UNC: ‘Government must do more for children’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Ezekiel Paria, 12, was killed by a stray bullet in Laventille on February 22. – Photo courtesy Melissa Huggins

OPPOSITION Senator David Nakhid and Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit on Sunday both called on the Government to do more to help the nation’s children, citing the tragic shooting death of Ezekiel Paria, 12, by a stray bullet at Laventille Road, Port of Spain, last Thursday.

The duo held a briefing at the Opposition Leader’s office in Port of Spain.

Nakhid said most regional leaders were “taking care of business” in the time between last week’s energy conference ending in Guyana and the Caricom heads meeting opening there on Sunday, but criticised the Prime Minister for sightseeing in Guyana.

Nakhid alleged Dr Rowley was sending a message that he did not care about TT nationals.

The senator alleged a lack of action by the Government on the findings of the report of an inquiry into abuse at children’s homes compiled by retired High Court judge Justice Judith Jones. He said if former prime ministers Kamla Persad-Bissessar or Basdeo Panday had been in office while children were being murdered, there would have been a huge outcry. “Why is it that no one is calling Keith Rowley to account for the murder of boys and girls up and down the east west corridor?

“We have to call out these hypocrites.”

Nakhid called for more security to be provided around schools. He alleged the Government was “intellectually bankrupt.”

Mohit said a virtual cancer has taken over TT, as she lamented the high murder rate.

She said crime in TT seemed to be “a ghost operation” as no perpetrators could be found.

Mohit then described the launch of a youth career caravan in Enterprise on Saturday as being an early start to political campaigning for next year’s general election.

She said it was a sad fact that a nine-year-old boy, Jamal Modeste, had died at that very spot.

He was killed in October 2022 by a stray bullet when gunmen shot at a group of men liming at a basketball court.

Mohit said Enterprise residents had been given nothing for years by the Government, but then the youth caravan appeared, which she alleged was for politicking.

“Stop using the youth to catapult yourself back into Government!” she said.

Recalling a man recently shot at the Dass Trace homework centre, Mohit said, “Thank God netball practice was cancelled or children would have been at that location.”

Questioning Rowley’s promise of $100 million to curb crime in hot spots, she said, “The Government must protect our children and stop the lip service.”

Mohit said social workers lacked resources, laws and systems to make any meaningful impact.

“I call on the Government to get serious about providing measures of saviour.

“It is bad, horrible, terrible.

“Children are asking themselves, ‘Is this what I am growing up into?'”

Saying sports groups in at-risk communities were holding their own barbecues to fund activities such as travelling to overseas sports tournaments, she urged, “The Government must provide measures for positive youth development.”

Mohit said some youngsters, but not all, get a chance to get training/education certificates but then often find themselves stymied.

“These young people are not being absorbed into any system where they can experience growth and use the skills they acquire from these programmes.”

She again urged the Government “to get serious”.

Mohit said the Government must provide rules for running community centres, which she alleged were now each controlled by one person limiting access.

Towards social alleviation, she alleged poor co-ordination amongst the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government, and Ministry of National Security.

“The central Government should be working with the local government authorities,” Mohit added.

She alleged the country’s system of delivery of social services was too cumbersome.

“I call on the Minister of Social Development to really simplify and humanise the social services system. It is really damaging the psyche of the nation’s poor.

“Every minute, you have to run back and forth with documents that some of these people do not know about.”

Mohit urged the Government to set up a “children of crime fund” to provide financial assistance to children who were vulnerable and have “fallen through the cracks.”