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De Coteau on Child Task Force enquiries: Info will come from ministries

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The recently-appointed Child Protection Task Force will not be able to summon or question any stakeholder or public servant, Gender Affairs Minister Clifton De Coteau said yesterday. In a statement to Parliament on the team’s operations, he added: “Where the need arises for specific information to be obtained from any stakeholder or public service employee, requests shall be made on behalf of the Task Force by line ministers.”



The 15-member team, headed by activist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, was mandated by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar earlier in the week, following the recent murder/rape of six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch of Maloney De Coteau said from the turn of the millennium T&T had experienced a continuous crime increase and children have increasingly become the targets of all forms of crime, including sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse and murder.


“Despite legislative amendment and the coming into force of the Children’s Authority, crimes against children continue to occur within a complex mix of criminal behaviour, dysfunctional families, longstanding poverty and poor living conditions and other factors,” he added. The team is mandated to tackle the national issue on “all fronts,” including early detection and protection of children at risk. Members will report their findings within six weeks. Recommendations will be discussed at Cabinet before being presented to Parliament.


De Coteau added: “Policy and action measures are formed out of these recommendations. Implementation will take place through relevant ministries and state agencies. “The task force is not formed as an alternative unit or sub-set of any ministry and shall be dissolved immediately upon delivery of its final report.” De Coteau said the task force, through its chairman or vice-chairman, would be empowered to request information relevant to the mandate of the team only through line ministers or their assigned representatives.


Any dissenting views that are not contained in the final report, together with the reasons for excluding them from the final report, would be provided as an addendum, he added. He said discussions, documentation of meetings, review and filing of policy and event information, storage and data related to the task force would be kept private and confidential. 


De Coteau said no team member was empowered to make and engage public statements on its functioning or purpose, whether in writing, media interviews or discussions outside the task force.


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