Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham: ..."government and other institutions are no substitute for personal responsibility and family life."

PM Ingraham calls for volunteers

tribune242 editorial

IN HIS address to the nation last night on crime, Prime Minister Ingraham outlined his government's plans to introduce legislation in Parliament to "further aid in the shared battle we are waging against criminality." (See story page 1).

He also pointed out that "government and other institutions are no substitute for personal responsibility and family life."

To get the whole community involved in an attempt to recapture family and social values, he announced that on November 1 a National Volunteer Register will be launched. At this time members of the community will be invited to volunteer their time to mentor young men and women, assist in community centres with after school programmes and join outreach programmes into urban neighbourhoods to encourage parental and child involvement in school activities. Also needed are volunteers to work with existing youth organisations in their programmes and many other social activities that can help change a society.

He found distressing not only the high murder count, but "what those numbers represent".

"For all of our good fortune as a country," he said, "we have in significant ways lost a sense of ourselves and of what is essential." He quoted one writer as reminding us "that 'what is essential is invisible to the eye'."

He said that Bahamians longed for something more than the outer trappings of material success. They longed for the invisible that the eye cannot see -- community and fellowship; peace and well-being.

"Remember," he said, "when the old people used to tell us that all you have is your good name and your reputation and that you don't leave this Earth with any of your worldly goods."

"Our most precious possessions," he said, "are invisible to the eye like a good conscience or the service we give with no expectation of recognition or reward.

"This crisis of culture and community manifested in an unprecedented level of criminality requires us to deal with essentials invisible to the eye like values, attitudes, social trust and mutual respect.

"We will get the crime numbers down," the Prime Minister promised. "But most crimes are symptoms, not root causes.

"Even as we relentlessly combat the criminals, provide law enforcement and the judiciary with the tools and resources they require and modernize our laws, there is something else as urgent, as essential -- it is urgent and essential that we renew, restore and replenish our sense of community choosing a culture of life over a culture given over to deadly violence."

Mr Ingraham emphasised the fact that "poverty is not an excuse for crime" -- a rack on which many Bahamians today hang their hats as they shrug off all responsibilities.

Using himself as an example of one who fought against the odds of birth and won, he said: "I too grew up poor. A two-parent family is our ideal. I am the child of a single parent and I was raised by my Grandmother.

"Many children from two-parent families get caught up in crime while many children from single-parent households are good citizens and fine young people.

"In the end," he said, "it is the quality of parenting, not the quantity that is essential.

"I grew up," he continued, "in what was then a remote part of Abaco called Cooper's Town. I came up at a time when there were few opportunities for a poor boy like me born to a single parent. The first time I met my father was when I was 11 years old.

"Even though I didn't possess material wealth, I had wealth more everlasting: Mama, who instilled in me a sense of my own worth as belonging to her and as a child of God.

"She schooled me in the knowledge that the land of my birth, The Bahamas we all love, is a land of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard.

"As a boy, never in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine becoming an attorney, Member of Parliament or minister of government let alone prime minister. But having been given this great privilege I have dedicated my public life to providing every Bahamian boy and girl with opportunities I never had.

"This is why," he explained, "I have never stopped working to make sure that every Bahamian child on every island in every settlement in The Bahamas has decent schools and access to higher education. This is why my Government ensures that everyone meeting a certain criteria and academic standards can attend the College of The Bahamas at public expense. And that is why since coming to office in 2007 we increased scholarship funding from $400,000 to $7.75 million. And this does not include bonded scholarships, the All Bahamas Merit Scholarship or Bahamas Commonwealth Scholarships.

"I say to you, young Bahamians: While your country may give you a hand-up, you are not entitled to hand-outs."

"So, even while we have much to improve as a country including the quality of our public education system, young Bahamians, men and women, you have more opportunities than any generation in Bahamian history.

"And so we must not throw up our hands or find easy excuses; instead let us unite to help to restore law and order and civility and community by getting involved."

PM Ingraham pointed out that "unless more of us get involved, none of us is truly safe. In the end community engagement and service will be more effective in combating crime than iron bars and gated communities.

"Our task," he said, "is not only to stop criminals from breaking into our homes and businesses. As urgently we must stop them from wanting to do so in the first place."

And so, Bahamians, the task is ours. We hope that many will take up the Prime Minister's challenge and get actively involved - for our sake and that of the next generation.

October 04, 2011

tribune242 editorial