• 12 OCT 2017

Speech by Prime Minister Dr the Hon. Keith Rowley at Vision on Mission 16th Anniversary and Award Ceremony

Speech by
Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

It is a pleasure to be with you this evening. When I was asked by Mr. Chance to give this address I found it very hard to say no. Primarily because Wayne is never one to take no for an answer and more importantly because what Wayne Chance and his team from Vision on Mission are doing remains extremely relevant to our society at this time.

Vision on Mission works with a clientele that many of us would prefer to stay in the shadows. Their clientele is the often marginalized and maligned ex-convicts in our communities and the deportees who had been incarcerated abroad and returned ‘home’ upon completion of their sentence.

We all know that it is not very easy to forgive and forget and more so when we or those close to us have been victims of crime, especially violent crime. Our justice system, which is rooted in the principles of retributive justice is based on the premise that justice a transaction whereby criminals receive punishment proportionate to the crime committed and which upholds the authority of the law and help discourage others from committing similar crimes. It gives priority to punishment as opposed to treatment and to some extent dehumanizes offenders as outsiders and some argue that it also encourages recidivism. We incarcerate offenders and sometimes consider that the transaction is completed.

But many of these persons are not sent to jail for life. At some point they would come to the end of their sentence and will be released. What then are their next steps? Some return to crime – and I understand that we have a high rate of recidivism in this country – and others generally wish to be re-integrated into society.

Vision on Mission seeks to give those persons a second chance to “do it the right way” which is “the better way” as I note from their Mission Statement.

Today I applaud the on-going work of Vision on Mission, which in its own way, is one of the crime-fighting mechanisms we have available to us in this country and I know that they work closely with the Ministry of National Security and other Government Ministries and Agencies to reduce recidivism in our country and keep our youth on the straight path.

This evening, I know that we have among us representatives from many of the Non-governmental organizations which work at the regional, national and community levels to improve the quality of life for our citizens. Several of these NGOs already work with us to deliver services and programmes which Government may not have the capacity to provide and it is this synergy that we encourage and support.

We may also have present here representatives from the corporate / private sector. As practitioners of corporate social responsibility, you understand the need to partner with national, community and faith-based organisations to deliver services and programmes for the vulnerable in our society – children, the elderly, the differently-abled, the homeless, the mentally-challenged and those plagued by addictions and other social ills.

As a Government we may determine national priorities – sometimes these priorities are driven by international events and trends. We set our developmental agenda. We carefully monitor the economy. We constantly balance available funds with the need to stimulate growth, protect the defenseless, advance the well-being of all our citizens and safeguard the future for generations to come.

But to do all of this we need the support of all sectors of our society.

For our nation to continue to grow and thrive as a dynamic, democratic, prosperous country; we must all continue to work together – government, civil society and the private sector.

In particular this evening, I wish to shine the spotlight on civil society. I have been told that in Trinidad and Tobago we have hundreds of NGOs registered in this country.

Not all are active. Some operate at the national level. Others work within specific geographic areas. Still others are linked to special causes, religious groups and interests. There are very vocal advocates and lobbyists. And many more that work quietly in the heart of our communities bringing relief, solace and comfort to those whom they serve.

As a Government, we continue to partner with many NGOs like Vision on a Mission, to operate programmes that provide social assistance in a meaningful way.

Yet, what is necessary for all these organisations to be successful is the selflessness of people, regular people who are willing to give of our time, talents and treasures for the good of humanity without expecting a reward, acclaim or fame.

When I came into office in 2015, I put forward that proposition to the citizens of this country. Volunteerism!

It is always ironic that several Non-Governmental Organisations seek on-going funding from Government for their survival. Unfortunately, at this time of reduced revenues, we are unable to demonstrate the largesse to which many have become accustomed. But even so, we are compelled to prioritize and recognize that we are still duty bound to put our best foot forward and form strategic partnerships for the good of our society.

Re-habitation, and re-integration programmes for ex-inmates, deportees and delinquent youths offered by VOM and other similar organisations continue to be relevant to the society of Trinidad and Tobago particularly since crime continues to be a major hurdle in the country’s social and economic development. As a result, from August 2001 to October 2016 over Ministry of Social Development has supported VOM to the sum of $ 11,646,278.18 in the forms of Subvention towards assisting in meeting its operational cost for the Deportee Programme at the Champ Fleurs Facility and Capital Funding towards the establishment of the centre at Wallerfield. In October 2016 the organisation moved to the Ministry of National Security and received an allocation of $2,824,250.00 for fiscal 2016/2017.

And I speak not only to VOM but all of our other partners in civil society when I implore you to follow the example of Government to do more with less. Your work is no less important but our resources are that much scarcer.

Despite constraints, today I applaud and commend each NGO, each charitable organization, each community and faith based group for the passion and commitment with which you serve your clients, our communities and by extension our nation.

Moving forward, Government will continue to partner with NGO the sector. Appropriately registered NGOs, Community-based Organisations and Faith-based Organisations, may approach Government Agencies or Ministries for assistance to develop and implement relevant community or national programmes or projects. These projects should be consistent with the mandate of the respective Ministry. Alternatively, the Ministry may identify suitable organisations, to undertake the delivery of services for the conduct of social programmes and projects.

At the Ministry level we are focused on value for money. Is the clientele benefitting as they should from the programme? Are the programmes relevant to the needs of the communities in which they operate? Are there overlapping programmes across Ministries? Are NGOs acquiring funding from different Ministries for the same programme?

In addition, there are the intertwined issues of compliance, accountability and transparency. Organisations receiving government funding must comply with the established criteria for the delivery of the service, as well as be accountable for the funds received. Regular reports, as determined and agreed to by both parties, must be received by the Ministry.

Ultimately the Government is accountable for all funds disbursed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to repeat my call for persons to adopt a spirit of volunteerism.
At the office, within your community, at your place of worship, find out what NGOs may be delivering programmes that are consistent with your interests, beliefs and values.

Offer your expertise, advice and time. Contribute to the cause.
Government cannot do it alone. The private sector, I trust, will do its part. But as individuals we too are called to service and I have faith that many will answer the call.

In closing I wish to Congratulate to the Team at Vision on Mission. May you continue to succeed in all your endeavours.

I thank you.