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8 Years after Sean Luke's Death, Mom still Tormented

Sunday, December 8, 2013
8 Years after Sean Luke's Death, Mom still Tormented
Mother of Sean Luke, Pauline Lum Fai, gestures during an interview at her Orange Valley, home in Couva, on Wednesday. PHOTO: MArYANN AUGUSTE

Time, people say, heals all wounds. For Pauline Lum Fai, who tragically lost her six-year-old son Sean in March 2006, her wounds have neither healed nor faded, but continue to deepen and linger almost eight years after the incident. No amount of time, Lum Fai said, can ease the pain, agony and torture she goes through daily. Every day, she suffers and cries in silence. The evidence of torment is etched on her weary face. Her body is no longer plump nor her face rosy; both are withered from years of mental pain and anguish.



Lum Fai, 50, has admitted her life has not yet returned to normalcy. Though Sean’s father Daniel has moved on with his life and recently remarried, Lum Fai said she can’t pick up the pieces of her own shattered life. On March 28, 2006, Sean was found dead in a cane field near his Orange Valley, Couva, home. He went missing on March 26, 2006. The autopsy revealed Sean was sodomised with a cane stalk and bled to death. 


 “People say that time heals all wounds. But I want to tell you—time is torture. Every day I wake up and there are reminders of Sean in this house,” said Lum Fai, who sews in a private establishment in Couva to eke out a living. Lum Fai’s anguish is exacerbated whenever she hears a child’s life is brutally ended by people they trust and look up to for guidance, support and love. “The pain comes back fresh,” she said, trying hard to contain her emotions.



The gruesome discovery of Keyana Cumberbatch’s body in a barrel at her Maloney Gardens apartment recently have opened up fresh wounds.



‘I was left all alone’
Speaking at her home on Wednesday, Lum Fai opened several suitcases which were stacked with Sean’s school uniform, book bag, shoes, clothes, pictures and his pre-school certificate. Lum Fai has refused to part with the items. They are her only memories. She also read several letters she had received from politicians, public, religious bodies and NGOs encouraging her to keep strong after the discovery of her son’s body.


“These are just words. Nobody has really helped me...nobody. I was left all alone to fight my ordeal.” Fighting to hold back her tears, Lum Fai said in 2010 her hopes were lifted when the People’s Partnership Government was voted into office. Lum Fai said she viewed the Government, mainly Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, as the saviour and protector of abused, neglected and abandoned children. “To me, they were like a beacon of hope. I gave them my seal of approval.”


However, after almost 43 months in office, Lum Fai said the Government had failed this country and its children. “They are a big disappointment. I expected better from them. They are no different from the others.” She slammed the  Government for not making the Children’s Authority fully functional and Children’s Act not being fully proclaimed.



Memorial park for Sean falls flat
Lum Fai said even a parcel of land in Couva, which former San Fernando mayor Ian Atherly had advocated for her to get, has been taken away. A Sean Luke Memorial Park was supposed to be built on the land for children in the community. 



In a letter dated July 5, 2007 then local government minister Rennie Dumas wrote to Uthara Rao, then executive chairman of the Estate Management Business Development Company, advising him that his ministry was ready to “proceed with the park” and the project was being implemented by the Sports Company of T&T. Dumas had asked Rao for written confirmation of the allotment for a parcel of land of approximately 4,169.1 metres in size.


Rao indicated to Lum Fai that he was certain that the entire Orange Valley community would welcome this milestone. Caroni 1975 Ltd later informed Lum Fai that the lands were now owned by the State and referred the matter to the Commissioner of State Land for action. Though the matter died a natural death, in January, Lum Fai said, she heard that the land had been earmarked for a housing estate. “I am just in total shock.”



Suffering in silence
Also, a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) home which she applied for through her Couva North MP, Ramona Ramdial, has been slow in coming. Lum Fai said the fact that Sean’s body was discovered in a cane field, a mere two hundred metres from her front door, which she sees everyday, has only added to her grief.


“I just wanted to get out from here and move on with my life. But that never happened. They raised my hopes promising to protect our children, which never materialised. All they give was lip service. It have a lot of people out here like me suffering in silence and frustrated, and nobody doing anything.” Twice a month, Lum Fai seeks counselling. The counselling is not provided by the State, but paid for by a private organisation.


“I just have not been able to overcome that is too much. The counselling would help me to get the bottled-up grief out.” For years, Lum Fai’s doctor had to prescribe tranquilisers to calm her nerves. “It has not been easy. Every day I heard Sean’s voice as if he was still alive. I felt as if I was going mad. I could not function.” Recently, family members encouraged Lum Fai to join the Jehovah faith. “I have now found solace in God.”



Ramdial: Trust me, I am trying to help
Ramdial admitted that Lum Fai had applied for a HDC house under social welfare as an emergency case. She explained that HDC had a house available, but it was based in South, which she turned down. “She did not qualify for a single unit. What she qualified for was a duplex or a rental apartment. Those, however, were not available in Central. Trust me when I say I am trying to help her. You know how the housing situation is in the country.”


Ramdial said she also offered another apartment to Lum Fai rent-free, for a period of three months, under the Ministry of the People, as a short-term measure, but she never responded. Ramdial said she knows that Lum Fai has domestic problems. “I understand why she wants to get out. I will speak to HDC’s managing director Jearlean John and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal on this issue again. I will continue to push for her and see if we can get her into a rental apartment in the time being.”


Told that Lum Fai was very critical of the Government, Ramdial said, she understands her position. Ramdial said she was not aware of the land for the park. “I will do some investigation on my part.”



Atherly: I am disappointed
Yesterday, Atherly, president of the Save the Children Foundation, was also surprised that the land was not yet conveyed to Lum Fai. “I am disappointed to hear that. Through my foundation I become involved with Pauline. I did get involved in procuring the land for Sean Luke.” Atherly feels a park should still be named in Sean’s honour. “I think this matter can be worked out.”


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