ‘tourists’ were coming to Antigua. We were going to have to get cruise ships to accommodate all those tourists since we did not have enough rooms and beds here. Entrepreneurs were encouraged to invest in bed and breakfast accommodations and build motels. Ordinary citizens were encouraged to spruce up empty rooms in their houses to accommodate the thousands of CWC ‘tourists’ who would need a room for a few nights! Then the figures were downgraded… to 30,000… to 20,000… to 15,000… to... well... who knows what the final figures will be?

Now we weren't talking about Barbadians, Jamaicans, Guyanese and Trinidadians coming here. And they certainly weren't talking about Antiguans and Barbudans returning home for the matches… nope. ICC/CWC didn’t care about them… and didn’t factor them in.

And of course, they didn’t care about us either.

So they didn't factor us in. Instead, they chased us away.

Why did they do that? They certainly didn’t expect the Caribbean masses to buy those US$100 tickets! They expected the seats to be filled with Australians, New Zealanders, British… and with a scattering of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan supporters.


Or were they making sure that the West Indies Team would not have the massive numbers of supporters who would form a powerful 12th man?

Now there are other ways they made sure that even those of us who were foolish enough to want to buy those costly tickets could not get them. I stood in a line of 60 persons at their one purchasing site in St. Johns for one hour. In that one hour, they processed five persons!!! I left my son in the line, went home, got online, purchased the tickets, went back to the purchasing office, waved my receipt in the face of the security guard, walked inside and picked up my tickets. My son was still in line – facing a four to five hour wait!

They chased us away and I should have stayed away. But… I wanted the exposure for my sons… That’s a limp argument… because…

They chased us away.

Of course, I guess ICC/CWC had a colonial view of us. They probably didn’t expect locals to be 'sophisticated' enough to purchase their tickets online. Almost all the people who were in the expedited line with online receipts were Aussies or Brits!

Yep, they intended to chase us away. It worked… because we have stayed away.

Why? Because we clearly understand… this is not our ‘ting’. This is their thing. So they can have it…

There are other issues of course. Like the wimpish, spineless negotiators who represented us. Like the spinning that is being done by our local officials about how we will benefit in the future as a result of spending over $300 million. Like the financial impact on tourism during this period that stems from those stupid visa requirements… Like the fact that it took the advent of CWC to push our government to fix sidewalks and some roads...

But those issues are for another day.

Today, they chased us away.

So, tomorrow and the next day… and the next day... we will stay away.