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Former Child Development minister Verna St Rose-Greaves says the Government has failed the children of this country and is attempting to cover up the truth about the cause of death of a newborn baby after a C-section. The baby was born to Quelly Ann Cottle at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital on Carnival Saturday but died a few minutes later. Autopsy findings showed his head was cut by the knife used to make the incision.
St Rose-Greaves walked to Tower D, Waterfront Complex, Port-of-Spain, shortly before the scheduled 1.30 pm start of the Senate sitting to protest. She carried a placard that read: “Another baby dies, another mother cries.” The police stationed outside monitored St Rose-Greaves as she walked around in front of the building for more than 30 minutes. Agriculture Minister Devant Maharaj and Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray hailed her out as they entered.
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, who was in the Senate to answer questions on the order paper about other matters, later told the T&T Guardian: “This is a democratic country still and Verna is doing what she does best.” Moments later, on leaving the building, Khan passed within inches of St Rose-Greaves in silence as she hummed a song. Later she said they passed each other “like the missing Malaysian aircraft.” In response to questions about her protest, St Rose-Greaves said the baby boy was “butchered.”
She said: “I cannot understand a woman going to a hospital to have a baby and her child is butchered and there is a move to cover it up. We have to stand up and demand justice, not just for this one child (but) for all the children who go through our hospitals and die because of negligence.” “Our delivery rooms are now morgues. You go in to come out joyous and you emerge missing a part of you,” St Rose-Greaves said.
There was a history of abuse in hospitals, she added, saying the nurses had the information but were afraid to release it. “The truth must be told and we cannot continue like this,” she stressed. Recalling several disparaging public statements about homosexuals and about women being lewd at Carnival, she said there had been no public comments on the death of the child. “This is not important. They are there to moralise and not to recognise what is happening to our children,” she complained.
St Rose-Greaves also said information on the work of the recently appointed 16-member Child Abuse Task Force, chaired by Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, was lacking.
The bodysuit and the shoebox
St Rose-Greaves was dressed yesterday in a buff-coloured bodysuit designed to look like a naked pregnant woman. Asked to explain the significance of her outfit, she said it represented her nakedness. “You have to strip yourself bare, because they are already stripping our children of their dignity,” she said. Mothers did not have anything to be ashamed about when their children were under attack, she said. Also, she added, citizens were afraid to tell the Government it was doing the wrong thing and that it was naked.
She also commented that the critics should be glad women were wining and walking naked during Carnival because they were feeling intense pain and trauma daily. In fact, she said, all women “should be running about this place stark, raving naked and bawling for what is happening to our children.” Touching her padded belly, she said it could also represent a baby in the womb.
She told reporters she had intended to give Health Minister Fuad Khan a shoebox, which represented love. The shoebox also suggested that “we pay more attention to our shoes than our children or could also represent the coffins for many of our small children.”