A meeting of the country’s Christian leaders aimed to find values-based and practical solutions to the country’s spiralling crime rate, which has led to widespread social fallout and economic impacts.
“The less self-governed we are, the more external policing we will need. It is time for a more mature society,” said Dr Noel Woodroffe, Senior Elder of Elijah Centre and President of Congress WBN, an international non-profit with operations supporting values-based community development and nation building initiatives in more than 90 countries.
Dr Woodroffe was leading a panel discussion on business sector solutions for crime in Trinidad and Tobago. Panellists included Richard Young, chairman of the Economic Development Board, Joseph Remy, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations (FITUN), Ronald Hinds, Chairman and CEO of Teleios Systems and chairman of the e-Business Roundtable, and Gregory Aboud, President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA).
In 2013, criminal cost the T&T economy some $1.1 billion, according to estimates quoted by Dr Woodroffe.
"Crime deters business investment and increases business costs," Young said.
Murder and violent crime are among the most serious issues. In the first five months of 2014, the country registered 183 murders, a 20 per cent increase from the comparative toll in 2013, according to news reports. Police have linked many of the country’s murders to underworld elements controlling various community-based gangs.
“Gang culture is a pointer to the importance of community and a sense of identity in peoples’ lives,” Hinds said.
Reports in The Economist and Vice News have further linked violent and gang-related crime to endemic high-level corruption and the regional traffic in illicit drugs, as part of a global system of international trade.
“We are witnessing in T&T a failure of the society to tell each other what is right and what is wrong,” Aboud said.
“The focus of labour has to be on nation building and safeguarding of the moral fabric of our society,” Remy said.
The panel also aimed to address crimes such as fraud, bribery, tax evasion and underpayment.
“Businesses have to manifest the values they profess,” Young said.
Called Prayers Plus, the three-day meeting was held at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain from May 27th to 29th. It was the brainchild of Cleveland Thomas, a former Trinidad and Tobago public servant, who says that hefelt the need and the call of God to gather the Body of Christ together to pray for our nation concerning the crime situation,” according to the conference website.
Themed ‘Finding Solutions to Crime’, the Prayers Plus meeting aimed to bring together the leaders of the Christian faith in the country to discuss crime challenges in order to find common solutions built on foundational Biblical principles such as justice, integrity, accountability, transparency, community and love.
Apart from the session on the business sector, other conference sessions focused on youth, women, the protective services, the judiciary and the media. On the closing day, Chief Justice Ivor Archie called for a greater partnership between the church and the judiciary in the fight against crime.