Ten million dollars—that is the estimated cost attached to the new social programme that has been launched by the Ministry of National Security geared at deterring delinquent youths from a life of crime. The initiative is the latest move by Minister of National Security Jack Warner who is bent on pulling out all the stops to take back T&T from the criminals.
Warner launched a “Shaq Attack” in Beetham yesterday as National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Dr Shaquille O’Neal was on hand to launch the Hoop of Life initiative. The NBA star was flown into T&T for the launch of the initiative, leaving many stunned.
Entitled the Hoop of Life, the programme was unveiled by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at a key distribution ceremony held by the Housing Development Corporation at Beetham Gardens to residents whose homes were gutted by fire following an arson attack in Trou Macaque last year. Partnering in the joint venture are—Ministry of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs, Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and National Infrastructure Development Company.
Reliable sources told Sunday Guardian that while the “final touches” have not yet been put on the programme, the project is estimated to cost $10 million. Sunday Guardian was also informed that the programme forms only part of Warner’s new crime plan that is expected to be rolled out within the next two weeks. Up for grabs is the $1 million dollar first prize for the community which shoots the best basketball hoops.
Second place winners would also be handsomely rewarded as they walk away with $500,000, while the team that places third will receive $250,000. A stipend would also be paid to all team members to ensure that travelling and other expenses are met, although certain restrictions apply.
Among them is that players qualifying for the basketball tournament are not allowed to engage in any criminal activities. Failure to adhere would lead to the entire team being disqualified. In addition, team members must reside in the community in which they are competing. Warner yesterday urged the residents to take advantage of the opportunity and turn around their lives.
In delivering the feature address Persad-Bissessar said the issue of crime was a troubling one and the onus was on the Government to foster better communities. Insisting that the time had come to steer the nation’s youth on the right path, Persad-Bissessar said the launch of the programme was one of the initiatives that would be used as a deterrent.
Referring to the initiative as a “Shaq Attack,” Persad-Bissessar said, “We have to find a way to shift consciousness of our youth and to get communities behind them. The issue of crime troubles all of us in our land. The HDC has been doing a great job in creating housing communities and employment.
Whenever these initiatives are conducted we can trace a decline in crime and juvenile delinquency. It is time for us to make a prudent investment in key areas because we are losing too much of our young people to a life of crime.”
Addressing the residents, O’Neal urged them to believe in themselves. Saying that he too had come from a humble beginning, O’Neal said he proved to his detractors that he could make it. “They said I could not get my doctorate—I graduated recently. They said I could not play basketball and I showed them differently. To make it you must believe in yourself,” O’Neal said.