Padarath tells PNM: Children find you guilty

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. –

THE children of Trinidad and Tobago have found the PNM guilty for failing to protect them from abuse. The PNM is trying every political tactic at its disposal to cover up their failure. The UNC will continue to champion children’s rights in TT.

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath made these statements as he opened debate on a private motion in the House of Representatives on Friday. The motion called on Government to take urgent steps to protect TT’s children and to be reprimanded for not doing so.

Padarath said the motion was not about Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, scoring cheap political points or about himself.

“This is about every child who needs the protection of the State.”

While the UNC and the UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition took steps to protect children, Padarath claimed the PNM did nothing in 2001-2010 and from 2015 to the present.

“Today is judgement day. The arbiters are the children who have been raped, murdered and exploited.”

He was certain that children will find Government guilty in their failure to protect them.

“They will be found wanting on judgement day.”

Padarath claimed that the Children’s Authority was starved of funding and resources under different PNM administrations This, he continued, caused potential child abusers to view the authority as impotent to protect children. “It is a toothless bulldog.”

Padarath also alleged that different stakeholders who appeared before a parliamentary joint select committee on Thursday, said people identified as child abusers were still in children’s homes.

He reiterated the UNC’s claims that the PNM were using a 1997 Robert Sabga task force report on abuse in children’s homes to cover up its own failings, listed in a report compiled by a committee chaired by retired Justice of Appeal Judith Jones.

That report was laid in the House on April 29. The Sabga report, which was compiled under the Basdeo Panday administration (1995-2001), was not. Two former government ministers in Panday’s government, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC and Manohar Ramsaran, could not say whether or not the Sabga report was laid.

On May 24, Sabga said no government from 1997 to now ever adequately implemented the recommendations in that report.

Some of the recommendations included licensing and inspecting children’s homes and a child witness protection programme for children who are unfairly remanded in custody while awaiting their matters to be determined in court.

The Prime Minister has publicly questioned Persad-Bissessar about why the report was never laid in Parliament and why the UNC government she was part of, never act on it.

Padarath said the Parliament’s Hansard record showed Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis referring to the Sabga report on November 19, 2002.

“The utter hypocrisy by using this (Sabga report) for political expediency to peddle their incompetence and deflect from their incompetence with respect to the Judith Jones report.”

He added that Hansard’s record cannot be changed. Padarath argued the PNM’s logic was to “say the UNC did nothing and did not send this to the police.” He asked whether Robinson-Regis referred the Sabga report to the police in 2002.

Energy Minister Stuart Young rejected Padarath’s claims. “‘This is not a motion about the Member for Arouca/Maloney (Robinson-Regis).” After raising his objection, Young received crosstalk from Opposition MPs.

He told them, “I will sit when I am ready to sit.” Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George cautioned all MPs.

“I ask us all for some temperance, having regard to what we are debating.” Padarath later heeded Annisette-George’s ruling when he attempted to refer to a privileges motion filed by the Opposition and claim that senior government officials were guilty of child abuse.

“I am not going to allow that.”