There has been a deafening silence from the office of the Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs; Ayanna Webster-Roy, despite growing public concerns over the recent rise in domestic violence cases, culminating with the latest murder-suicide in Barrackpore in which schoolteacher Amar Deobarran killed his wife Omatie Ramdial-Deobarran in the presence of their eight-year-old son.
The murder-suicide has sent shockwaves across the community. Many are finding it difficult to understand why a teacher so loved by his pupils chopped to death the woman to whom he was married, then took his own life.
Although infidelity has been highlighted, only those close to the couple would have a true idea of why the relationship went sour and why it ended with their deaths.
On Sunday, acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob expressed concern and suggested that couples facing such situations seek professional help before it’s too late.
However, nothing has been heard from the Ministry of Gender and Child Affairs which is based in the Office of the Prime Minister and is headed by Minister Webster-Roy. Surely, she can tell the nation what plans and policies are in place to help the nation’s men and women.
With many children orphaned by COVID-19 and many more losing parents due to domestic abuse, from the ministerial level there should at least be an acknowledgement and expression of concern.
There is a message on the ministry’s Facebook page, attributed to Minister Webster-Roy, that states: “Victims of abuse are at risk of becoming ensnared in a cycle of violence and even of becoming abusers themselves. We all have a responsibility to fulfil children’s rights to ensure that the lives of boys and girls are free from abuse, neglect and violence. Silence is acceptance.”
Is the minister’s silence on this matter an indication of her acceptance of the recent tragic events? If not, she must explain her role in helping to address the scourge of domestic abuse in T&T.
Anyone who holds a position of authority in this country should understand that they are not more window dressing or a sideshow, but have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and to serve without fear or favour the interest of the citizens who put them there.
The Gender and Child Affairs portfolio is not one to be treated lightly. In this challenging scenario, in the aftermath of recent tragedies, it is time to account for the state of investment or lack thereof in shelters for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse situations.
A few years ago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley advised women to be careful in their choice of partners, since the police cannot be in everyone’s homes. However, his administration now needs to enunciate a clear policy on how it will help women who walk away from such situations and offer some hope of help.
It is time for those in authority to offer hope and help to the vulnerable who need it most. Some talk a good talk, some say nothing. It is time to return to the days of being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, which requires that those in authority do what they are paid to do.