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PM announces prisoners’ release in Independence message

PM announces  prisoners’ release in Independence message

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The Prime Minister’s Independence speech took a different slant this year when, in addition to his usual announcements, he informed the nation that he would be recommending the early release of some prisoners.

Last Thursday, October 27, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that he intends to advise the Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne to order the release of several young men and women who are serving time for “relatively minor offences”.

“I consider that in all the circumstances, that these young persons ought to be given a second chance,” asserted Gonsalves.{{more}}

“This is the internationally-proclaimed ‘Year of Mercy’ by people of faith, and we ought to exercise it appropriately to these young persons and others.”

He also announced that the 110 temporary clerks within the public sector (who have been employed for several years) will be given permanent status from January 1, 2017.

Gonsalves assured that this move would provide them with the same “requisite job security and attendant benefits as public servants”.

There was also positive news for those interested in careers in the Police Force, the Fire Service, the Coastguard and nursing.

Gonsalves said that there will be increased recruitment in these fields, with the relevant authorities soon to announce the names of just over 100 successful applicants in the Registered Nursing and Nursing Assistant programmes.

The Registered Nursing programme not only provides students with a free education, but also a monthly stipend of $1,000.

The Prime Minister declared: “I have been advised that St Vincent and the Grenadines is the only country in CARICOM with such a generous provision, a special initiative of our ULP government.

“All these, and other compelling initiatives for youths, the elderly, farmers, working people, will continue to be honoured and implemented, despite the economic challenges with which we are confronted.”

Additionally, 629 students (on the basis of their CSEC and CAPE results), will each receive a $500 cash grant. This amount will also be given to students who passed their Associate Degree programmes at the required level at the SVG Community College.

The Prime Minister further mentioned the 16 National Awardees who received scholarships, exhibitions and bursaries for university level study.

“Additionally, for the 2017 – 2018 academic year, the Government will grant 70 tuition scholarships to deserving applicants for university study.”

He further noted: “The Government… will continue to finance the economic cost for all eligible students at the University of the West Indies; and the state-owned Student Loan Company will continue to grant annually economically-disadvantaged student loans amounting to in excess of $4 million.

“All of this, combined with other university scholarships negotiated with friendly overseas governments and supportive institutions, continues to place St Vincent and the Grenadines on track to [having] one university graduate per household… by 2030.”

Further afield, Gonsalves pledged US$50,000 to assist the Haitian government in its relief efforts, following island-wide devastation brought on by Hurricane Matthew.

“The Haitians are our Caribbean brothers and sisters whom we love dearly. They are in our prayers.”

During his Indepen­dence speech, the Prime Minister also announced that the Government would be recognizing Vincentians at home and in the diaspora, who have made “sterling contributions in the fields of sports, culture, education, health, public service, business and community service”.

He explained that various facilities would be named in honour of these “distinguished citizens,” particularly those who are now deceased.

“We must remember them as part of our exercise of nation-building, and the further ennoblement of our Caribbean civilization. Announcements, too, will be made for a few additional sporting and cultural ambassadors.” (JSV)

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