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‘Brutal attacks must stop’

By Richardson Dhalai Wednesday, December 4 2013

Saying “brutal and monstrous attacks” against the nation’s children could not be allowed to continue, as yet another child was reportedly beaten to death over the weekend, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday announced that former Independent Senator Diana Mahabir- Wyatt has been appointed to chair the Child Protection Task Force (CPTF).

The CPTF, which had been identified by the Prime Minister following her private visit to the relatives of six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch, who was sexually assaulted and brutally beaten to death last week, has been given a six-week mandate by which to submit its recommendations to Government.

Speaking briefly to reporters following a HDC key distribution to 200 recipients at Cypress Hills, Union Hall, San Fernando yesterday, Persad-Bissessar disclosed a “smaller core team” or implementation team would also be selected to implement the recommendations of the CPTF. “Too often, recommendations come and they sit on a shelf, I don’t want that to happen to this, this has been long overdue,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Asked whether the CPTF would take away resources from the Children’s Authority, she said, “not at all, not at all. First of all, this would not be anything to oust any Ministry or the agencies of any Ministry.

It really assists in making sure that we fully implement all the measures that are necessary for the Children’ Authority to function in an improved manner.”

She also described the16-member team as experts in their fields who were “very passionate” about children rights and protection.

Persad-Bissessar observed that law was only one tool that would be used to deal with the problem, the other being the implementation of policies and strategies.

“I don’t know if the problem is simply one of legislation. It is one of implementation of the legislation, it is one of putting the flesh onto the bones, the law is the skeleton,” she said, adding the work of the CPTF would be to “look at the existing law, to make recommendations for amendments, improvements or entirely new legislation.”

Persad-Bissessar also urged that laws alone would not solve the problem, encouraging each citizen to play their role in protecting children. “It is a matter for every single individual, every citizen, to take some kind of responsibility in a community,” she said. “Sometimes, in a neighbourhood, the neighbours know something is not right but there are no proper mechanisms or safe places to which they can make a report, those areas we would need to take cognisance of, breaking the silence initiative. We need to really get that public awareness out there,” she added.

In her address, she recalled Keyana, one-year-old Jacob Monroe, and three-year-old Jabari Hernandez, were “made to endure the kind of suffering no child must ever have to experience” and paid the ultimate price of abuse with their deaths.”

Jacob was beaten to death and thrown in a cesspit in Maracas, St Joseph, and Jabari died at the Sangre Grande District Hospital last Saturday after being taken there for vomiting, however an autopsy disclosed he too had been beaten.

“My Government has no time for playing such games with public attention where children and their safety are concerned,” Persad-Bissessar said adding that after consultations with members of her Government and key stakeholders in child protection, the Task Force would have its first meeting on Friday.

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