Review by Kevin Baldeosingh
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Hanging akin to state violence
Hazel Brown, head of the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women, has again denounced the death penalty, saying the god who supports the death penalty has to be a cruel and vengeful god. She was at the time responding to calls by Arima MP Rodger Samuel for the reimplementation of the death penalty.
In justifying his call for the return of the hangman during a radio interview earlier this week, Samuel, a pastor, said it was God’s law, adding that in the old days after a murder accused went through a system of justice and was found guilty they faced a death sentence. Asked her response to Samuel’s call on Tuesday, Brown said, “We don’t support hanging. That is state violence. Like flogging children (in schools).”
Told Samuel said it was God’s law, she replied, “Which god? So the others are not gods? That has to be a cruel and vengeful god.” Brown was also asked about the murder rate, which has spiralled completely out of control (20 in the first week of 2014), and what the network was doing in light of general calls for better parenting. She said, “The NGOs are civil society and bear the brunt of the trauma. Who are the first people you see at a murder scene? Mothers.”
Communities must act
She said communities see crime as a national security matter, but needed to get involved. At the same time, she noted it was the State’s responsibility to empower communities and provide resources. “The Government must set up safe places for children while their mothers go to work,” she said. “There is a need for parents and the Government to work together.”
Asked about children reportedly unable to go to school because of the Petrotrin oil spill in La Brea, Brown said she liked to think the Government was doing its best. “They are not bad people.” She said residents of La Brea could not be living in an oil area for 100 years and not have some plan of their own to deal with a disaster when it came. She also observed the authorities had no ongoing conversation with the community on the recent incident.
Brown answered questions from the media after she presented what she said was civil society’s own review of T&T’s progress towards the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established following the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. The media conference was held at the Professional Centre in Mucurapo.
The 189 UN member states, including T&T, have committed to helping achieve the MDGs by 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women and reducing child mortality rates.
Disagreement on MDGs
Brown said there was significant disagreement between the Government and civil society’s reports on how far T&T had progressed towards the goals. Both are going to end up in the UN and can influence policy for post-2015, she said. The NGOs’ report was undertaken as part of a UN Millennium Campaign, which supported country-level research by civil society organisations.
Brown said what was worrying was that T&T was part of a high-level UN team comprising 20 other countries which will be taking part in talks about post-2015. Officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry will represent T&T, but Brown said civil society must be a part of the event. “We have to go to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and insist they include us,” she said.
She said there was major disagreement between civil society and the Government on the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty. The Government’s report said it was well on track in achieving this goal, but civil society said over 20 per cent of citizens remained under the poverty line and 11 per cent were undernourished.
There was, however, close agreement on the achievement of universal primary education, the promotion of gender equality and empowering women, the reduction of child mortality rates and improvement in maternal health. The largest disagreement was on ensuring environmental sustainability and attaining a global partnership for developing, she said.