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FLASHBACK JULY 2019: National Security minister Stuart Young reads from Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House on the last day of the Book Buddies Camp at NALIS in Port-of-Spain.

It will come as a surprise to many that he grew up riding a bike in the Debe road, catching “wabeen”, once contemplated becoming a priest and enjoys Buju Banton’s conscious lyrics. But yes, National Security Minister Stuart Young is a curious mix.

Young spoke about his life away from the Ministry in an interview on the Heliconia Foundation’s Young Professionals series recently. It showed a different side of the government minister who has been the target of heavy Opposition fire, has faced severe flack for the exemption process and has travelled widely with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley advising him on various matters.

He acknowledged that his ministerial portfolio is difficult and revealed that “some of the things you hear as National Security Minister you wish you’d never knew or were exposed to.” He is also cognisant of and grateful for the opportunities from his time in politics.

Young, an advocate of gender equality, said he sees men’s role as being there to support women.

“A lot of progress has been made on gender equality, women are leading from in front. We are here to support our women. I say to them keep striving, and achieving . . . the glass ceiling has been broken already,” he said.

Young also believes young people must step up to the plate and play more of a role in charting T&T’s direction and be part of the solution.

He said: “If we don’t channel the energy into that I don’t know what will happen.”

Looking ahead, Young said the National Security Ministry would place more focus on cadets and other security agencies.

He said gender-based violence bothered him tremendously. He said he sometimes felt hamstrung by the legislation, but acknowledges legislation was only one part of the measures.

“The electronic monitoring system is ready to go once the court makes the order and that will afford some element of help to our women and other victims. We’ve instituted more safe houses and are pressing for more, TTPS’ Gender Unit is working, plus we’re on the PH taxi issue.

“But we as a society have to step up to the plate and focus more on our young men—get into their headspace, teach young ones it’s not okay to react when you’re in difficulty or feel threatened. I’ve said men have to be more responsive and responsible.

“We saw the Barbershop Initiative allowing a safe space for men to speak about how they feel. This shouldn’t be underestimated, we need to have this from secondary school,” Young added.

“If there are men out there being violent, call them out! Even ones who aren’t involved with women and are committing acts of violence against them, call them out. When you put pictures of these perpetrators using or hurting women, children and other people on the front page showing their face that can help change society.”

Politics was never on his radar

•YOUNG STUART: At 46 he is the eldest among a younger brother and sister. Heavy southern roots, growing up Catholic but with close Muslim relatives

•SOUTH LIFE: Aloo pies and doubles days. “Every Sunday we’d go to Debe and have fun with my cousins, playing cricket in the road, swimming, riding bike, pitching marbles, building and flying kites, catching wabeen . . . fish in the drains and going down the ravines.”

•SCHOOL: From St Monica’s Prep to St Mary’s he was always involved in sports, competitively swimming, playing football and tennis. He got a black belt in karate at 13 Never a bookworm but academically gifted, he was always in the top tier. ”Let’s just put it this way—I had a lot of fun at school, I got into a lot of normal boy trouble, fights, being mischievous. I also got into trouble in secondary school, sometimes with challenging teachers.”

•HEAD ALTAR BOY: He considered becoming a priest or an accountant like his father. The law won him with his debating skills giving him an edge in that direction.

•LIFE IN POLITICS: “That was never ever, ever, ever on the radar.” In 2014 he met PNM leader Keith Rowley, then the Opposition Leader, to work with a legal team on a Parliament matter. “He called one day and offered me a position as a temporary senator. I was thinking Trinidad and Tobago was in such a state and with corruption, I’m not one to sit on the sofa and consider these things so, as I said politics was never part of it but God’s will be done . . . if this is what He wants me to do it, I’m doing it. It’s been very very hectic, I don’t have a lot of room but I know my friends are still there and they can call on me and vice versa. Maybe it’s time for reunions.”

•PRIME MINISTER KEITH ROWLEY: “My favourite thing in working with him is he’s an extremely bright man, so knowledgeable in how he makes decisions, how he fights continuously for Trinidad and Tobago. I’ve seen it in the boardroom of oil companies, he commands respect. He’s never cut down my views, I just try to learn from him (laughs) but I see how excited he gets when they bring up rocks and seismic charts. He can tell you all about that, he’s like a kid in a candy store.”

•DIFFICULT BALANCE: Between his personal and political lives, Young is a bit embarrassed his children haven’t had the sort of childhood he had, “but I’ve been teaching them recently to play cricket.”

•UNWINDING: “It’s been extremely difficult. I carve out time to exercise and try to maintain my sanity with time with my kids also. Those are my two grounding factors. I listen to Buju Banton, the older music, very conscious lyrics, excellent music. People are surprised but it’s very grounding. I play one album over and over, it keeps you real. The other day I bought his latest. It’s okay but he old school music is the best.”

•YOUNG’S FAVOURITES: Doubles (slight pepper), chow, mother-in-law pepper sauce, T-20 cricket, Maracas, groovy soca, Base and Anchorage, buss-up-shot, the Greens.

•HIS CONSTITUENCY: “ I met some characters worthy of a book, like Donald “Popee” Sturge. He came to the first meeting where I spoke saying he wanted to see who is the Jap they bring. He said, ‘You prove yourself.’ He supported me everywhere after. Interaction with constituents has helped me be more in tune, my decisions are based on ‘how will this help the man in the street’ or have a voice at the table.”

•DOWNSIDE: “Realising people would make up complete lies as they haven’t been able to find something on me. This includes attacks on my family. It’s difficult being in that sphere. Regrets? There are some things I’d prefer I wasn’t exposed to but I have some great stories I hope one day to tell and I’ve had some great opportunities. Maybe there are a couple of things I’d try differently but I’ve been given an opportunity and I thank those who gave it to me.”

•AHEAD: “I put my head down and do my job because at end of the day I want to leave this knowing I wanted to do my best for the country. I like walking Port-of-Spain North’s hills talking to people, helping formulate policy. I’ll look back on this experience and smile as it was God-given. Politics gave me the opportunity to influence people, to help people and to meet people. My mantra is to leave it better than you found it, keep office with dignity. I’m only here as a caretaker. Office is only a position, you’re the caretaker. Before the ministerial office, there was Stuart Young and after there will be Stuart Young.”