Dr Keith Rowley –
THE Prime Minister on Monday instructed Acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob to physically locate the report by a team led by Dr Robert Sabga into the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of youngsters in children’s homes conducted 25 years ago.
In a statement on the Office of Prime Minister’s Facebook page, Dr Rowley said he had not known of the report which was now being serialised in the media.
The report was done in 1997 by a nine-member team under Sabga but a recent media report cited one member lamenting the report “was heavily sanitised and never laid in Parliament.”
One media house, last January, quoted Sabga saying the findings were so disturbing that afterwards the committee members were never the same again.
Interest in the Sabga Report has been revived by the recent laying in the House of Representatives of a report done by a committee under retired Justice Judith Jones into the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of youngsters in children’s homes, including male security guards having sex with under-age girls and home matrons organising mass beatings of children and inciting some to attack others.
On Sunday in a radio interview, former gender affairs minister Verna St Rose-Greaves damned the Sabga committee members as “a bunch of cowards” for not sending the report to the police, including an account of a male employee having sexually assaulted 40 children.
Rowley said he had always paid special attention to children’s homes, owing to his abiding concern for unfortunate children such as orphans and wards of the State.
He said, as Prime Minister, he had established the Ministry of Gender and Child Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister and operationalised the Children’s Authority, with offices in Port of Spain, south and central Trinidad, Sangre Grande and Tobago.
Referring to the children’s facilities, he said those were increased from three to 13, staff was doubled and spending rose from $30 million to $88 million.
“All this time I and my Government were totally unaware of the contents of a Sabga Report which is now being serialised in the media.”
Rowley said due to concerns about reports of abuse, the Government had set up the Jones committee which reported last December and whose findings were laid in Parliament in April.
“I am now advised that this committee sought diligently to get access to a Sabga Report but even their best effort could not provide them with a copy from any source.”
The PM said through the local media, he was now discovering that there was/is a Sabga report by investigators who inspected nine children’s homes and described “some of the most awful conditions and treatment” meted out by staff at the nation’s child-care centres.
“I am shocked, scandalised and angry as a result of what I have read in the local media where some of our worst suspicions appear to have been long confirmed and known perpetrators have been protected and aided by persons and institutions known and unknown.
“I am today publicly calling on the Commissioner of Police to take immediate steps to find this Sabga Report and the evidence of all those who were aware of this frightening situation and take all necessary action against all who have been implicated in or with these very shocking revelations as published.
“The national population is understandably angered by what appears to be facts where persons could have been identified as mistreating minors in their care, even committing heinous crimes against these unfortunate children, and such persons instead of being prosecuted to the full extent of the law have enjoyed secrecy and (the) protection of others.”
During his contribution in a Lower House Sitting on Monday night, a livid Rowley referred to an Express editorial which referred to the Sabga report and accused the Opposition UNC of inaction.
In referring to members of the Opposition, Rowley was asked to withdraw one of his remarks from House Speaker, but continued to criticise the Opposition while calling for any wrongdoing to be prosecuted fully.
“I’m not a lawyer but I issued a statement today asking the Commissioner of Police to immediately seek to find that report and if that report is being found shows that there are people who have broken the law in any way they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and not come to the Parliament or wherever else they go and talk nonsense about this government urgent and transparent action.
“That is the kind of wickedness we are living with in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Rowley also asked Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar if she saw the Sabga report herself and stressed the seriousness of any wrongdoing. (Additional reporting by Shane Superville.)