Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 3rd 2013 Contents A5
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Primary school pupils and parents march through the streets of San Fernando yesterday to
raise awareness of HIV. The march was in celebration of World Aids Day, celebrated
worldwide on Sunday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
MARCHING AGAINST AIDS
Opposition MP Dr Amery Browne says he
is glad Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar has broken her silence on the murder of
six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch and has
joined those who have offered condolences
to her family.
But he has little faith in the new task force
she is setting up to protect children because
of her poor track record of implementing the
recommendations of committees she has set
"We are living in tragic times and there is
an increase in horrific acts against children,"
said Browne, a former social development
minister, "and the Prime Minister is fully
within her powers to establish any task force
"The Prime Minister has a very poor track
record when it comes to implementing the
recommendations from committees."
Listing some examples, Browne recalled the
James Armstrong committee set up to review
the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway
project after protests by the Highway Re-route
"They did the work and presented the report
to her. It appears it was totally ignored," he
Browne also referred to the Daniel Guerra
report of two-and-a-half years ago.
He said after the murder of eight-year-old
Daniel, the PM said she was writing a letter
to him (Daniel) and promised to unveil a
"She also announced the convening of a
high-level committee, chaired by Stephen
Cadiz, Transport Minister, which would man-
age the implementation of the Daniel Decree.
Since then there has been no action whatsoever
with the implementation of the decree and
the public does not know of a single meet-
Browne also noted that Cadiz last September
said the decree might have sadly fallen by the
wayside with the changing of ministers. The
Daniel Decree involved NGOs partnering with
the Government, the police, army and the
private sector to deal with child neglect and
"We can t afford this task force to be heading
in the same direction. The public must remain
extremely vigilant," he added.
The MP also observed that the terms and
reference of the new task force were almost
the same as in the case of Daniel. He also
recalled that Persad-Bissessar, while in oppo-
sition, was a fervent champion of the cause
of abused children. He said every week she
came to Parliament and read out the names
of children who were killed, even giving all
the sordid details.
Charging the approach as a sensational one,
he said it was not the one he would use.
Asked his response to child-rights activist
Verna St Rose-Greaves disruption of Parlia-
ment last Friday to call for debate on child
protection and her protests in front of Par-
liament, Browne said that was her style.
He said St Rose-Greaves acted in a similar
manner against the last administration and
the PM was fully aware of her modus operandi
when it appointed her a minister. Her actions,
he said, did draw attention to the issue.
Browne called for the Children s Authority
to be strengthened with immediate effect and
said it must take the lead in advising the public
on how to protect children.
"The authority has not been supported and
empowered," he added.
Children s Authority chair Stephanie Daly
said last week nothing could have been done
to save Keyana, no matter what legislation
was proclaimed. Daly said there would always
be people who would be abused because it
happened in their homes.
Responding to questions on whether the
authority could actually prevent child abuse,
Browne said: "After four years in office, the
authority is in the best position to educate
the public on its role."
He said as in the UK and other countries
where there were also other agencies, including
the police, to help in protecting children and
defending their rights, a national authority
was needed to take the lead in co-ordinating
and monitoring those groups. Browne said
the UNC and the PNM were united on the
need for such an entity.
"The Children s Authority is not a magical
solution to child abuse. That is a societal prob-
lem but there are steps to be taken and one
is the Children s Authority," he said.
Giving an update on legislation, Browne
said all the pieces of legislation have been
updated and passed unanimously with only
one to be proclaimed. He said the proclamation
of laws was out of Parliament s ambit.
Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, who has a long his-
tory of advocacy against violence to women
and children, has been tipped to head the task
"Nobody has asked me," Mahabir-Wyatt
said yesterday when asked about it. "If I find
out about it, I will let you know about that
She was asked by the T&T Guardian if she
felt the task force would make a difference.
"I would like to believe it would be some-
thing useful. The need is enormous," she said.
She added, however, she needed to see the
terms and reference of the task force, its man-
date and deadline before she commented.
"I don t know who s on the committee and
I don t like to venture an opinion out of the
blue sky," she said.
Last Friday, Mahabir-Wyatt said since 11-
year-old Akiel Chambers was murdered in
1998, 20 small children have been killed and
nobody had been convicted.
She said the Children s Authority could not
do anything in its present state because it had
no staff and no premises.
Mahabir-Wyatt also felt the abuse of children
was a deep-rooted cultural problem and said
preventative programmes on anger manage-
ment, parenting and child development may
have prevented the problem.
Verna St Rose-Greaves, who disrupted Par-
liament last Friday calling for all business to
be put on the back-burner and for the pro-
tection of children to be discussed, said yes-
terday she was still recovering.
Gender, Youth and Child Development Min-
ister Clifton De Coteau could not be reached
See Page A11
Child rights advocate Hazel Thompson-
Ahye does not believe enough has been done
to protect children.
She said recommendations made for child
protection by the UN Child Rights Committee
had not been addressed.
She added: "The committee made recom-
mendations since 1997 after reviewing our
initial report on measures we put in place to
implement child rights since ratification of
the Convention on the Rights of the Child in
"They were designed to help us treat better
with children. The committee identified mat-
ters, such as education and training of all pro-
fessional groups working with or for children.
"They recommended laws be enacted to
prohibit corporal punishment in all settings
and to prevent mental and physical torture
and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
"They were concerned about insufficient
awareness and information on ill-treatment
and abuse of children, including sexual abuse,
both within and outside the family, and the
lack of measures and mechanisms to prevent
and combat them."
Thompson-Ahye said one of the areas the
committee asked for attention to be paid to
was the minimum age of marriage.
"But we do not have the political will to
deal with that issue," she added. She said
another area of legal deficiency was juvenile
"We are limited in the availability of diver-
sionary measures that will prevent child
offenders coming into contact with the judicial
"Had we implemented the committee s rec-
ommendations, many of which they repeated
after reviewing our second report in 2006,
we would not be in this sorry state that we
find ourselves in today," she added.
Thompson-Ahye said the Children s Author-
ity needed greater financial and human
resources but essentially it needed courage to
advocate for vulnerable members of the society
who were the raison d etre for its existence,
children who could not agitate for their needs,
could not vote, could not finance a political
campaign, and were without a voice.
She added: "If the members of the authority
cannot have a robust voice to force the Gov-
ernment to act, they are failing in their duty.
This is not time for polite and quiet diplomacy.
Enough is enough. This is time for action.
"In 2008/9, when the first authority was
named, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt made a call for
it to be properly resourced.
"In 2012, a new authority was appointed.
In May this year, at a child abuse seminar at
the Hyatt, Mahabir-Wyatt again called for
action. Indeed, she called for a revolution to
force the government to properly resource the
"She advocated that we protest for children s
rights in the same way that we protest over
bad roads and lack of water. "
Thompson-Ayhe said the committee on the
Rights of the Child in 2006 recommended
that T&T should "prioritise budgetary allo-
cations to ensure the implementation of the
rights of children to the maximum extent of
"Was this done? Surely not. Children are
not a priority in our country and it is time
we recognise and correct this," she added
She said an important role of the authority
was "to act as an advocate to promote the
rights of the child. Surely, more can be done
on that score as, generally, no financial outlay
is required to do so."
Brown on PM's task force:
Child rights advocate:
It's time for action
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