By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- In just two weeks, three children have been murdered in Trinidad and Tobago. The government, charged with addressing, this problem is basically proposing to counter the dysfunction in homes where more children could be at risk.
The establishment of a Child Protection Task Force (CPTF) is the first visible step taken by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar led government to bring child killers to justice. Three days after announcing the creation of the CPTF, the prime minister appointed a 17-member team chaired by management expert, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. The CPTF is to start work immediately.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Part of the CPTF mandate is to come up with measures that will fully empower the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and to determine “how emergency responses can be widened, accelerated and structured in a manner to immediately respond to the needs of children who are at risk,” Persad-Bissessar said in a statement.
In the latest killing, autopsy results revealed that three-year-old Jabari Hernandez died after suffering severe internal trauma, according to a report in Newsday.
The deceased child’s mother told police the child had fallen while playing in the yard at his home. It was believed the child died from injuries sustained in the fall but forensic pathologist Dr Hughvon des Vignes said autopsy results so far showed Jabari was beaten and died from blunt force trauma.
Prior to his death, Jabari was admitted for nine days between November 18 and 26 at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) as a result of the fall. He started vomiting shortly after being discharged and was taken to the Sangre Grande hospital where he died.
Police has begun talking to relatives as part of their investigations into the child’s killing.
On November 20, one-year-old Jacob Munroe’s body was discovered in a cesspit at the back of his family’s Maracas/St Joseph home. Autopsy results showed the child was beaten to death. Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard instructed the police to charge Allan Thomas, the child’s 27-year-old father, for the murder of the toddler. Last Thursday, six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch’s body was pulled out of a barrel, where it had been concealed. Autopsy results showed that Keyana’s head was slammed in and she was raped either while unconscious or while dead.
Keyana’s death triggered national outrage and a prompt response from the government, which immediately saw the setting up of the task force three days ago.
Persad-Bissessar has promised to bring Keyana’s killer to justice.
"The murder of young Keyana is a tragedy that is simply too horrific to imagine. My thoughts and my prayers are with Keyana’s family, but as prime minister, I will not allow this to happen to our children. I will not allow it to continue, enough is enough! And to the one who is responsible for this crime or any crime such as this, we will find you, and we will punish you!" she said.
Opposition leader Keith Rowley said the actions of child killers are unspeakably evil.
Opposition leader Keith Rowley
“When the life of a child is violently snuffed out, a profound malevolent darkness sets upon us. We are forced to face the sobering reality that some people are capable of committing unspeakable evil, and more than that, we struggle with the knowledge that these evil-doers are part of our society. They share our communities and they may even share our homes,” the opposition leader said.
Rowley called on the national community to do its part “to ensure no more of our children is taken away prematurely and violently” by the evil hands of those “who are so inclined”.
The task force, chaired by Mahabir-Wyatt, consists of government ministers, a child psychologist, an attorney, a retired police officer and men and women rights advocates, a minister of religion and a medical doctor.
Five child murders in 51 days (according to Newsday)
OCT 5: Nishan Lal, three days, is found dead in Sangre Grande. His mother Alicia Acevero charged with manslaughter.
OCT 12: Andre Mowlah, two, beaten to death in Point Fortin. His father, Andre Mowlah is charged with the murder.
NOV 20: Jacob Munroe, one, beaten to death and dumped in cesspit at back of his father’s house. The DPP instructs police to charge the child’s father with murder
NOV 28: Keyana Cumberbatch, six, beaten to death and then raped… body hidden in a cargo barrel in bedroom of her Maloney home; male relative currently in custody.
NOV 30: Jabari Hernandez, three, according to preliminary autopsy findings, was beaten to death. Police is at this time questioning relatives.
“The Child Protection Task Force’s first task is to recommend measures aimed at overhauling and advancing protection, care and intervention services of the state and non-governmental organisations,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She said she realises that people are passionate about child protection and so she brought a mixture of skills to fight violence and crime against children.
The entire list of members of the Child Protection Task Force:
Diana Mahabir-Wyatt: Management Expert – Chairman
Clifton De Coteau – Minister of Gender, Child and Youth Development
Raziah Ahmed – Minister in the Ministry of Gender, Child and Youth Development.
Sandra Jones – PS – Ministry of Gender, Child and Youth Development
Anna Maria Mora – Psychologist
Stephanie Daly SC – Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Authority
Hazel Brown – Special Envoy on Women and Girls
Brenda Gopeesingh – Special Envoy on Women and Girls
Gregory Sloane-Seale – Programme Coordinator, Citizens Security Programme
Zena Ramatali – President, National Parent Teachers’ Association.
Pastor Clive Dottin, of the Seventh Day Adventist Church
Kathy Bharrathsingh – Manager of Student Support Services, Ministry of Education
Angela Edwards – Chief Technical Officer, Ministry of the People and Social Development.
Dr Trudy Rouse – Manager of Mental Health, Ministry of Health
Rondall Feeles – President, Single Fathers’ Association of T&T
Margaret Sampson-Browne, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police.
Hazel Thompson-Ahye, Attorney at Law, Mediator, Educator and Child Rights Advocate
The first meeting of the CPTF is scheduled for Friday.
The task force is mandated to report on its findings to the prime minister within six weeks.