Govt must make it right for wards of state /

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley was re­port­ed­ly so shocked and scan­dalised af­ter learn­ing of the con­tents of a 1997 re­port in­to the op­er­a­tions of chil­dren’s homes on Mon­day, that he called on Act­ing Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Mc Don­ald Ja­cob to so­lic­it a copy of it and take the nec­es­sary steps, sup­pos­ed­ly to bring those who may have bro­ken any laws to jus­tice.

There are many ques­tions that arise from the Prime Min­is­ter’s re­sponse to the de­tails of the re­port done by Robert Sab­ga’s team. The first, of course, is that we find it as­ton­ish­ing that no­body with­in cur­rent Gov­ern­ment seems even re­mote­ly aware this doc­u­ment ex­ist­ed.

This is be­cause the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty of T&T was birthed out of some of the rec­om­men­da­tions of the 1997 re­port, which Sab­ga and his team did on 10 chil­dren’s homes for the then Bas­deo Pan­day Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress ad­min­is­tra­tion and which was al­so laid in Par­lia­ment. Since then, the Sab­ga re­port has been ref­er­enced ad nau­se­am dur­ing de­bates on the is­sue of abuse at chil­dren’s homes, in­clud­ing in 2000 when In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tor Ramesh De­osaran raised it in dis­cus­sions on the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty Bill, elic­it­ing a re­sponse from Camille Robin­son-Reg­is, who is cur­rent­ly part of Row­ley’s Cab­i­net.

Most no­tably, the Sab­ga re­port has come up over the last two decades be­cause it high­light­ed a prob­lem that is en­dem­ic in chil­dren’s homes and care cen­tres through the coun­try—that of a sys­tem of or­gan­ised cor­rup­tion in the grant­i­ng of state sup­port to these homes and the cov­er-up of phys­i­cal and sex­u­al abuse of wards of the state at these fa­cil­i­ties.

De­spite hav­ing this in­for­ma­tion in hand, no gov­ern­ment since then has man­aged to rec­ti­fy the prob­lem or cleanse the sys­tem, nor has the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice made any sig­nif­i­cant ar­rests and pros­e­cu­tion of al­leged per­pe­tra­tors of the heinous acts against wards of the state.

The is­sue has nat­u­ral­ly cre­at­ed a firestorm on so­cial me­dia, with the gen­er­al con­sen­sus be­ing that many feel gov­ern­ments have lacked the will to act on the is­sue be­cause of the many peo­ple in high so­ci­ety in­volved in some of the acts.

How­ev­er, it is al­so safe to con­clude that this fail­ure to deal with a crit­i­cal as­pect of the well-be­ing of chil­dren in the state’s care may have cre­at­ed scores of peo­ple, now adult, who are in turn in­flict­ing the phys­i­cal and men­tal trau­ma they ex­pe­ri­enced at these homes on oth­ers to­day to the detri­ment of so­ci­ety.

So, the ques­tion is do we need the TTPS to chase af­ter 25-year-old cold cas­es, or deal with the more re­cent Jus­tice Jones re­port, where the vic­tims are more eas­i­ly ac­ces­si­ble, may have phys­i­cal ev­i­dence to sup­port their cas­es and where the per­pe­tra­tors may still be in the sys­tem.

As such, it is re­fresh­ing that Com­mis­sion­er Ja­cob has set up a unit ded­i­cat­ed to in­ves­ti­gat­ing these homes and the con­tents of the two re­ports. How­ev­er, we hope this unit will be giv­en the re­sources it needs to get the job done.

On that note, we al­so gen­uine­ly hope the Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter with re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for Gen­der and Child Af­fairs Ayan­na Web­ster-Roy will ap­prise them­selves of the in­for­ma­tion they lack, grab the bull by the horns and en­sure the Gov­ern­ment does what is nec­es­sary to pro­tect fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian