Newly-appointed Youth Development and National Services Minister Fitzgerald Hinds has sought to defend his Facebook post that ignited fiery criticism over social media.
Hinds made the post following an encounter with an apparently socially-displaced man outside a supermarket on Wednesday, where the minister turned down a request from the man for money. Speaking on the 102.1 FM Power Breakfast Show yesterday, Hinds said he made the post on Wednesday because as he drove off following his interaction with a man, he was thinking about his commitment to the country and his new portfolio.
“The reason that I posted that is because, operating in my mind as I drove off because of my commitment to this country, because of my commitment to young people, I saw that as telling me that here we have some young people in this country who needs to be counselled and to be guided and to be prepared for more productive lives and don’t have to undignify themselves in making request of other people when they can do it themselves.
“All of this is what was operating in my mind, my love, my compassion, and most of all, my commitment given my recent appointment in doing something about these kinds of issues in society.”
Hinds’ post stated, “Not even aware that I was in his focus, on exiting the Massy Foodstore, I entered my vehicle. I settled in and observed a body up to my window. Closer observation revealed a perhaps 30-year old, healthy-looking, muscular man. I looked for the piper in him and could not find it. He beckoned me to talk to him. I rolled down my glass window and he delivered! “Ah just asking for a lil $20 to buy something to eat!” I immediately reflected on a previous occasion when another young man asked me for “ah lil $100”. I have given financial and other assistance many times in greater quantity, but I refused them both! Ah doh like the idea of young, apparently fit men begging! And ah doh like it more, when they tell me hummuch dey want! I reflected deeply on my new portfolio, took a deep breath; and drove away highly energized to do this critical work.”
Hinds has since deleted the post.
But recalling the incident in the interview, Hinds said he also had COVID-19 on his mind when the man approached him as he sat in his car. He said the issue was not so much that he had asked for money but he specified how much he wanted.
Describing himself as one of the most generous people in the world, Hinds said, “So that is just really what was operating in my mind but the context of this was I had just come out of the supermarket and interestingly enough I had gone in there to buy food and God is my witness, for someone who needed it.”
Hinds said he only had time to do a quick assessment because he was in full flight since the place he was heading to was closing in half an hour and he also had to drop off the food.
“Some people are of the view I should have stopped and taken him to my office and found out what was his condition. I just explained to you truthfully what the context was and the time frame and the assessment that I made. It was not about judging the man. I don’t know the man. It was just a quick usual ordinary assessment that every simple human being conducts when another human is standing in front of them.”
Hinds said he felt it was important to make the post because he viewed such experiences as learning and teaching moments. He, however, believes the population wasted too much time on the issue.
“When I now look back with hindsight at the way that matter exercised the whole country almost for that whole day yesterday, I really do think it is a waste of all of our time in terms of exercising ourselves on this matter when there are so many other important things to address.”