FRIDAY 07 MAY 2004

Mr. Speaker and members of this Honourable House, a lot has happened in this little Island of Bermuda since we last assembled in this place.

We have experienced both ends of the spectrum as a community.

There was great success on the international stage with our hosting of the CARIFTA Games, our annual Bermuda Regiment Camp in Jamaica, our National Football team at the National Sports Centre, our attendance at RIMS and our recent meetings with U.S. policymakers.

On the other hand, we also had to deal with what was probably the lowest point - that unprecedented display of violence during the Friendship Trophy Final at the Wellington Oval.

We were all shocked to see and hear the accounts of what happened during what was supposed to be a celebration of football and ironically called the Friendship Trophy Final.

Sadly, even though the violence had absolutely nothing to do with the football game, our national sport will be tarnished by the occurrence of that sad day – In St. George’s Town.

Mr. Speaker, without disregarding any of the calls to action within our community, or detracting from the seriousness of what occurred at the Wellington Oval, I think it is extremely important for us to keep in mind that when we speak about antisocial behaviour amongst our young people, we are actually talking about a minority of our young people.

You might ask does that make the situation any less serious?

My answer would be no of course not, but I also believe it is very important to balance our concern about this and other incidents of violence or antisocial behaviour in our community with the knowledge that the majority of our young people are not sitting on walls without jobs or engaging in dangerous or antisocial activity.

The majority of our young people are members of our sports programmes, our dance schools, our church programmes, our music schools and at the same time, are diligently working to do their best in their studies either locally or at overseas institutions.

When I am invited to speak at various functions across the Island or to make presentations at our schools, churches and sporting organisations, I have an opportunity to see the great potential and talent that exists amongst the young people of Bermuda and as a result, I am extremely proud of our young people and what they are able to accomplish with the limited human resources we have on our small Island.

Mr. Speaker, before this House arose for the Easter break, you heard various members of this side of the House make reference to the Government’s social agenda.

The Government is committed to addressing the negative elements in our society to improve the quality of life in Bermuda.

Those negative elements include the behaviour of some of our young people but that is only one side of the issue. To address the negative elements in our community, we also have to deal with issues such as housing, crime, drugs, training and development and the fabric of some of our neighbourhoods.

In this regard the Cabinet, in collaboration with their respective technical officers, has been charged with developing programmes that will serve to address those elements in the community that bring about a sense of hopelessness and helplessness amongst segments of our community.

In addition, we have been consulting with and talking to representatives of the private sector, the international business sector and local community activists to determine how each segment of our community sees the problems and to determine collaboratively how with our collective resources we can address these concerns.

This consultation is set to continue and will include other sectors of the community to ensure that we have the widest view possible regarding the issues we are dealing with.

The Cabinet is set to review Ministry proposals to determine cost, feasibility and to establish links to existing or proposed initiatives within other Ministries. This will ensure that we do not reinvent the wheel and instead develop proposals that bring about joined up Government and effective and cost efficient responses to the various issues under consideration.

Most importantly, we are determining those proposals that are capable of being immediately implemented and those which need to form the basis of legislation or policy and that will need to come before this House.

Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members of this House, our efforts today to address the negative elements in our society will not only improve the quality of life in Bermuda, but will also ensure that we leave a legacy and foundation upon which to ensure an even better Bermuda as we continue our journey to the New Bermuda.

Thank you.


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