The new IMANI program is aggressively perused and manipulated by the New National Party (NNP) as a political stunt to mobilise youth support and win votes, so as to ensure the NNP led by Dr Keith Mitchell remains in power for life.
Any government program that is worth its salt must be free of political interference, nepotism, cronyism and bribes whether practiced overtly or covertly. The program must be seen as honest, transparent and fair to all participants, with a clear goal and objectives towards national development and self worth.
It is fallacious of the NNP government to attempt to marry the business of governance of the state to activities of its political party or organisation. There are too many instances of questionable dealings that bring into focus the integrity of the IMANI program itself, and the creditability of the government on a whole.
Another concern is whether this NNP government by and large can be trusted with state resources when it comes down to value for monies spent.
The idea of running any successful government youth program, should never be a case where the organisers are trying to play politics by trying to put youths against parents and opposing political parties in order to win votes.
The authorities should and must know better that this is callous and certainly a recipe for deviant behaviour at the highest level, if remaining unattended.
This NNP administration should be called into question about the countless amounts of free cricket tickets given out to IMANI youths and party supporters as a whole, before and during the test match recently held at the national stadium.
Who are the sponsors of those free tickets? What are the promises made or offered in return for those free tickets? These are questions any transparent government should be willing and able to answer. The nation needs answers to those questions, Mr Prime Minister.
As I understand it, there were patrons who had in their possession between five and ten tickets at any given point in time. This type of attitude and behaviour sets a dangerous precedent, which was set by the NNP administration since World Cup Cricket 2007, and every succeeding international cricket match played at the national stadium thereafter.
The consequence of those past actions has now resulted in no one wanting to pay to see cricket anymore, so if the government refuses to make available the free tickets for cricket, few people will go to catch sight of the games.
On another note, recently I was reliably informed by someone in the teaching profession that, during the preparation for the INTERCOL games at Progress Park, a government official called the principal association, demanding that t-shirts must be printed and lunch be prepared for approximately 50 IMANIs who will be seated in the VIP area of the pavilion. As I understand it, this request did not go down well with the principal association even if they finally obliged.
Another development lately is that the principal association was informed to retain the IMANI trainees for a third straight year, even if the training duration is for two years.
There are signs as preparation heats up for the referendum on constitutional reform to be held later this year, followed by a general election perhaps by the next two years or so, one can expect to see more desperation on the part of the New National Party to try and influence the youth vote by providing some tablets or laptops, mainly targeting the secondary schools by virtue of their age of being able to vote soon.
No government should treat its people in this way but sad to say this is what we are faced with at the moment.
My advice to the youth is to see the IMANI program for what it is.
The program presently consists of many young people who are intelligent enough and skilled enough to earn decent wages but the NNP will have you believe that you cannot do better with your life, than to be reduced to be given a minimum wage for your hard labour.
Why would a government that really cares for and about you want to keep you on a stipend for three years?
This administration insists on giving you a false sense of security in believing that you cannot make a life on your own without the NNP.
Now that perception is totally false and must be rejected at every opportunity presented at the level of the program’s agenda.
It is the responsibility of every government to provide a solid and well rounded education for its citizens and the NNP is no exception in carrying out this noble responsibility.
This is not what was outlined by Mr. Kevin Andall, Youth Coordinator speaking at the launch of the New IMANI Program on July 1, 2013, at the Grenada Trade Center, when he referenced the New IMANI program as having the potential, by its very design and scope, to meet the needs of every youth on the island, while at the same time having the capacity to become a model program in the region.
This statement was made before a packed audience of about 1,000 excited youths, mainly comprised of persons representing the first batch of trainee. One could have seen the excitement and glee on the faces of the youths as they anxiously anticipated the start of the new program that promised so much.
Other government officials and dignitaries present to witness the launching were Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, ministers of government, senators, permanent secretaries and a representative from CXC.
Sad to say, a program that promised so much at the beginning has lost its way and has now returned to the old ways of political gamesmanship and uneasiness in the workplace, where workers making decent wages are forced off the job in exchange for young IMANI workers who are offered a stipend by the government at the expense of taxpayers of the country.
Presently, there are 35 trained and qualified nurses who, after four years of intense training, are still overlooked and without jobs, while placements are given to IMANI trainees to perform tasks in sensitive areas at the Ministry of Health that demand skills of a critical nature.
The integrity of the program is at stake and needs to be relooked at in its entirety in a critical way. I call upon Prime Minister Mitchell and all the other dignitaries who were present at the launch of the program to lend support to ensure the program regains some form of direction, credibility and respectability going forward.