Photo: National Security Advisor in St. Kitts and Nevis, (Ret.) Major General Stewart Saunders
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, August 20, 2019 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to experience an unprecedented period of peace and calm under the current Peace Initiative—something that was yearned for and welcomed by most citizens and residents of the country, including the gang members themselves.
The Peace Initiative is a programme introduced in March 2019 to help gang members transition from a life of crime to a productive lifestyle through alternative ventures such as agricultural production, construction, entrepreneurship, and other activities.
National Security Advisor, (Ret.) Major General Stewart Saunders, revealed that it was the gang members themselves, who he categorized as the at-risk and marginalized groups, who wanted to bring about an end to the violence.
“Subsequent to the traumatic experiences of February 2019, the groups mentioned that they wanted to put an end to violence amongst themselves and their communities,” the National Security Advisor said during his appearance on popular radio programme “Straight Talk” hosted by the Honourable Ian Patches Liburd on WINNFM on Monday, August 19.
He added, “They cited the homicides, the violent trauma, attraction of youths to gang culture, the negative impact of violence on the society [and] restrictions on individuals’ movements as some of the factors leading to their request. They further stated that they wanted assistance to changing their lifestyles in order to create peaceful environments and to become more positive contributors to society.”
In response, the Team Unity-led Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has placed greater emphasis on helping these individuals through its Alternative Pathway Programme, thereby providing more opportunities for persons to participate meaningfully in nation building.
Elements of this programme included adding these at-risk and marginalized individuals to social programmes, helping them to find jobs, scaling up governmental programmes to prevent recidivism in prisons and detention centers and providing opportunities for these individuals to gain financial support to start businesses on terms that enable a fresh start.
This change in the behaviours of gang members has not only resulted in the significant reduction in major crimes and homicides in St. Kitts and Nevis but has also resulted in the historic surrendering of some 30 illegal firearms and more than 70 rounds of assorted ammunition to the Police.