Charles: Don’t wait to rescue children

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Naparima MP Rodney Charles.

NAPARIMA MP Rodney Charles urged the Government to act now to save youngsters in children’s homes whose staff were still abusing even after revelations in the Judith Jones Report, rather than wait on the compilation of any further report by a Task Force, speaking in the House of Representatives on Friday.

He made this impassioned plea in his contribution to the debate on Princes Town MP Barry Padarath’s motion that accused the Government of failure and urged them to “take all urgent steps to protect the children of this nation immediately.”

The Jones report said staff and security guards at children’s care homes nationwide engaged in the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children.

Charles said the abuse report made one feel to cry. “You read things that would make you want to puke. They talk about physical abuse in this home.”

He said acts of abuse included punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, stabbing, choking, hitting and burning.

“If I were a minister on that side and I got this information, I am going in a house (children’s home) immediately. Immediately! And get rid of any staff, even if he is ‘accused.’

“I would rather pay in the court – lose my case – than have a child,who is looking to me for hope, getting sodomised.

“We read in the papers where it is said the persons who were found guilty are still there, as we speak! What else does the Government want, to act?”

Charles asked if the Government needed to witness a paedophilic act in person in order to act on the errant homes.

“So we have the Judith Jones report and they (Government) have created another committee to think about this report, to operationalise the report. Meanwhile boys are getting sodomised. Shameful! Shameful! Shameful! We call for action.

“When you read this report, you have to act tonight! You can’t wait six months! You keep it, you form a committee, and you blissfully say, ‘I will wait for that report, so I could act to save the children of Trinidad and Tobago.’ That is a disgrace! Shame on all of you on that side!

“I speak for the child without a father, a child whose father is in remand yard and because of your laziness and sloth he has to remain in remand yard for six to ten years, so he (child) grows up without a father. Shame on you all!”

Charles said the Government lists things it has put in place but not what it has actually achieved.

He said the Jones report wanted a re-evaluation and reorganisation of children’s homes “as a matter of urgency.”

Charles said, “What does urgency mean? Do it now!

“What the Government does is send the report to another committee to report back for them (Government) to study and then three or four years passes.”

Charles denied claims the former UNC government had done nothing after the commissioning of the Dr Robert Sabga inquiry/report on abuse in children’s homes. He said that government had brought a package of children’s legislation in 2000, including the Children’s Authority Bill and Children’s Community Residences Bill. The UNC had acted legislatively and comprehensively to deal with issues raised by the Sabga report.

Earlier, Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes warned that if the Government poorly handles the children’s homes, that could harm this society for generations to come, based on trauma done to youngsters eventually leaving the homes to enter wider society.