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Changing mindsets in dealing with gangs
Laventille is an experience. Laventille is not a depressed community, but it is necessary to change the mindset of some people,” said the Hon Fitzgerald Hinds, Parliamentary Representative for Laventille West and Minister in the Office of the Attorney General. He spoke at the Esimaje Foundation fund-raiser a couple of weeks ago. It seems this foundation has made positive impacts on the lives of several young people since its establishment in 2005 assisting them with their educational needs and through mentorship programmes.
Commenting also was Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, who hailed the altruism of charitable institutions.
The sincerity of the ministers is not questioned. Are they conscious of the damage successive governments have done to these communities and the abuse they have inflicted on the minds of impressionable youth these organisations, which they laud, aspire to serve?
The trauma some people in the Beetham perpetrated on unsuspecting members of the public travelling along that highway a couple of weeks ago would be remembered for years to come. There were outrage and condemnation by many people who claimed there could be no excuse for such behaviour whatever the circumstances. We often hear the cliché: Children learn by example. Those whose wrath so offended us were once children condemned by their government to life under the community leadership of thuggery.
Juxtapose the other significant comments reportedly made by Minister Hinds: “Laventille is an experience. Everybody has cars. In fact, if you say they are poor, they will feel insulted. They have access to the city, prestige schools and libraries, homework centres, health centres, churches, and amenities…It is necessary to change the mindset of some of the people in Laventille…You have to reach the children...Beetham has been in the news lately. They blocked the road. That is the reality. There is also the failure of law enforcement to deal with the negative mindset.”
The reality is, politicians with their eyes and mouths wide open, but minds shut, abandoned them to the “leadership” of gangsters. They told John and Keisha living in the Beetham and Laventille that the gangsters aka criminals are their “community leaders”. They legitimised the status of criminal bullies in troubled communities that continue to hope for a quality of life free from the harrowing sounds of gunshots.
Insult is added to injury when the authorities give contracts to these “leaders” who then become benefactors of the people gaining power over them. Maybe, this Government is not engaging in such a strategy. Maybe, the “leaders” are not gangsters, and it is a matter of blurred lines between leadership and thuggery.
The actions of a minority of the Beetham people were condemnable. They could be helped to change their mindsets, yes. The politicians must change theirs and demonstrate sincerity in their behaviours toward these communities. One would think it is the people these constituencies elect to represent their interests who are among their legitimate leaders, but ironically, and foolishly, governments have undermined that position, so some of the people trust the gang leaders more than the politicians and law enforcers. Perhaps, that is why some of them think it is rational to defend the government-named brand of community leadership and let loose their rage against the police and the rest of us.
It is reasonable to assume that no politician wants to nurture a warped perspective of leadership among their children and grandchildren. They can choose not to accept empirical evidence that children living under stressful circumstances are at a disadvantage. Some of them would later mirror the behaviour of their community mentors. We are all influenced by our parents, schools, the health of our physical environment, religion, among the many other avenues of our socialisation and learning. Why continue to abuse vulnerable minds with dangerous doctrines. Maybe the two ministers will convince the Government to put an end to the perverted brand of community leadership. That may be more effective than the Anti-Gang law under which the gang leaders have flourished.