Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur arriving at Parliament on Monday for the Estimates Debate. (Picture by Reco Moore.)
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With increasing incidents of violence involving young people, veteran parliamentarian Owen Arthur is calling for the establishment of a compulsory national youth service.
He has urged Government to take action as a means of curbing the kind of deviance being manifested in schools and the wider society.
Delivering his last speech in the House of Assembly yesterday after a 34-year career as a parliamentarian – including 14 as Prime Minister – the Independent MP for St Peter said: “I agree with the mantra of the Democratic Labour Party that we are building not just an economy but a society. My disappointment in these Estimates is that there is no new striking programme upon which the Government is prepared to embark to recognise that there is social disorder, and that the state can have things to do that can help us to address social disorder.
“I think the time has come and I would like to see it moved into these Estimates, where a compulsory national youth service at schools and other places will have now to be a means by which we begin to address that disorder that wants to destroy the fabric of this society. I am prepared to vote for it, no matter how much it costs.”
Arthur, contributiong to the Estimates Debate, complained fathers of Barbados were failing the country and not stepping up to their parental responsibilities.
“Barbados has been built on values and I want to use the benefit of this speech to say that parenting has been one of those strong values, and that the fathers of Barbados are failing this country. When I see people at the scene of crimes, I see only single mothers weeping for their children.”
He called for “a serious intervention” to enable our social services to assist single mothers with sons at risk.
Arthur said as a father of a daughter at Queen’s College, he would never entertain the kind of deviant behaviour being exhibited by schoolchildren from his child. He added that making fathers pay child support “is not enough”.
“Not only the economy is in trouble, the society is in trouble and if it is in trouble, the duty of a Parliament is to rescue it.”
In a word of advice to his former colleagues on the Opposition benches, the former Barbados Labour Party leader said: “I know often I am accused of being too critical of the Leader of the Opposition, but I agree with her when she says that the Government must seek a mandate.
“But it also has to be the case that if the Barbados Labour Party wants to be the Government of Barbados, it must seek a mandate too, and it would have to let us know what is in its contemplation in the light of these dire social and economic situations that I have just described,” he added. (GC)