My fellow citizens and residents welcome to another edition of Leadership Matters. This popular interactive programme is another example of good governance at work. It provides our citizens and residents with an opportunity to express their views and influence the government on a range of matters of national interest.
Tonight, we are focusing on issues of the safety and security of the people of St Kitts and Nevis. This is a critical issue. Arguably the most important role of the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security is to keep its people safe and secure. Safe from harm, protected against crimes and lawlessness.
In its support for law and order, the Judiciary and its socio-economic programmes the government has been delivering on its commitment to keep its residents safe. In this regard, it is important to note that the highest financial support provided to our people’s safety and security was in 2020 when $99.2 million was budgeted. This was up against some $40 million or 68 percent above the $59.4 million budgeted for 2015 by the bygone administration.
Sometimes people take for granted our track record in delivering on our commitment to make St Kitts and Nevis one of the safest places to live work and play. Some may quickly recall a time when homicides were alarmingly high reaching 35 in 2011. It is good to know that homicides – the most egregious of all crimes are now at an all-time low. We are experiencing significant movement towards achieving a stronger and safer future for our citizens and residents. We achieved the best crime detection rate (in over 20 years) in 2021.
There is no room for complacency. We would wish to reach a point where homicides no longer occur in our federation. It is an aspirational goal that will keep us working hard.
Our success in crime-fighting is a result of substantial investment in security infrastructure – building new and renovating old police stations, defence force headquarters and coast guard facilities, investment in CCTV monitoring system, provision of an adequate supply of vehicles, construction and build-out of our Forensic Lab. Investment in hard infrastructure while improving the environment for work to be done, but this is not the end. It must be buttressed by training, intelligence-led policing and the introduction of strategic programmes that de-incentivize criminal activities and encourage persons to become law-abiding citizens. Two such novel programmes are:
The Explorers Youth Programme structured orientation, training and development support for young people emphasizing skills of learning to live and work together, inculcating positive lifestyles including the discipline to refrain from the use of drugs, guns and illegal substances. Today our Explorers Club has over 1,200 members and is the largest youth association in the country. It is making our schools safer and providing loving support to vulnerable children in coping with daily challenges and building their resilience, enhancing their skills and talents.
Alternative Lifestyle Pathway Programme is geared at adults many of whom were engaged in criminal activity or under influence of gangs. The programme is still new and evolving but the results so far have been beneficial to our society as a whole.
This programme has:
a) reduced inter-gang rivalry and number of fatal shootings in our country
b) reduced the number of children who have lost their fathers to gun and gang violence.
c) provided the basis of a nuclear family – mother, father, children
d) provided an alternative path to life and living by offering legitimate work from which persons earn a living
e) provided opportunity for self-employment from once described as social deviants to a new era of constructive engagement as entrepreneurs complying with the law.
f) contribute to the peace dividend in our country
g) greater cohesiveness in society as more members of society learn to live together in unity as brethren and sisters.
Tonight we will learn about these programmes from our panellists. I welcome them all, namely – Captain Kayode Sutton, Coordinator of the Alternative Lifestyle Pathway Programme, Mrs Latoya Lake-Marshall, Director of our Forensic Unit and Mr Julian Morrishaw, Acting Telecommunications Officer of the Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force.