Thursday, February 22, 2018

Victims in children’s homes need a voice

 In all good conscience, I am compelled to take issue with a newspaper report which says the chairman of the Child Protection Task Force, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, does not believe there is reason enough for an investigation into the death of Brandon Har­greaves and, by extension, the St Michael Home for Boys.

This, despite a call from Brandon’s mother and many others who have been complaining for years about the treatment meted out to inmates of the school. Ms Mahabir-Wyatt said “she found it ironic that Brandon’s mother was now calling for an investigation, based on the conditions he was found in 2012”. 

I find this logic to be skewed. What does the incident in 2012 have to do with the circumstances surrounding Brandon’s death? Are we saying that two wrongs make a right? Are we now saying that the right to due process has been lost because of that incident?

Since when is the word of witnesses and others involved taken for fact, without an investigation, especially where a death occurs? It is rather surprising to see the good lady actually standing in the way of due process and defending the school’s authorities and the two-month-old Children’s Authority, which is now “training staff and monitoring the institution”. Can we guarantee continuity of the Chil­dren’s’ Authority?

An investigation will definitely add bite to the efforts of the Children’s Authority. How many lives have been destroyed by the past practices at this school? Ms Mahabir-Wyatt said there was inadequate staffing and they were untrained. I ask the question “why?”. Are we saying it’s now okay for us as a nation to have presided over such inexcusable behaviour and abdication of responsibility for such a long time? How does that reconcile with the nation’s conscience?

You have to root out the old guard and its mentality that these boys are there to be taken advantage of and abused because nobody cares for them. 

Ms Mahabir-Wyatt went on to say, “If it is the staff you are accusing, then we certainly have to investigate, and I should never not investigate any accusation that a child makes against a staff member.” Well, Brandon is not around to make any accusations, but his mother is, and she is calling for one. It is very ironic to see the person who is accusing the other of being ironic is actually contradic­ting herself in a big way. 

How many abused children are on record for accusing their “keepers” of said abuse while still under their care and authority? It just does not happen, for fear of repri­sals and further victimi­sation. 

Joel Quintal

San Fernando