Ramesh: Not too late to prosecute child abusers

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Ramesh Lawrence Ma­haraj says it’s not too late to pros­e­cute child abusers in­clud­ing those named in the Sab­ga Re­port which be­came pub­lic while he was At­tor­ney Gen­er­al in the Bas­deo Pan­day ad­min­is­tra­tion.

 Speak­ing to Guardian Me­dia, Ma­haraj said the Po­lice Ser­vice should im­me­di­ate­ly take steps to get pos­ses­sion of the re­port and ini­ti­ate an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

» It is not too late to pros­e­cute in­di­vid­u­als who may have com­mit­ted crim­i­nal of­fences based on the con­tent of that re­port. It is im­por­tant for rel­e­vant in­ves­ti­ga­tions to be con­duct­ed and for the per­sons to be iden­ti­fied who have com­mit­ted of­fences. They can be pros­e­cut­ed be­cause there is no time lim­it for the pros­e­cu­tion of in­di­vid­u­als in re­spect to those who com­mit crim­i­nal of­fences,» Ma­haraj said.

Ma­haraj al­so called on the po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate why the re­port was buried and not made pub­lic.

«In­ves­ti­ga­tions should be con­duct­ed as to why per­sons who had pos­ses­sion of that re­port did not take steps for the pros­e­cu­tion of those in­di­vid­u­als and whether there was any con­spir­a­cy to bury the con­tents of the re­port. That would be a crim­i­nal of­fence,» he added. 

Ma­haraj had been part of the Bas­deo Pan­day gov­ern­ment when the re­port was pub­lished in the T&T Mir­ror in De­cem­ber 1997. How­ev­er, he said he was not aware of the con­tents of the re­port.

» It was nev­er shown to me as the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al. Based on what Mr Sab­ga said the UNC was not in­volved in that re­port. They com­mis­sioned it and it de­pends on when it was fin­ished and com­piled and if it was hand­ed to the UNC ad­min­is­tra­tion,» Ma­haraj said.

He could not re­call whether the re­port was ever hand­ed to Cab­i­net or if it was ever laid in Par­lia­ment.

Ma­haraj said the re­port would have gone to the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment and it should have been brought to Cab­i­net and the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al.

Con­cern­ing the Ju­dith Jones re­port, Ma­haraj said sim­i­lar in­ves­ti­ga­tions should com­mence im­me­di­ate­ly by the TTPS.

«You can­not have a re­port where se­ri­ous of­fences are com­mit­ted against young chil­dren and the re­port is buried and no ac­tion is tak­en. It de­feats the whole pur­pose of the re­port,» he added. 

The 307-pages Ju­dith Jones re­port, ti­tled Safe­guard­ing Chil­dren in Com­mu­ni­ty Res­i­dences and Child Sup­port Cen­tres in Trinidad and To­ba­go found se­vere cas­es of mal­treat­ment at sev­er­al in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and sex­u­al abuse, gang rape and pros­ti­tu­tion—with some of the ac­tiv­i­ty even lead­ing to the death of chil­dren.

Ma­haraj said vic­tims should step for­ward.

«It doesn’t mat­ter how many years have passed. If you re­mem­ber abroad con­cern­ing sex­u­al of­fences and ha­rass­ment of women, peo­ple have been pros­e­cut­ed af­ter sev­er­al years,’ he added.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar has de­nied that the Sab­ga Re­port was buried say­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions led to the pas­sage of key pieces of leg­is­la­tion in 1999.

These in­clud­ed The Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty Bill, 1999; The Chil­dren (Amend­ment) Bill, 1999; The Adop­tion of Chil­dren Bill, 1999; The Mis­cel­la­neous Pro­vi­sions (Chil­dren) Bill, 1999; The Chil­dren’s Com­mu­ni­ty Res­i­dences, Fos­ter Homes and Nurs­eries Bill, 1999.


LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian