The Minister of Justice invited to speak at the first joint virtual Rotary meeting on the topic of peace and conflict resolution.

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On February 22nd, the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson was invited to speak at the first joint (virtual) meeting held by the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset, Mid-isle and Sunrise. There was a total of 89 Rotarians present during the event which comprised of Rotarians from St. Martin, Vermont USA, Anguilla, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, USVI, BVI, Haiti, Australia, Trinidad, and the UK. The Minister was asked to speak on the topic of the month ‘Peace and Conflict Resolution/Prevention’ and provide insight to all Rotarians on ways the Rotary Clubs can assist the ministry in advocating peace, especially amongst to youth.

The Minister opened her presentation by extending her heartfelt condolences to the Rotarian who recently fell victim to domestic violence and succumbed to her injuries after the assault. She stressed the importance of tackling domestic violence on the island and has set the enactment of the Domestic Violence (DV) Policy to a high level of importance. A taskforce was created between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) that has been focusing on the required steps to complete the draft DV policy.

She further spoke on building safer communities and the role that we all must play in creating healthier communities. The Minister said: “Partnerships on all levels must be engaged in which law enforcement, community organizations and individual residents are needed to develop safe and secure but vibrant communities. However, the role and responsibility that the criminal justice system has in building peace in our community is indispensable”. Crime prevention and increasing the feelings of safety in our communities have been two of the main focal points of the Minister’s campaign and efforts to build safer communities have been in the pipeline since the beginning of her tenure as the Minister of Justice.

One way the Minister foresees increasing the safety in our communities is through the establishment of neighborhood watch programs in each neighborhood that devotes it’s time to crime prevention and community building. Collaboration between several actors in our community such as the district police officers, the community councils and the residents can significantly improve the overall quality of life in the neighborhoods by increasing the safety and security. Organizing structural (bike) patrols, promoting nonviolence, bringing awareness to crime prevention, and organizing community building activities will be the main tasks of the program.

Another initiative geared towards promoting nonviolence and peace amongst the youth in our community that was mentioned during the presentation is the establishment of the Military Academy. Adolescence is a difficult period, and it is not uncommon for young men and girls to lose focus and fail to realize their full potential. Military academies are known to transform young people who might have deviated from the right path into well-rounded individuals who are prepared for responsible leadership. The Military Academy would inspire positive academic, physical, and spiritual growth in every young adult providing a distraction-free setting that allows the young adults to focus on their educational and personal development. The main mission would be to transform the young adults into disciplined, morally strong individuals. The young adults would also be involved in the communities by them participating in numerous community service projects, for example, keeping the community clean, promoting community enhancement, assisting with senior citizens, and helping the hungry.

Building safer communities is a joint effort and the detention facilities also have an important role in crime prevention by preventing recidivism. Merely isolating offenders and extracting them from our society and thus providing safety to our communities is one aspect of the prison system, but it is not the only one. Rehabilitation programs during incarceration are equally, if not more important and greatly contributes to reducing re-offending than merely incarceration. The Miss Lalie Youth Care and Rehabilitation Center and the Point Blanche Prison are actively working on a new educational and rehabilitation program for the inmates that tackles the inmates’ criminogenic factors and stimulates safe reintegration into our society.

The Rotarians in attendance expressed that the presentation was very insightful, informative, and addressed some of the key social ills that affect our community as well as the role members in our community should play to ensure a safer community. After the presentation, there was an open floor session where Rotarians were provided the opportunity to ask the Minister questions. The Rotary Clubs appreciated the Minister’s attendance and expressed interest to work with the ministry on the pipeline initiatives. In closing, the Minister was presented with a certificate as a token of appreciation and the presidents thanked all members and guests for their attendance, whereafter the meeting was adjourned.