Anthony Watkins

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday announced that he had set up a Community Recovery Programme team—aimed at good order—to help reconcile differences within troubled communities who were involved in protests earlier this week. He said he saw it as an appendage to the Recovery (Roadmap) programme.

“It’s recovery we’re aiming for,” Rowley said at a press conference yesterday, as he said psychologist Anthony Watkins would head the team.

He said Watkins, who holds a BA in psychology, had spent his life in psycho-social, psychiatric assessment and mental health correctional work.

Also on the team are radio announcer Hans des Vignes, Curtis Toussaint, Community Development Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Children’s Authority director Nicola Harvey, Akosua Edwards and former national football coach Jamal Shabazz. The team will be free to co-opt people from communities and will design the way forward, he said.

Rowley noted that an attempt was made to have a plan for inner-city youth in 2004 but it was halted by the UNC’s Wade Mark and others claimed it favoured some.

He added, “I will not be dissuaded to change course from this (Recovery plan) by anyone who feels it has to do with race, religion or geography. This has to do with peace safety and good order,” Rowley said.

“I’m hoping the response from the Government to the people who are hurting—all of them—would be one of conciliation. We heard you and we’re prepared to take action…today isn’t a good day, but let us hope as we bury the dead which came about from our general shortcomings. We’ll resolve to make tomorrow a better day, not only for ourselves but also for those who live in communities like these.”

He added, “And to those who feel this is an opportunity (in) that, you will be discouraged…we move on from there.”

Addressing the task ahead on CNC3 last evening, Watkins said one of the big challenges for the team will be setting aside their own assumptions about things.

“How are we to put some of those things on silent?” Watkins asked just hours after accepting the assignment, noting they would also have to “learn one another as a team, then begin to reach out and start the process of listening.”

The team has been mandated to evaluate and design a path for the way forward for communities in need, starting in east Port-of-Spain and Watkins said he didn’t hesitate to accept the challenge.

“When the call came, for me it was a yes,” he said, although he did consult with those close to him.

Noting that some of the language over the past few days had only made matter worse, Watkins added: “We have to let some of the pressure and tension come out of the space.”

Watkins, CEO and principal consultant of Odyssey ConsultInc Limited, established his consultancy firm in the early 1990s and has since been actively involved in public and private sector organisational transformation initiatives, working extensively across the region with major companies and business leaders. His areas of specialisation include leadership development, organisational transformation and change, team development, career coaching and process facilitation.