Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. File photo/Sureash Cholai
IF the Prime Minister is so interested in protecting children, then he has an obligation to name paedophiles who were involved in abusing children at state-funded homes.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who issued the challenge on Monday night, said Dr Rowley must name the “PNM bigwigs who are abusing our children,” as referred to in the Robert Sabga 1997 task force report on child abuse at these homes.
She said those involved are not ordinary rank-and-file members of the PNM, but high-ranking elites of whom Rowley has feigned ignorance.
From the United National Congress (UNC) platform on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar said Rowley’s calls for a police investigation into the 1997 report. when his government is sitting on the Justice Judith Jones report his government recently commissioned, are just another distraction.
She questioned why the focus was on her, former prime minister Basdeo Panday and then Cabinet colleagues, including Ramesh Maharaj and Manohar Ramsaran, and the report done 25 years ago, when the current Jones report, with fresh allegations made under Rowley’s watch, sat on a desk for five months before it was laid in the Parliament and nothing has been done since.
“Have you done anything to close down those homes accused of torturing children?” she asked.
Instead of instructing acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob to investigate the Sabga report, she said, Jacob should interview Rowley and Senator David Nakhid, who spoke to the Jones committee, but his testimony was reportedly not acknowledged.
“If you want to get evidence, talk to people,” she said questioning the whereabouts of former director of the Children’s Authority and former PNM candidate Nichola Harvey-Mitchell,
“Why has she not been questioned by the police for the horrendous acts of abuse that occurred under her watch? Why was she not even questioned by the Justice Judith Jones Task Force?
“Is this why they are trying to use the Sabga report to distract? That’s their playbook. Pull up anything to create a distraction.
“But people will not be distracted any more. Too many wicked, satanic things happening in this country and people will not let you get away with it.
“But I am glad the PNM brought up the Sabga report. It has backfired on them. Now the country will know the names of the big-boy PNM politicians who are running an alleged paedophile ring in TT.
“The government cannot continue to protect these disgusting paedophiles and they must be held to account.”
She said there must be justice for 11-year-old Akiel Chambers who was buggered, murdered and dumped in a swimming pool at the Maraval home of a businessman 24 years ago.
Persad-Bissessar said there must be justice as well for Antonio Francois and Semion Daniel, both 15, who were shot dead eight days after they escaped from a child support centre run by the Children’s Authority in March 2021
She also accused Rowley of “lying” to the Parliament in his initial claim that she and UNC hid the Sabga report and the PNM had no knowledge of it, although the Hansard has records of many references to it, including some by his colleague Camille Robinson-Regis.
“And then you come on Sunday backing back and say, ‘Well, it was never laid in the Parliament,’ That’s not what you lied in the Parliament about. You lied and said the UNC hid the report.
“So don’t back back, Mr Rowley.
“That’s what he does. He moves the goalposts each time.”
She said the UNC never buried the report, which is still in the public domain, and based on its recommendations, a list of legislation designed to protect children was passed, including a law operationalising the Children’s Authority.
She denied Rowley’s claim he operationalised the Children’s Authority.