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‘No time to play games with safety’

By Susan Mohammed susan.mohammed@trinidadexpress.com

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said it was easy to point fingers and cast blame in the deaths of three children over the last three weeks, but her Government will not play games with the safety of children. 

Persad-Bissessar said the State would stretch its limits to find ways to be closer to families and stop the “brutal and monstrous attacks” on children. 

Persad-Bissessar made the statement at the key-distribution ceremony at Cypress Hills, Union Hall, San Fernando, hours after she named a 15-member Child Protection Task Force, to be chaired by former independent senator Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. 

Persad-Bissessar told reporters she should have the recommendations of the task force in six weeks. 

In addition, she said there is to be “a smaller core team as an implementation and action team. Because far too often recommendations come and are placed on a shelf. I do not want that to happen. It is long overdue”. 

She said the task force would not replace or oust any other children’s agency and will assist in ensuring all measures necessary are implemented for the Children’s Authority to function. 

In delivering her speech during the key-distribution ceremony, she told the audience: “I place focus on families and communities as, in the last few weeks, you will all have seen the dreadful and horrific news of crimes against the most innocent and defenceless in our society—children. 

“Three young children have been made to endure the kind of suffering no child must ever have to experience, and they paid the ultimate price—with their lives.

“On Sunday, I met with the mother and other relatives of little Keyana Cumberbatch. To even try to understand the anguish of the family tests the best of human limits; it is a tragedy that no one ever really prepares for and it is unthinkable! 

“These brutal and monstrous attacks on children must not be allowed to continue and if that means that we must stretch the limits of the State and find ways to come closer to families, then it is something we must consider.” 

The PM added. “For some, the easiest response has been to point fingers, lay blame, scream out to everyone else that ‘something must be done’. My Government has no time for playing such games with public attention where children and their safety are concerned.” 

The Prime Minister sought to assure the nation “every action that must be taken will be taken, to protect all citizens from the onslaught of a minority of criminal elements. From policy initiatives to specialised equipment, to satellite-tracking vehicles and increased manpower, the Government’s approach to security has been comprehensive and will continue to be strengthened.” 

She said after consultations with the Cabinet and key stakeholders in child protection, the Child Protection Task Force was formed with “some of our nation’s top experts in law, advocacy, non-governmental activism and public service”. 

She said 17 police stations were being constructed over eight months, and that within two weeks the State would launch Rapid Response Units, each equipped with GPS (Global Positioning System) to be placed in 14 districts across Trinidad and Tobago. 

“The Government will do its part, and if you do your part, we can all be confident of the future we build together. Our progress, our communities, the safety of our children and our stability for tomorrow can all be directed by our actions today,” she said.  

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