Lobby group questions whether PM serious about protecting children
Betty AnnBlaine said she is distressed not only by the carnage being perpetrated upon the nation’s children, but by what she sees as the lack of urgency regarding cases of missing children, and the apparent inability of the security forces to prevent child abuse at its worst.
Convenor of lobby group Hear the Children’s Cry, Betty Ann Blaine, is questioning whether Prime Minister Andrew Holness is serious about protecting the coubtry’s children.
Blaine’s questions comes on the heels of the latest child murders which have caused shock and outrage throughout the country. Blaine has described them as a “disturbing pattern of child murders over the past few months.”
These include, most recently, those of 14 year-old Yetanya Francis, raped, killed and her body burned in her Trench Town community on August 23, and 13 year old Shenoya Wray, whose decomposed body, partially destroyed by a chemical agent, was discovered in Mona, St Andrew on July 20.
Blaine said she is distressed not only by the carnage being perpetrated upon the nation’s children, but by what she sees as the lack of urgency regarding cases of missing children, and the apparent inability of the security forces to prevent child abuse at its worst.
But most amazing to her, she says, is the seeming lack of “political will” and the nonchalant attitude emanating from Jamaica House on the matter.
The children’s advocate reminded that Hear The Children’s Cry has publicly called upon Mr. Holness several times over the past two years to convene an Emergency Child Summit, to no avail.
“We are tired of asking”, said Blaine.
“The Prime Minister asked us to prepare a detailed proposal outlining the objectives and format of the summit, which we did and presented to his office. Since that was done well over a year ago, we have heard nothing from Jamaica House. The proposal included bringing together all stakeholders to enact urgent measures to improve child welfare and child safety, and carrying out a Child Social Audit of living conditions of all children in homes and communities,’ Blaine said.
“We have submitted our proposal, we have done all the preparatory work, and yet, 19 months after our January 2017 meeting, Prime Minister Holness remains silent on the crisis of child safety and child welfare. I am calling upon the Prime Minister once more to convene an Emergency Child Summit, and to take immediate and effective action to protect Jamaica’s children against the multitude of abuses, violent and otherwise, affecting young people. This call needs to be taken seriously, and indeed it has been supported by the Jamaican media, including being afforded an editorial by a leading national newspaper,” Blaine stated.
She wants the following done:
Prime Minister to convene promised Emergency Child Summit
- Wants communities to introduce 8.00 p.m. child curfews
- Private sector leaders to form Child Protection Oversight Committee or CPOC, companion body to EPOC
- Calls on parents, community members to exercise greater supervision and vigilance
- Child Safety Public Education Campaign to be put in place.
- Demands statistics on apprehension and prosecution of child killers over past decade
"In view of a recent report from the authorities that serious and violent crimes are trending down, Hear The Children’s Cry is calling on the Government to disclose the status of apprehension and prosecution of child killers over the past ten years. The Jamaican people deserve to know the facts about this. We need to know, are there child killers stalking our streets and our children?”
Blaine is also re-issuing an April 2017 call to Private Sector Leaders to take positive action on the current crisis of child safety in Jamaica.
“We are urging Keith Duncan, Co-Chair of EPOC (Economic Policy Oversight Committee), and other such leaders to form a companion body to EPOC, their successful oversight body on economic matters related to our IMF deal, to oversee the safety of Jamaican children. This Child Protection Oversight Committee or CPOC, would make a world of difference in spurring more effective government action, in supporting the struggling NGO community in its child safety efforts, and could add its own innovative measures to protect Jamaican children, especially those most at risk in poor and underserved communities,” Blaine stated.