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We are facing a ‘national crisis’ – Weeks

Shadow sports minister Michael Weeks (Photo by Mark Tatem)

The fatal stabbing of Raymond Butterfield highlights an ongoing community issue — not a sport issue — which must be stopped to stem a “national crisis”, according to shadow sports minister Michael Weeks.

Mr Weeks said he was “devastated” by the death of Devonshire resident Mr Butterfield on Sunday night outside Blue Waters Anglers Club.

The 28-year-old footballer with First Division side Wolves was father to an eight-week-old daughter.

Mikiel Thomas, 19, a Bermuda Under-20 footballer, was charged with unlawful killing yesterday.

Mr Weeks said he knew Raymond Butterfield “practically all his life”.

“I am disturbed that another family has to bury one of their own,” he said.

A panel discussion organised by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. last night brought together representatives from a number of the island’s sporting clubs to examine the violence surrounding them.

The event, moderator Dwayne Caines said, was to act as a pathway for the community to have an open discussion on the issues. While not strictly a club problem, the organisations can play a vital role in helping shape the path taken by the country’s young men, Mr Weeks said.

“When South Africa was experiencing one of their most dangerous periods in the history of the country, sport was used as an effective means of combating many of the social il ls that the country faced,” he said. “So, as I have said time and time again, investing in our sports and workmen’s clubs will go a long way in assisting with the correction of this crisis.”

A number of factors are contributing to the “senseless violence” being felt by Bermuda, Mr Weeks said, the first being the disenfranchisement of black male youths.

“I say, young male, because this is the cohort that is being affected by this senseless behaviour.”

Often lacking a sense of belonging — as well as the necessary education and skills to pursue a career path — they are forced to “provide for themselves”.

“This lifestyle gives temporary relief to their wanting to belong and self-sufficiency,” the Progressive Labour Party MP said.

A multifaceted community approach is needed to eradicate the problem, involving various communities — including education, religion and legal — as well as the families themselves.

Self-reflection, he said, is also vital.

“We all need to stop and think about what has gone wrong in this country to cause the creation of the situation as we know it,” Mr Weeks said.

“We must ask ourselves individually and as a culture, have we done all that we can do to prevent — where we can — these heinous acts from occurring?

“If the answer to that question is ‘no’ — and I think that it is — then we have much work to do. But it must start in the now.”

Local organisation Cartel — Challenging and Reclaiming the True Essence of Life — led by pastor, certified counsellor, and gang mediator Leroy Bean is one example of the multifaceted approach to dealing with the issue that is needed, Mr Weeks said.

“We cannot continue to show only the penal side of our reaction to this problem,” the MP said.

“We need effective mediation, which will lead to eradication.”