Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said yesterday that no matter how many laws are passed, if we are not our brothers' keepers and report abuses against children, we will continue to have cases like Aaliyah Johnson.
Speaking in the context of the Children's Bill which has been laid in the Parliament with the aim to protect the society's most vulnerable including women and children, Ramadharsingh said even though legislation been passed, it may not have protected Aaliyah from her tragic end.
The body of the two-year-old child who died on Easter Monday bore evidence of sexual and physical abuse. Two of her relatives, a man and a woman, are assisting police in their investigations. An autopsy scheduled for yesterday at the Forensic Sciences Centre in St James was postponed to today, as there were too many murders engaging the attention of the pathologists over the Easter weekend.
"The situation would have been no different. No matter how many laws we have, we need to be our brothers' keepers to keep watch on those at risk and vulnerable families. Look at situations where children are being abused and report it," Dr Ramadharsingh advised.
He said too many times neighbours and family members reported irregular occurrences when it was already too late. As in the case of Amy Annamunthodo, whose death after years of sexual and physical abuse was the subject of Justice Monica Barnes Report, which is advancing the Children's Bill, Ramadharsingh said there were similar red flags being raised in Aaliyah's case.
Relatives of the dead child admitted she was abused but they did nothing to help. "Many times before the lethal strike, there would have been many more strikes. We go back to some of the cases where we hear stories about people being suspicious, saying the child was looking a certain way, but they never made a report to help that child.
"While we await the legislation and a Children's Authority, one sure way of eliminating these instances of horrific crimes against children is to have education programmes at the community level where we talk about these issues, put them on the community agenda and encourage persons to make reports," Ramadharsingh said.
The minister said every day at his ministry he sees people from across the country who come to apply for food cards. He said in investigating the authenticity of the applicants' needs, they routinely come across cases of abuse ranging from physical, sexual, drug abuse. He said the ministry partners with other authorities to make an intervention and prevent or stop the abuse.
He also encouraged children to use the 800-4321 Childline number to report if they are being bullied, threatened or abused.