Children’s Authority CEO: Stop abusing, killing children

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Children’s Authority CEO
Sheldon Cyrus –

The latest tragedy involving a child has sparked outrage, causing a government as well as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to renew calls for an end to violence in the country, particularly for people to stop abusing and killing children.

On Friday, the Children’s Authority, as well as the NGO TT National Council of Parent Teacher Associations Inc (TTNCPTA), made the calls on the heels of Thursday’s shooting at Laventille Road, Port of Spain, that left 12-year-old schoolboy Ezekiel Paria dead.

The standard five student from Eastern Boys’ Government Primary School was killed by a stray bullet when gunmen opened fire at a car, injuring the driver identified as contractor Ahkel Fairbairn.

The authority’s CEO, Sheldon Cyrus, pleaded with people to people to stop abusing and killing children.

A statement on Friday from the authority offered condolences to Ezekiel’s parents, family, friends and classmates.

“Today, with great sadness, we mourn the loss of yet another child due to senseless gun violence on our nation’s streets,” Cyrus said.

Cyris said once again, the authority was appealing for an end to crime and gun violence, which are affecting communities and threatening the lives and safety of the country’s children.

“We can clearly see the result of the war citizens are waging against each other, as families are broken and children are forced in many instances to grow up without their parents and relatives, as a result of this type of senseless violence,” he added.

On the issue of child abuse, Cyrus said in January, the authority received 560 reports of children in need of care and protection. He said this figure is greater than the average number of monthly reports received in 2023.

Most of these reports, he said, were related to neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

The authority advised parents and caregivers that it is their duty to protect children and reduce their risk of exposure to violence and abuse.

Cyrus reiterated that child protection is everybody’s business.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that the society in which our children are raised is one that values and respects the safety of our nation’s children,” he said.

“We must continue to create a nurturing and safe environment in which children can thrive and be the best they can be.”

Cyrus also called on the public to report all incidents of crime and violence, including abuse and maltreatment of children, to the police.

People can call the police at 999 and the authority at 996 or 800-2014.

On Thursday, TTNCPTA called for urgent action.

A statement from the organistion referred to the tragedy as a heart-wrenching reminder of the escalating violence in communities.

“This devastating event, coupled with the recent indiscriminate shooting in front of a primary school in Port of Spain that exposed children to unimaginable trauma, underscores a deeply concerning trend: the diminishing value for the most innocent among us,” the statement said.

The council, led by Walter Stewart, also sympathise with the families affected by these tragedies.

“These incidents are not isolated but indicative of a broader societal crisis that demands immediate and decisive action. The frequency of such violence is alarming, particularly in Port of Spain and its environs. It is concerning and cannot continue unabated,” the statement added.

The council is scheduling a meeting with the executive team of the Port of Spain and environs.

The goal is to support and amplify their efforts in combating this wave of violence. The council believes that it is only through united action that they can address the root causes of this epidemic.

The council called on the Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to meet with the council.

“It is essential that the perspectives of parents and guardians are heard in this conversation. Our children’s safety must be the cornerstone of our community’s foundation, and we are committed to advocating for measures that will protect our future generations,” the statement said.

The council is adamant that these violent acts against children should not be viewed as separate incidents but as part of a more significant, more complex problem that requires collective attention and action.

“We must come together as a nation to address these issues head-on, with the welfare of our children as our guiding principle. Among the measures we advocate for is the imposition of stricter penalties for having illegal guns,” the statement said.

“It is clear that the current deterrents are insufficient. We need laws that reflect the severity of these crimes and their impact on our society, especially our most vulnerable members.

The time for action is now. We cannot allow the lives of our children to be threatened by senseless violence.”

The council said it is committed to leading this charge, advocating for change, and supporting our communities in creating a safer environment for all children.

TTNCPTA invites all stakeholders, including parents, educators, community leaders, and law enforcement, to join members in this crucial mission.

The statement added, “Together, we can turn the tide against violence and ensure a peaceful, secure future for our children.”