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‘At-risk’ young men betrayed by governments

Dear Sir,

I have been avidly trying to address the core issue of what contributes to continuation and even expanding risk factors of what the RG editor termed as the endangered species.

I draw as my reference history a precedent where the fates of young men with “at-risk and deviant behaviours” have changed for the better. Using particularly history that is very close to our scholarship, such as that of 16th-century England, there is clear evidence of how a society filled with young males with no other option but to contribute to the population of hoodlums become transformed into productive persons because of economic opportunity.

The Atlantic and Pacific adventures transformed England and gave economic utility to its young, at-risk people. The existing equation for real success is no different for Bermuda, the United States and many places whose societies are now gripped with violence and threatened by the hapless state of affairs. Prayer vigils and people holding hands may bring some comfort, but are ineffective in redressing a tide that is clearly going against the sobriety they are seeking.

Political grandstanding does not work, either, and unfortunately these young men have been betrayed by successive governments. Aside from formal education, the marketplace is the greatest tool for educating and developing the skill and usefulness of a population. Having control over the economy also grants control of the future and options of people. It just happens the farther one is removed from economic control, the less determination they have over their future and hence the risk of being excluded is proportionately higher.

I began on that premise and raised that issue with the Pitt Report in 1977. Subsequently, I raised the issue as a hope in the potential development of Dockyard. My idea was fully embraced by Premier Sir David Gibbons but beaten out under the premiership of Sir John Swan.

I then raised the issue of development of North Hamilton, including the areas adjacent that included Curving Avenue, the Pembroke Marsh and Parson's Road. Again beaten out by the UBP elite, particularly Ann Cartwright, and sadly supported by Nelson Bascome, who claimed my ideas were not consistent with Bermudians. Thus my efforts to raise the zoning levels (high rise beyond four-storey) to become favourable for black investment was destroyed by a joint political campaign to discredit my approach.

Before the first bullets were fired and, while the epidemic of swords and blades and the new thought of gang violence was scaring our youth, using the same premise I devised a plan based on the notion that the Bermuda economic market was too small to solve its own problems.

Based on the England model, I felt we needed to embark on infrastructural developments around the world, which we could facilitate and use our youth in the ancillary by-products attached to these developments. The thought was to do these projects in different underdeveloped countries and separate warring factions by providing opportunity in places thousand of miles apart.

I took nine at-risk young men to Senegal along with five adult mentors for that purpose. I recall the clenched black fist given to me by Premier Ewart Brown but then I remember too well his giving support to an American who started the Mirrors programme. The charities group decided to wrap all their support behind the Government's approach, hence my approach went out the door.

It doesn't stop there. I recall the Morgan's Point issue and its need to do a cleanup. I gained the support of a global company that was interested in funding the cleanup but more importantly was prepared to adopt my plan of training at least 40 at-risk young men on Morgan's Point with the view of relocating them on projects around the world.

Again I got the tacit support of all the ministries' permanent secretaries and nudges from many ministers, including the premier at the time in 2011, but each blessing came with the final sentence — “it's up to the minister in charge of the development”.

So here we are now without the means to even police let alone finance a solution. While we celebrate beating me out of a plan, we do so at a complete loss. I have one more for you and that's a new port and industrial park, which is a $1.5 billion venture that has been disregarded and threatens to leave us as a possibility. Let's see what we do.

KHALID WASI

Prayer vigils and holding hands bring comfort, a reader says, but are ineffective in addressing a tide that is going against the sobriety they are seeking

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Published August 31, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 31, 2015 at 1:32 am)

‘At-risk’ young men betrayed by governments

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