Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Waite outlines problems facing young people

By Lynford Simpson, Staff Reporter


BASIL WAITE, president of the People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO), has cited unemployment, education and crime and violence as the biggest problems facing young people.

While noting that these would have to be priority areas for any future PNP Government, he argued that young people in different parts of the country are affected differently.

"In the rural communities you may find persons being more concerned about employment, education and crime maybe last; whereas in urban centres in the Corporate Area and Montego Bay you may find them talking about crime and violence, especially in the Kingston and St. Catherine belt, job creation and lastly education. It varies based on your experience," he emphasised.

On crime and violence, Mr. Waite noted that young people were disproportionately affected, being the main offenders and victims of both major and petty crimes. But, he pointed to the recent "Youth initiative against crime" held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, which he described as a "huge success".

"It is going to be continuous and you're going to find it taking root in various sections of the island," he told The Gleaner in an interview. He disclosed that there were plans to have regional launches. The PNPYO president also pointed to efforts to retrain and equip the security forces as positives in the fight against crime.

"So we expect that once we join together as government and opposition and as people and government...we can fight this dreadful disease called crime and violence," he emphasised.

On education, Mr. Waite said there was no back-pedalling on the part of the PNP regarding its stance on free education. "If you never knew the policy position of the PNP with regards to education and if you never knew what was contained in the draft of our manifesto, then you could say yes it was back-pedalling." According to him, "we have retreated from our original position -- it is part of the cathedral of principles of the PNP for free education". He described as a "populist pronouncement" the Jamaica Labour Party's promise of free education immediately, if it forms the Government after the October 16 general election. The PNP has promised free education by 2005.

Regarding the economy, Mr. Waite asserted that the Government was on the right track to grow the economy and create jobs. He noted that when the PNP came back to office in 1989, it inherited negative Net International Reserves of more than $500 million, and an economy that was "propped up by auctioning of foreign exchange and price control". Said Waite: "We had to liberalise and modernise the economy to make it competitive and more in line with international standards." He asserted that the PNP was now "at the end of that road" and pointed to projects such as the much touted Highway 200 which he said will generate jobs.

Despite PNP President P.J. Patterson being 68 years old and forced to make public his medical records on the weekend following much speculation about his health, the YO president remained adamant that the PNP facilitates young people in every way. According to him, the PNP "has never retreated from facilitating the advancement of young people in the political process and in the public service". He pointed to the ministerial appointments of Floyd Morris and Kern Spencer, both of whom are also Government Senators.

Regarding the question of corruption, Mr. Waite said: "We (young people) have to be forthright. We cannot stand on the sidelines and quarrel with the system and say it is against us and that it is corrupt. That will get us nowhere and will just perpetuate the system you perceive it to be in the first place." He cautioned those wishing to get involved that there is no free lunch. "We have to do our thorough research. We have to have not just a criticism of the problems but potential solutions to our problems," said Mr. Waite.