Our Readers' Opinions
September 16, 2016
Sports should and must be used to fight crime in SVG

EDITOR: The editorial in the Tuesday, September 13, 2016 edition of the Searchlight newspaper, titled ‘What about a SPORTS AGAINST CRIME initiative?’ was most surprising. Surprising in that such an idea was floated to a number of persons, including media personnel, officials of various sports entities, including national sports federations, representative of the business sector, and Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines officials, including some ministers, but no one batted an eyelid.{{more}} 

The editorial states, “VIOLENT CRIME and its devastating and deadly effects continue to be a major area of concern in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is especially so, given the heavy involvement of young people in these acts, and the implications this has for the future of our country, as both perpetrators and victims.

“Several initiatives have been launched, albeit inconsistently in some cases, to stem this tide, but generally these have not achieved the desired effect. Perhaps the most promising has been the PAN AGAINST CRIME programme.

“Of course, this initiative alone cannot combat crime, but it is a worthwhile contributor to the effort. Other initiatives are needed at all levels. We take this opportunity therefore to suggest that a complementary effort be launched.

“Sports is a natural activity area for the young and brings with it many rewards, physically, mentally, socially and, in today’s world, financially as well. SVG has a proud sporting history, but in recent years for one reason or another, we have not been quite living up to our legacy at the national level. Areas of former sporting glory, such as football and netball have not been able to reach the heights of the past and in comparison with many of our neighbours we seem to be stuck, or on the decline.”

The editorial writer was spot on when he or she identified the key area, if any headway is to be made in combating not just crime, but also the deep seated divisions in this country.

Can such a programme be of immense benefits to St Vincent and the Grenadines? The answer is yes, and the management of the sports website www.sportcaraibe.com

, having experienced the negative response from both the public and private sectors in St Vincent and the Grenadines for such a programme, has been working at the implementation of a sports programme, aimed at fighting the many socio-economic ills in this country, entitled ‘Reducing poverty in the OECS through sports.’

But let’s not digress. Can it work? Again the answer is yes, and there are examples. In Saint Lucia in 2007, with support from former Central Castries parliamentary representative Honourable Richard Frederick, amounting to over EC$75,000, a programme named ‘Peace and Love’ was put together.

Additionally private sector interests which did not sponsor any sporting or social programme made sizeable contributions to the programme, in cash and kind.

The first project was a football tournament with participation of the all of the inner city/ghetto communities in Castries. The tournament was played with the presence of police officers, with current National Security Minister in Saint Lucia being the tournament commissioner, and the tournament director was Robertson S Henry.

What was most significant was that the same gangs, who would be shooting or trying to maimed each other, would see their members walking the very same roads late at night after a match at the Mindoo Philip Park, discussing the match, sharing a marijuana joint, and actually wishing each other the best.

Throughout the duration of the tournament, there was no criminal activity in the ghetto areas, and at the games, which were played at night, with a double-header nightly, there who no police presence. The plan was to extend the tournament to the island, but failure by the Government of the day to do what was needed collectively cut the programme off at the knees.

What is noticeable was that every cent received was accounted for to all the contributors, and this is a practice which has sent many in the private sector diving for cover when approached for sponsorship. Persons must understand that sponsorship for sports is an investment in the development of our people, and not an avenue for self-aggrandizement.

Then a Buju Banton fund-raising concert was torpedoed when the singer was arrested over a number of illicit drug and gun charges in the USA. The proceeds from this concert was to further finance sports programmes, and to assist the elderly where needed.

The Searchlight newspaper must be applauded for such an editorial, but unless our public and private sector leaders come to realize that sports is the fourth pillar in the socio-economic development of the Caribbean, then we all will continue to wash our hands and wipe them on the ground.

The Tuesday, September 13, 2016 Searchlight editorial further states, “At the recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, SVG faded in comparison with athletes from Grenada and St Lucia to name a couple, and even a 40-year-old veteran from St Kitts, the venerable Kim Collins, must have made us all ask, what is wrong with us? Aside from this level though, there is tremendous potential to harness our enthusiasm and employ it at the local, community and school level, in all fields of sport, and to use it as a deterrent and a weapon against crime.”

According to the editorial, “Sport is far easier to succeed in such an initiative than pan, though we will have to contend with the egos of some administrators, coaches and commentators. It will also require a focused and targeted approach, combining the support and active participation of the National Lotteries Authority, the sporting associations, the Ministry of Education, sporting clubs, communities and the Government of SVG.”

The mindset of many must change if the enviable legacy of St Vincent and the Grenadines is to be of value to the citizens of the OECS. We cannot afford to have presidents of national sports federations treating the organization for which they vowed to do their best, and were elected with trust to head, as their personal fiefdoms.

That they cannot and should not be challenged and or questioned on any issue, for whatever they/do should be accepted without question. The behaviour of at least two national sports federations is testimony to this.

Both the Ministers of Sports and Education respectively, in the persons of Honourable Ces McKie and Honourable Jimmy Prince, must pool the resources of their respective ministries, along with the expertise of private citizens, to not just have a nice sounding sports programme on paper, but they should possess the gonads to implement such without fear or favour – political or otherwise.

The school sports programme must be reviewed and restructured, wrapped in a package which would pull private sector interest on board. To do this, there must be a change in personnel as to the persons who manage the SVG school sports programme, for the preparation for the SVG schools team in the annual Windward Islands Schools Games for 2015 and 2016 are just two examples of bad management of this country’s school sports programme.

One would be surprised that the very same students who are not performing that well academically will improve if a proper sports programme is implemented in the schools. To supplement this would have to be a community sports programme, not to bust a sweat, but to bring people out in unity to participate in one way or another.

It is an insult for the country manager of one of mobile providers in St Vincent and the Grenadines to state earlier this year at a meeting: “I would prefer putting money into a soca concert, for if you check all of the kids would recognize a soca artiste quicker than a sports star.”

Will the Tuesday, September 13, 2016 Searchlight editorial be a wake-up call to all? Time will tell, but many will say please do not hold your breath. Sports cross all boundaries, and if one is to take the words of Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne, the churches and political parties have failed to bring the people together.

Robertson S Henry