Youth advocate and coordinator of the Youth Apprenticeship Program in Belize City, Dianne Finnegan is mediating peace between two rival gangs in the Lake Independence Area. Finnegan, who has made a bid to contest the position of Standard Bearer for that division for the United Democratic Party says the she has started work with gang members of PIV and Back a Land gangs upon their request. She met with the gang members on Sunday over lunch to chart a way forward without violence.
Diane Finnegan, Mediator: “What I did was based on their request, the fact that they both know me well. I’ve met all of them through the interventions we used to do along with Chester Williams and so now that I am at a different level they’ve asked to come together so that they can iron out their differences and respect each other’s boundaries while working with me to bring about some positive changes within the Lake Independence Division. The guys are very receptive as you see we had a dinner and the purpose is really so that they can see themselves as one, they’re all brothers, they’re all in different space, they’re all facing challenges, they all have similar needs the thing is that when it comes to survival people do what they have to do in order to survive and I’m saying that the time for that has passed. There is too much happening within our society, there are too much fear among the citizens within our society and sowe need to find positive options, positive alternatives for them to tap into so that they can be busy. These guys if you speak to them on a one on one they want to be employed, they want to do things to keep them occupied and as I go around and speak to them and listen to them speak you have those who are fishermen who all they need is some assistance with a boat to go do their fishing. You know one of the members here his house was burnt down three days before Christmas why is it today we are in July and there has been no effort to put back his house ? We have to end that phase of beggars that we just give them $50 or a $100 and think that is going to keep them calm until election time again. No. If we put in place the resources for them to tap into and to continue to survive we wouldn’t be in this position we are in today.”
Some of the members say they are willing to call a truce and look forward to peace.
Member: “Basically to keep the peace and gain a little bit of trust then we will move forward from there. Once you are making paper you won’t be worrying about beef or time to do anything. I think it will benefit young people because the most thing that is being talked about are jobs for the youth because enough youth out here want to work but nobody gives them a chance. Whatever positive thing that have I am willing to join, I’m willing to get in 100%.”
Diane Finnegan, Mediator: “I spoke to the two leaders Battery and Joseph and without hesitation this was again based on their request and both agreed and brought out the guys at a setting where you’d think you’d need police protection look at them ! And so this is where it all begins and so this is where it all begins bringing the community together.”
The mediation is expected to continue within the Lake I division.