Reopen Akiel’s case
By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, October 18 2012
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Remember the children: Gender Affairs, Youth and Child Development Minister Marlene Coudray speaks of murder victim Akiel Chambers, and other slain c...
MINISTER Of Gender Affairs, Youth and Child Development, Marlene Coudray yesterday vowed to reopen investigations into the tragic murder of Akiel Chambers.
Akiel, 11, was found dead, floating in a swimming pool after a children’s birthday party in upscale Haleland Park, Maraval, on May 24, 1998, with an autopsy proving he had been buggered and smothered dead. The public was outraged when the case was thrown out due to the destruction of DNA samples at their supposed expiry date. Last April, activists held the second annual “Akiel Chambers Justice for Children March” in Port-of-Spain.
“We need to call for a reopening of this case,” said Coudray. “Many in this country have information, and we owe it to our children.” She said many citizens could recall the moments that they buried their faces in their hands in grief at Akiel and had vowed such murders must never happen again, as she alluded that this has not come to pass.
Coudray recalled the murders of Amy Emily Annamuthodo and Sean Luke Lumfai, but said nothing of her own pain as a mother who had lost her own grown daughter to murder. Coudray hit the former PNM regime over a $7.5 million lease for a 12-year period for offices for the Children’s Authority, which Newsday calculated is a sum of $90 million. Coudray chided that the lease agreement was signed just before the 2010 general elections, and tied the then government and its successors into a long lease for which the earliest possible exit was 2016.
She contrasted these huge sums with the paltry $25,000 grant that was given to a children’s home, and which she said was inadequate to pay even a single care-giver there. Coudray said she had instructed her permanent secretary to get the ministry out of that lease. “It is wicked and oppressive,” she said of the lease. She said the property does not have Town and Country Planning approval.
She said the building is built on lands owned by the Port Authority. “This is one to be investigated,” she said.
Coudray said a review of the National Gender Policy has been completed, and it would soon be put out for public comment. She scoffed at former PNM Minister of Local Government Rennie Dumas’ recent remarks at a TTUTA conference that schools in TT treat boys like girls. On child- marriages, she said her ministry held a public consultation last November and then met religious leaders last January, and proposals are now with Cabinet’s Legislative Review Committee (LRC). Her ministry is seeking to hire enough staff to apply the Children’s Bill, passed last June and assented to last August. She spoke of community parenting centres, after-school centres and respite centres, plus an Institute of Healing being established in south Trinidad for trauma victims. Coudray hailed her predecessor, Verna St Rose-Greaves for setting the foundation of the ministry.