“Do the right thing.”
That was the message that came through loud, clear and often on the first day of the No Witness, No Justice/CBSI Youth Network Conference hosted by the United States Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
Dozens of secondary schools students from 10 Caribbean countries are in Barbados for the two-day conference which promotes witness participation in the judicial system and social media advocacy for such.
Speaking to the students yesterday evening, United States Ambassador Larry L. Palmer urged them to stand firm in the face of pressure to do wrong, noting this pressure could come from many different sources.
“Young people like you can face a lot of pressure to do the wrong thing or to cover up for those who are committing crimes. This pressure comes from all around you — it comes from your peers and even older people who should know better. This pressure can come wrapped up as entertainment — even I’ve heard some of the songs that refer to ‘informers’ or ‘snitches’,” he said.
Barbados Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, whose office has partnered with the embassy and the National Task Force on Crime Prevention on the conference, expressed similar sentiments, noting that sometimes young people were reluctant to cooperate with the police.
“If your justice system does not work, then your way of life as you know it goes to naught. Ordinary men and women, boys and girls [have to be] willing to put their hands up and do the right thing if they are witnesses to a crime. We have some additional work to do because one of the things that I note as a politician is that young people are not the greatest fans of police — there’s a slight disconnect. We need to bridge that gap,” stressed Brathwaite.
Earlier, the students spent the day training in two groups, learning about the importance of participating in their own justice system and how to use social media for advocacy.
In the CBSI Youth Network module room, students equipped with embassy-donated iPads, practised taking effective photos, making compelling videos and using social media to promote the cause of justice and witness participation.
In the “No Witness, No Justice” module, embassy criminal justice advisor, Daniel Suter, St. Vincent and the Grenadine’s Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Colin John, and Crown Counsels Giovanni James of St. Lucia and Clement Joseph of Dominica gave students hands-on, practical advice about the justice system and the importance of witnesses. The students then donned their black robes as the legal luminaries took them through two mock trials so they could put what they had learnt into practice.
Joseph reminded the students of the real-world importance of what they were learning, saying it showed them how necessary a witness was, even in situations where oft-adjourned trials could test one’s patience.
“As a witness you have to have that type of patience because the end of the road is justice,” said Joseph.