Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was reportedly so shocked and scandalised after learning of the contents of a 1997 report into the operations of children’s homes on Monday, that he called on Acting Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob to solicit a copy of it and take the necessary steps, supposedly to bring those who may have broken any laws to justice.
There are many questions that arise from the Prime Minister’s response to the details of the report done by Robert Sabga’s team. The first, of course, is that we find it astonishing that nobody within current Government seems even remotely aware this document existed.
This is because the Children’s Authority of T&T was birthed out of some of the recommendations of the 1997 report, which Sabga and his team did on 10 children’s homes for the then Basdeo Panday United National Congress administration and which was also laid in Parliament. Since then, the Sabga report has been referenced ad nauseam during debates on the issue of abuse at children’s homes, including in 2000 when Independent Senator Ramesh Deosaran raised it in discussions on the Children’s Authority Bill, eliciting a response from Camille Robinson-Regis, who is currently part of Rowley’s Cabinet.
Most notably, the Sabga report has come up over the last two decades because it highlighted a problem that is endemic in children’s homes and care centres through the country—that of a system of organised corruption in the granting of state support to these homes and the cover-up of physical and sexual abuse of wards of the state at these facilities.
Despite having this information in hand, no government since then has managed to rectify the problem or cleanse the system, nor has the T&T Police Service made any significant arrests and prosecution of alleged perpetrators of the heinous acts against wards of the state.
The issue has naturally created a firestorm on social media, with the general consensus being that many feel governments have lacked the will to act on the issue because of the many people in high society involved in some of the acts.
However, it is also safe to conclude that this failure to deal with a critical aspect of the well-being of children in the state’s care may have created scores of people, now adult, who are in turn inflicting the physical and mental trauma they experienced at these homes on others today to the detriment of society.
So, the question is do we need the TTPS to chase after 25-year-old cold cases, or deal with the more recent Justice Jones report, where the victims are more easily accessible, may have physical evidence to support their cases and where the perpetrators may still be in the system.
As such, it is refreshing that Commissioner Jacob has set up a unit dedicated to investigating these homes and the contents of the two reports. However, we hope this unit will be given the resources it needs to get the job done.
On that note, we also genuinely hope the Prime Minister and Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs Ayanna Webster-Roy will apprise themselves of the information they lack, grab the bull by the horns and ensure the Government does what is necessary to protect future generations.