Prime Minister: Stop playing politics with abuse of children

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Dr Keith Rowley.

The Prime Minister has accused opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Dr Robert Sabga of attempting to politicise the abuse of children and described their behaviour as reprehensible.

In 1997 a task force, chaired by Sabga and including Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, Vasant Ramkissoon, Valerie Alleyne-Rawlins and Basdai Gayadeen-Catchpole, investigated nine children’s homes and uncovered neglect and abuse of the children, a paedophile ring, a system of “kick-backs” by “senior officials,” fraud and more.

Responding to questions from reporters at the VIP Lounge of the Piarco International Airport on Sunday afternoon, Dr Rowley was asked to comment on claims made by Sabga which implicated a pedophile ring in grooming and abusing children at homes and also in the murder of Akiel Chambers.

However, Rowley dismissed the claims and questioned what connection was there to a report highlighting the abuse of children and Chambers’ murder one year later in 1998.

Saying they both owed apologies to the country, Rowley accused Persad-Bissessar and Sabga of making the issue a “political football” and said political leanings were irrelevant to investigating such serious crimes.

“How does the abuse of children in the homes of care become political issue whether PNM or UNC?

“What does that have to do with it?

“What we want to know is if there is any citizen who treated any child like that, that’s what we want to know.

“I’m not interested in any of your political persuasion as Dr Sabga is implying that if you’re UNC you’re exonerated and I know all of these things.”

He said while the past crimes could not be undone, it was the duty of the police to conduct the necessary investigations to determine who if anyone was responsible for the abuse.

He added that the government had a responsibility to inform the police of any allegations of wrongdoing.

“Those who 24 years ago did not do what this government is doing which is to putting the police to find that pedophile if he or she exists and propsecute him or her to the fullest extent of the law.

“While we carry the hurt of what happened before in an unattended way, it ought not to prevent us now in taking a more effective pathway.”