The young demonstrators are asking that an end be brought to the disrespect meted out to them by government and some members of society

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to the news item emanating from a letter written by Capt Gerry Gouveia to Brigadier (rtd) David Granger (‘Upset Gouveia writes Granger over Duke Lodge protests,’ SN December 17). This exchange raises concern as to its posture, tenor and expectation. Let me from the outset say, the rights of any individual are the property of none other than that individual. Therefore, any “covenant” disregarding the United Nations International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights is a violation of the human rights of others. Stated clearly, the UN Covenant is supreme and nullifies any covenant that does not flow therefrom.

Refer to a Preamble of this covenant which specifically states: “Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.”

As such the prerogative is not that of David Granger, Gerry Gouveia, Larry London, Joseph Harmon and many other army comrades to create a covenant that disrespects the universal covenant. The cornerstone for peaceful co-existence, development and democracy, is rights and the rule of law, which are expected to be upheld by those named in the correspondence. The young are pursuing a path for inclusion through peaceful social action, and even though it may bring discomfort to some, this ought not to be a basis for seeking to violate their right to freedom of expression and assembly in the public sphere, to which they are entitled.

And yes, it brings unease to those afraid to speak out and who seek self aggrandizement, comfortable with their position or the status quo, but this predisposition does not lead to correction of the wrongs. We live in a society where unemployment is high among the young, and opportunities for unleashing their potentials and playing a meaningful role in their own and the nation’s development are diminishing. Hopelessness, abuse and marginalization are the daily diet for many. Some exist with the help of loved ones, while others are under-employed. Additionally, there is no National Youth Development Policy to attend to their needs in a structured and equitable manner.

Note is taken of the alleged discomfort to diplomats who are housed at Duke Lodge where the group staged one of their protests.  In this new global dispensation countries are intensifying the strengthening of institutions to give primacy to the rights of citizens as critical to peaceful co-existence, development and democracy. This is a mandate that guides diplomatic relations from the free world. And the promotion of anything else is to disingenuously hide behind the diplomatic community to justify denying others what’s rightly theirs.

They should interact with the group to understand the reasons for their action; all they are asking for is that an end be brought to the disrespect meted out to them by government and some sections of society. They are seeking positive change. This group comprises professionals of all backgrounds; ages; university, college and vocational graduates; the employed, unemployed and under-employed; early school leavers; and diverse races, economic/class strata, united in their pursuit for justice and fair play. To therefore profile any one or group seeking after these things, questions not the intent of the seeker, but the intent of the profiler.

Messrs Granger, Gouveia, the other National Service and army comrades will agree that in their youth a government invested in them, taking some of them off the streets, channelling their energies and unleashing their potential. Today, this investment has translated into shaping who they are, and provided the opportunities for their social, economic, cultural, civil and political self determination. This was also made possible with the support – albeit with objections from some quarters – of adults who saw the need to mould them into productive citizens, out of respect for their rights and ensuring their relevance to nation building.

The young today are no less deserving. Further, it now becomes the moral responsibility and civic duty of the older generation to support and advocate for the young in their quest for inclusion and a better life. Doing this repeats the helping hand given in their youth.

The men are asked to stop and reflect, not on their angst, but on their contribution to the cause that has created the need for the social action we are witnessing. The opportunity is theirs today to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

History is watching and recording.

Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis
General Secretary

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