At-risk youth might not benefit from JDF-run Enlistment Programme — Bunting
The Parliamentary Opposition is expressing concern that at-risk youth, who most need the new Jamaica Defence Force (JDF)-run National Service Enlistment (NSE) Programme, will not qualify for recruitment.
The NSE programme will see persons aged 18 to 23, being enlisted in the JDF annually and trained over a one-year period in military, vocational and broader life skills.
It’s expected that at the end of their NSE training period, most of the participants will be accepted to join the JDF as regular Force soldiers, while others will be eligible candidates for employment in the private and public sectors.
However, as debate got underway in the Lower House, yesterday, on a Bill to amend the Defence Act to accommodate the programme, opposition spokesman, Peter Bunting, expressed reservation the programme might not reach youth most in need of re-socialisation.
Bunting argued that at-risk youth who are vulnerable to being recruited into criminal gangs, will most likely not be recruited by the JDF as they do not fit the profile of individuals normally enlisted by the army.
Bunting noted that when the People’s National Party was in power, through the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), about 500 at-risk youth were given internship opportunities within the JDF’s engineering regimen.
He told parliamentarians the programme had a significant positive impact on these youth.
Bunting queried whether that programme would be continued alongside the NSE.
However, he said he could not support adoption of the NSE at the expense of the CSJP-led programme.
Bunting also warned the Government that recruitment for the NSE must be completely free of political interference.
He called for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to assure that the JDF would have autonomy in relation to the programme.