Louis Lee Sing pushes for compulsory national service

Use money from URP

By Corey Connelly
September 29 2009 – newsday.co.tt

Louis Lee SingExecutive chairman of Citadel Limited, Louis Lee Sing, yesterday suggested that the monies allocated to the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) be directed to the proposed National Compulsory Service initiative.

“If ever you had an opportunity of killing two birds with one stone, that is it,” he said while delivering a comprehensive presentation on the company’s proposal for compulsory national service.

Addressing members of civil society organisations, at City Hall in Port-of-Spain, the protective services and other stakeholders, Lee Sing argued that the initiative, if implemented, would significantly reduce the work load of police officers, particularly in high crime areas along the East/West Corridor, and other parts of the country.

However, former Laventille East/Morvant MP Fitzgerald Hinds, in a subsequent presentation, said he was skeptical about Lee Sing’s suggestion to finance the national service plan with money from the URP.

“Interfering with the URP budget is a most controversial suggestion, and I wish him very well,” he said, eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Hinds agreed, though, that the URP had “moved away” from its original intent.

In his presentation, Lee Sing said Citadel Limited had been considering the“controversial” idea of national compulsory service for some time, given the escalating crime situation.

“Compulsory national service is necessary and needed at this time,” he insisted. However, he made it clear that national service did not mean military service.

‘There will be no military training. No training in handling weapons, neither in hand to hand combat,” Lee Sing pointed out.

The programme, he said, seeks to cater to at-risk young Afro-Trinidadian men between the ages of 15 and 25 from the East/West Corridor, and districts between Point Fortin and La Brea.

He envisaged that the programme would run for periods of two years, in which students would be taught basic Arithmetic, English, Computer Literacy, and other courses.

Lee Sing also said that participants would receive a stipend, 50 percent of which would be paid directly to the students, while the remainder would go directly to an account on their behalf.


Sat rejects compulsory national service call

By Dixie-Ann Dickson

Secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj says the Indian community rejects Louis Lee Sing’s call for Compulsory National Service. Maharaj made the comment yesterday during his contribution at the one-day symposium titled ‘A case for the compulsory national service’ hosted by Citadel Ltd. The symposium was held at City Hall in Port-of-Spain.

Maharaj said, “The Indian community rejects outright any suggestion that compulsory national service is an option for our nation. “When the NAR minister Lincoln Mayers floated this misguided fascist idea some years ago, the Maha Sabha mobilised the Indian community in opposition,” he said. “We stand ready to do the same if confronted once again with similar designs,” he added. He noted that the Maha Sabha had already implemented ‘National’ Service in its schools and mandirs which was entirely voluntary in nature.

Maharaj claimed the motivation behind the drive for this new compulsory national service was hinged on the inability of the present government to properly treat with the issue of crime. He said, “Now ‘National’ Service was being touted as the panacea of the crime problem.” He added the premise of this argument, which is to transform deviant members of society by this initiative, was fundamentally flawed, but should also seek to affect 100 per cent of the society. Maharaj further criticised the initiative stating that there had been no support from the greater national community or any discussions by the government and the opposition. He said the Indian community never relied on the State for handouts.

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17 thoughts on “Louis Lee Sing pushes for compulsory national service”

  1. Lee Sing wants replacement for Cepep, URP
    Executive chairman of Citadel Ltd, Louis Lee Sing is calling for the replacement of unemployment relief programmes such as Community-based Environmental Protection Enhancement Programme (Cepep) with the Compulsory National Service. Lee Sing made the call during his presentation at the one-day symposium titled ‘A case for Compulsory National Service’ at City Hall, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

    2,500 young lives taken
    Acting Police Commissioner James Philbert says about 2,500 young men have lost their lives to violence and gang warfare during the past four years. He was making a contribution at A Case For Compulsory National Service at City Hall, Knox Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. Its theme was Saving Lives: Building Communities. It was hosted by Citadel Ltd. Philbert said, “We have lost about 2,500 young men over the last four years. The cemeteries are rich. We have young men who keep coming back before the courts. We have to reduce gang involvement. We have had to introduce a repeat offenders programme to help them. When we look, we find they have failed the drug test, psychological assessment and evaluation.”

    Lee Sing pushes for compulsory national service…
    THE current funding for the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) should instead be used for a compulsory national service programme, executive chairman of media corporation Citadel Ltd, Louis Lee Sing, said yesterday. Speaking at a panel discussion on “A Case for National Compulsory Service” hosted by Citadel and held at City Hall, Port of Spain, Lee Sing suggested that the two-year programme should initially focus on young people from the East-West Corridor and La Brea to Point Fortin, who are in need of “very special attention” following which it should be extended to the whole country. The target group would be males aged 15 to 25 who are not gainfully employed or studying.

    Sat hits Citadel Ltd
    Secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj yesterday claimed that Citadel Limited, organisers of the Compulsory National Service programme, may not have wanted to include East Indians in the proposed initiative. He also accused the company’s management of discrimination in enlisting him, as one of two East Indians, to a panel of guest speakers of mostly African origin at yesterday’s event.

    Daaga: Compulsory service can temper race relations
    Political leader of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) Makaandal Daaga believes that Citadel Limited’s proposed Compulsory Service has the potential to temper race relations in the country.
    “I think you are going to have very, very serious problems if you are going to ask Government to invest money in something in which the entire Opposition party would be against. I see plenty trouble in that respect.”

    …System can work, say Seetahal and Philbert
    Speaking yesterday at a panel discussion entitled “A Case for National Compulsory Service” hosted by media corporation Citadel Ltd at City Hall, Port of Spain, Seetahal suggested that the offenders could be offered the option of national service instead of conviction. She also questioned who compulsory national service would target and suggested that the only way for it to be compulsory was to pass legislation. “Serve or go to jail. Do we want to go that far?”

  2. I think compulsory national service is a bad idea. It was born of the laudable goal of trying to do something about our current situation but I think it really would only make things worse. Do you really think a 2 year course in “basic Arithmetic, English, Computer Literacy, and other courses” will undo 15-25 years of bad parenting, poverty and other social and psychological problems? The most important years for deciding identity are already gone.

    There are 3 major objections I have with this idea.

    1. The motive is bad.
    The point of this exercise is to reduce crime and keep delinquent youth occupied. While a nice goal it means the project is not for the youth it is for society. They will sense that the only reason they are doing this is to make adults happy. That this is not about them and it does not care about their goals, dreams, aspirations, where they came from or what their circumstances are. They will reject it, as will all parents who think their children or not of that sort and that this is a punishment for bad people. Satnarayan Maharaj made exactly that point. If the youth going into the system don’t like it or think it will not work for them or worse yet interpret it as a fascist imposition by an uncaring society this will fail horribly. After all they are the only ones who can make a change.

    2. It will be implemented poorly.
    We have a bad record of implementing large scale projects in this country. If this is done wrong it can horribly scar our youth and our society. The URP and CEPEP were unable to achieve their primary objectives and in many cases became a breeding ground for criminal activity. I do not see why another poorly funded and badly implemented system would improve the situation. The potential for abuse of a system like this is staggering.

    3. It is unnecessary.
    We already have a system in place that can easily outperform any national service if it is properly implemented. The education system. Almost the entire population passes through this system from very early in their lives and the youth spend most of their lives in this system. A change in the education system can easily determine the fate and future of the nation and I believe it has done precisely this. I believe that by letting the system limp by as it currently does we have actually created part of the problems we now face.

    A properly implemented education system can compensate for a great many problems at the point where it is most effective to deal with them. You can spot and fix bad parenting, poor discipline and bad habits, ameliorate hunger and poverty and a lack of opportunities among other problems. We can train teachers to spot problems, Deploy more trained councilors, provide lots of after school clubs and activities and provide opportunities for religious groups and non profit groups and clubs to reach our children and provide them with opportunities in sports, the arts, politics etc.
    A properly implemented education system will be able to spot truly problematic children early and direct them to social resources that are best able to deal with them. This is a system that already exists and has the full acceptance of the population.

    In short I really don’t think a poorly implemented, badly funded 2 year education programme that doesn’t actually care what the students learn is going to undo 15 years of bad parenting, poor education and poverty or significantly improve the options of the youth. It will probably make things worse.

  3. Just last week, I made a similar suggestion to the US President, for consideration, for implementation to 16-17 year olds, while still in school..
    Some of the benefits I listed would be: Skill training while still in school so that when they graduate they could make some clear decisions about further study or work. Part of the national service would include compulsory civics lessons, so that young people would learn how their government functions, and can later take an intelligent part in it. American colleges are looking for “public service credit” instead of just cramming for exams, and so students could earn this credis(s) through compulsory national service.
    It will istill discipline in children, like the Cadet Corps used to do, particularly those teens born to teen mothers, who go to the same parties with them, and try, mistakenly, to be their friend.
    Employers can earn taxcredits for employing apprentices during this period, for a small wage, so that young people will gain the experience credits needed for the workplace.
    Trainees would live in camps of some sort. If this is begun during the long August holidays, the camps can initally be the public high schools in the area. When schools re-open, the service youth would live at home, and by that time, hopefully, would have enough discipline and team spirit instilled,to turn up every day, unless the bridge is out. They will have to return for a full one nad a half years of high school before graduating at 18 or so.Compulsory National Service does not have to be military service. It can be in a hospital, an old people’s home, wherever here is a need. It must, however be supervised by disciplined people, who are skilled at team building. Selected members of the services- Army, Coast Guard, Police, Fire, and Prison can serve as leaders in the initial stges.

    We in TnT and abroad, Trinis all, do not, in my humble opinion have a sendse of national pride, we do not elevate our country above all others, and we downrate it whenever we could.
    Compulsory National Service, begin with high school kids, will teach them the value of education, because they would be able to draw a clear distinction between different types of jobs.They could then make intelligent choices about what to do with the rest of their lives. I back this idea for both my countries of citizenship, with all the fifty-one years I have spent in public education.

  4. This is not a bad idea but it is not a panecea either. What ever we do we cant run away from history and the way we always do things. The way we always do things have not been good. Let us look at a few organizations:- (1) The Girl Guides & Boy Scouts (2) The Cadet Corps (3) St. Johns Ambulance Brigade/Salvation Army etc. Those of us who were fortunate to be around when these organizations were run by ordinary people during the time of colonialism, know that when people got involved they believed in what they were doing because ‘people cared’. In other words, people felt that by their involvement in these activities their lives would be made better. There was also a value aspect to their involvement. When noteable people are apprised of such involvement by members of their staff, family or friend, such service becomes laudable. So there was encouragement from all aspects of one’s life and their social standing elevated valuably. Our social values today are different and there is hardly a model that is nationally acceptable where one would be encouraged to become a part of. So, national service where one may get military training, medical training, social training, educational training, civic training or agricultural training just for the sake of attaining that training will NOT do. There must be collective values attached to anything associated with this service, so that when it is modelled the country or community must be elevated by its results. What I mean by that is a graduate from such a programme should be one who any one of us can trust to welcome into our homes, or feel proud to be given a job or feel safe to recommend to anyone that might express a desire to hire his or her services. The problem with government oriented programmes is that government proposes without consultation and expects that because they had a good intention somehow the results must turn out to be what they expected. I believe that one of the things sorely needed by government is the services of at least six good social scientists. Government need to have people who can analyse the behaviour of its population and be willing to find solutions to the problems that rise above acceptable levels. Real social scientists are best suited to to advise government on how we need to chart our courses so that we serve the people to minimise problems and accentuate our talents.

  5. We need to create new models of what the service corps should look like, and it is imperative that the input of young people be part of it from the get-go. Way back in the 1970’s I attended a National Education Association Conference(USA) on children and their educational needs. I was president of a local branch of the NEA at the time.I insisted that children should be part of the conference.My Vice-president agreed with me. We selected two students from my high school, and the asociation paid their way from the other state to Washington, DC. No one else brought chidren, but later, wished they had.Young citizens of TnT MUST be seen and heard, or else,all we will hear is the lamentation of parents after the sound of gunfire. Sometimes, we have to step outside the box, to make change. This is one such time.Mr.Lee Sing must be commended for voicing the idea, althouh taking funds away from another group will set up an antagonistic relationship between them. That cannot be what we want. For once, I think we should consult Israel. They have such a program.I believe Denmark also has one.

  6. Sat maintains stance on proposed compulsory national service

    By Corey Connelly
    September 30 2009 – newsday.co.tt

    Secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj is making no apologies for his organisation’s stance on the proposed implementation of national compulsory service in Trinidad and Tobago.

    Maharaj yesterday maintained that the Maha Sabha had no intention of supporting the idea.“We like our freedom,” he said.

    Maharaj struck a controversial note during Citadel Limited’s A Case For National Compulsory Service at City Hall in Port-of-Spain on Monday when he publicly condemned the much-touted initiative.

    Citadel’s executive chairman Louis Lee Sing said the programme targeted at-risk young males between the ages of 15 and 25 from along the East/West Corridor and districts between Point Fortin and La Brea. He made it clear that the programme was not about military service.

    Maharaj recalled that the Maha Sabha had shot down the idea when it was first introduced by the National Alliance For Reconstruction after the 1986 general elections. Maharaj said the majority of the population should not pay the price if only two per cent of the population was commiting crime.

    Maharaj said his organisation was already advocating a system of voluntary community service through an active Boys’ Scout movement and other activities in mosques and mandirs.

    Retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas felt the programme should be replaced by a system of community service.

    “Community service should be introduced into the curriculum of secondary schools and universities where students would be graded through a point system for doing work at old age homes and other activities,” he said.

    Such a project, Dumas reasoned, would facilitate greater social and ethnic integration.

    Head of the Network of Non-Governmental Organisations Hazel Brown was adamant that national compulsory service would not work.

    “I don’t support it at all…I don’t feel that this is required at this time,” she said. Brown instead suggested that genuine attempts be made at providing child care solutions for young children, particularly under the age of three.

    Retired Deputy Police Commissioner Winston Cooper also insisted that the idea would not be successful, given the ethnic composition of the country.

    “It cannot work in Trinidad,” he stressed.

    Cooper said, however, that the idea had merit in terms of addressing the problems affecting young African males in the society.

  7. Executive chairman of Citadel Ltd, Louis Lee Sing is calling for the replacement of unemployment relief programmes such as Community-based Environmental Protection Enhancement Programme (Cepep) with the Compulsory National Service. Lee Sing made the call during his presentation at the one-day symposium titled ‘A case for Compulsory National Service’ at City Hall, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

    It is always so easy to dismiss the 30,000 people being serviced by the URP. The people who is currently receiving unemployment relief is always viewed a lazy and no good and unproductive. You are so wrong on so many counts. Who looks at the underlying problem that have caused people to seek the URP. As a personal development officer, and having met and spoken to URP registrants it is evident that the problem needs to be tackled from the home and the school. The current school system has failed the population and this is why many young people are currently leaving school functional illiterate. This is despite the good opportunity being offered at tertiary levels.

    As it relates to compulsory national service, it should be done by law, whereby students who complete school at form five with no certification must undergo an analysis, and MUST return for two years to acquire their academic certification or do national service as the alternative.

  8. I do not wish to put Mr. Sat Maharaj down, but exactly what formal education does he have? My reason for asking is that his mind seems to be stuck in old ways and may not be growing further. A trained and disciplined mind is always open to new ideas. This idea of compulsory national service is one whose time has come.It can be a “we thing” solution to a slow growing economy and a rapidly growing population. Is he opposing it on moral grounds? Economic grounds, social intermingling grounds, religious grounds? or what? Is he ust “opposing” because his late father in law,Bhadase would have opposed it? I know the latter could neither read nor write.
    While we must respect his right to hold on to those beliefs that have been dear to him, he is only one elder of that tribal movement who interpret their position, or used to, as opposing whatever the government in power has recommended, or wants to do for the benefit of the country.(How much grief would have been saved if their was not a whipping up of fury at an earlier investigative audit of the Hindu Credit Union!) He must reaize that we do not make our children’s minds. He is old enough to have great grands. Why is he opposing something that could benefit those great grands that are citizens of TnT?
    I heard of an old mother who opposed her grandson’s engagement to a woman of another country. She said “Over my dead body”. When I heard it, I told the groom’s father, “She has spoken. So be it”. The old grandmother died two years later. The couple married the next year. Her grandson was of a different generation, with different values. Sat could continue to believe what h wants to believe, but he should not mar his grandchildren’s future as citizens.

  9. Mr. Sat Maharaj’s diatribe at the consultation is ample proof that National Service is a desirable thing. Had he experienced it, he would have learnt that one can disagree without being disagreeable.

  10. Clearly impractical

    Newsday Editorial
    Thursday, October 1 2009

    While there is an urgent need to persuade many young Trinidadians and Tobagonians, not only to remain in school and/or to return to the classroom, but to make optimum use of the educational opportunities offered them, nonetheless the proposal by a radio station for the introduction of national compulsory service as a means of achieving this strikes as impractical.
    Full Article…

  11. It will not be impractical if it is organized, first as an additional requirement for graduation from high school, if no one is exempted from it, and if it focusses on areas now left derelict by the curriculum. One aspect of it should address the situation of twenty and unders who are already out of school, and how they will do their service. Fourteen countries now have compulsory national service of some kind: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, India,Israel,Norway, Malaysia,Taiwan,Turkey, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, and Switzerland. Are these impractical countries?
    Perhaps we could get personnel on loan through UNESCO, from those places to help us develop and implement it. There already is a civilian onservation corps. We could build on that.

  12. I stand strongly with Sat. He is on the ball as far as I am concerned. Sat is an Indian leader and he is about his people who have done well in the main. A major part of the problem in TnT lies in Afro Trinis believing that in we government (PNM) we can do anything and that philosophy although old was reinforced after the UNC went in and came out of power. So now is “wee” time to make mas, so to speak. So Ms Edwards and others should listen to Sat, at least this time and realize that he is making an attempt to keep his people away from that culture that has permeated the Afro Trini community and to a lesser extent parts Indo community as well. Sat is right I submit. As for Daaga there is wisdom in his saying keep the government out yet I ask him what is he and other Afro Trini organizations doing about the situation?

  13. Sorry, Mr. Daiglish, Sat is a force of divisiveness in TnT that will force people like me to choose between family named Gonzales and family named Ali or Baboolal, all of whom are nieces and nephews. Never happen.

    It is possible to educate real Trini children, who grow up to respect their roots, of all cultural strands, and see a common future. Sat as you said, is for Sat and his people. I see myself as being for all of the people, afytr all, my people were there from the beginning, and married into my other people who arrived in 1815, them married again into other ethnic blends. That is a true Trini.Sat is like the Taliban of the TnT Hindutva movement.

  14. Sat is a self-righteous bigot who not only seeks to divide but to also assume the superiority of his Hindu followers.He fails to recognize that T&T is a multi-racial society with people of other religions and races who also lead moral lives, love their children,are interested in education, have bank accounts,are genuinely interested in the future of T&T, are willing to be charitable and value their roots and culture.

  15. Say what you want about Sat, his Indian people (Hindus) don’t have to hide from their own. They are not as frightened and scared as Afro Trinis are of their kind. Sat and others like him can boast of success in continuity of race and cuiture. But my people, heaven help us all.

  16. Mr. Ian, how could you make a sensible comment(On DAvid) so close to an idiotic one? DAt may be close to the most racist of Hindus, but I have noticed over the years he has contempt for Presbyterian Indians and Muslims, and only calls on them to participate when he is pushing racism.
    Now, that would be the equivalent of saying that those Africans who can trace their origins to the Free Mandingos of Belmont, led by Jonas Mohammed Bath, and those of the company Negroes, freed by the britishh and settled in First to Sixth Company between 1814 and 1817, are entitled to certain priviledges, and should not mingle with anybody who came to TnT after Emanciaption. Does that not sound idiotic to you?it does to me. Sat is using subtle and not so syubtle racism to detract from a particular financial situation. Someone should call for the Letters of Probate, of the will of BAadase Sagan Mahara, especially since his daughter, Sat’s late wife, has already passed on.
    Let me bowlderize a quotation”Sweet are the uses of adversity(ethnicity) whch sits like a toad, ugly and venomous,” rearing its head at racism, real and imagined; and holding its people in a backward chokehold, through the arms and utterances of old men.

  17. I agree that Sat should have given more reason for his view on the matter. But in his defense, he did say he felt it was a means of dealing with crime which was impractical. Maybe he feels that the education system should be improved so crime can be prevented in the first place. Although Sat does not hold a doctorate, he has made significant contributions to education and heavily involved in the education system to be aware of its flaws.

    The only difference between the proposed programmes as compared to CEPEP, OJT and YTEPP is that one is voluntary and the proposed is compulsory. What has been the results of these programmes is the question which I ask? Investing the money in the education system would provide the enabling conditions for a functionally literate TnT.

    BY this I mean,providing the tools to teachers that they need to reach the multiple intelligences and implement the constructivist teaching strategies that the MOE promotes.

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