“Knowledge is only potential power... power is only truly demonstrated when you begin to take action.”
So said Assemblyman Ancil Dennis, assistant secretary in the Office of the Chief Secretary and member of the National Crime Prevention Programme (NCPP) Inter-Ministerial Committee.
Dennis was addressing the NCPP's Youth Outreach Engagement on Tuesday at the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour in Glen Road, Scarborough.
The Youth Outreach Engagement is hosted by the Ministry of National Security, in collaboration with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) divisions of Education, Innovation and Energy and Sport and Youth Affairs.
Dennis said the outreach engagement was about two things: introspection and unlocking leadership potential.
“Introspection, because I think when we evaluate our society in Tobago, in our respective communities and, of course, nationally as a country...we ought to admit that we are in some serious trouble. If we were to simply look at the crime rate, specifically at the murder count, we’re already at 60 murders and we’re still in the second month of the year.
“If you were to look at the last three years, we would see that there is a significant increase in the amount of crime taking place both nationally (and) of course here in Tobago. Therefore, we ought to be concerned as young persons, and even as seniors living in this space called Tobago or TT.
"Therefore, when we do the introspection, we recognise first of all that there is a leadership void.”
Dennis encouraged the youths gathered to take action, as he told them that they too were leaders.
“Wherever you may operate, even in your respective capacities as students in your schools... all of us have the capacity to lead. Tobago and TT will only be a better place when that capacity to lead, when that leadership potential is unlocked in all of us.
“Power is only demonstrated when you take action! You have the capacity to lead to change your school, your community and nation. It can only be done when you take the necessary action.”
Retired major general Rodney Smart, national co-ordinator for the NCPP, said the youths had the answers for safety and security, among other things.
He said, “It is about unlocking that potential. You have been schooled all these years and you have a knowledge and an experience that some don’t have, and that is what we’re calling on you to do. We felt that we could not go forward in planning crime prevention if we didn’t hear from the youth.
“The NCPP is about identifying and understanding some of the root causes of crime and implement solutions in Tobago. Too many of our young persons are dying. Now you have the opportunity to stop this haemorrhaging. As such, we are here today for you to share your ideas, so we’ll have a better Tobago,” Smart said.
Glenda Jennings-Smith, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of National Security, said, in going forward, young people were critical, having watched them battle as offenders and victims.
She said, “You have the answers, you are the change-makers, and today we feel confident that we are closer to preventing crime than we were yesterday.
“We listened to you here in Tobago today. I heard fears, anxiety, frustration – but among all of those, I heard hope. Hope as you provided solutions, that you had not given up, and today I guarantee you that your contributions have been recorded and will be actioned. Your hope is not in vain. We usually say that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, but I have put a new mantra to that, and I say that you are the leaders of today, because where you sit, as young persons, you can influence our communities, you can influence our leaders’ action, and you can influence your country by your action or your non-action.”
During the session, the participants – who were secondary school students, teachers and guidance counsellors – were engaged in working sessions, discussing the factors that can contribute to crime prevention from the sociological domains of the family, individual, peer group, school and community.
This was the last in a series of three youth engagements as the NCPP continues its thrust under the Ministry of National Security to help make TT a safer place. The first engagement was at the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua and the second at Naparima Boys’ College in San Fernando.