Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj says it’s not too late to prosecute child abusers including those named in the Sabga Report which became public while he was Attorney General in the Basdeo Panday administration.
Speaking to Guardian Media, Maharaj said the Police Service should immediately take steps to get possession of the report and initiate an investigation.
“ It is not too late to prosecute individuals who may have committed criminal offences based on the content of that report. It is important for relevant investigations to be conducted and for the persons to be identified who have committed offences. They can be prosecuted because there is no time limit for the prosecution of individuals in respect to those who commit criminal offences,” Maharaj said.
Maharaj also called on the police to investigate why the report was buried and not made public.
“Investigations should be conducted as to why persons who had possession of that report did not take steps for the prosecution of those individuals and whether there was any conspiracy to bury the contents of the report. That would be a criminal offence,” he added.
Maharaj had been part of the Basdeo Panday government when the report was published in the T&T Mirror in December 1997. However, he said he was not aware of the contents of the report.
“ It was never shown to me as the Attorney General. Based on what Mr Sabga said the UNC was not involved in that report. They commissioned it and it depends on when it was finished and compiled and if it was handed to the UNC administration,” Maharaj said.
He could not recall whether the report was ever handed to Cabinet or if it was ever laid in Parliament.
Maharaj said the report would have gone to the Ministry of Social Development and it should have been brought to Cabinet and the Attorney General.
Concerning the Judith Jones report, Maharaj said similar investigations should commence immediately by the TTPS.
“You cannot have a report where serious offences are committed against young children and the report is buried and no action is taken. It defeats the whole purpose of the report,” he added.
The 307-pages Judith Jones report, titled Safeguarding Children in Community Residences and Child Support Centres in Trinidad and Tobago found severe cases of maltreatment at several institutions, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse, gang rape and prostitution—with some of the activity even leading to the death of children.
Maharaj said victims should step forward.
“It doesn’t matter how many years have passed. If you remember abroad concerning sexual offences and harassment of women, people have been prosecuted after several years,’ he added.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has denied that the Sabga Report was buried saying its recommendations led to the passage of key pieces of legislation in 1999.
These included The Children’s Authority Bill, 1999; The Children (Amendment) Bill, 1999; The Adoption of Children Bill, 1999; The Miscellaneous Provisions (Children) Bill, 1999; The Children’s Community Residences, Foster Homes and Nurseries Bill, 1999.