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Friday 21 September 2018
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Use money from URP

Executive 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.

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