Rowley urges police to find 1997 report

Port of Spain – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley Monday publicly called on the police to “take immediate steps” to find a report into children’s homes and institutions in 1997 that the Trinidad Express newspaper said contained “dynamite findings”.

Rowley said that the police should seek to recover the Sabga Task Force report “and the evidence of all those who were aware of this frightening situation and take all necessary action against all who have been implicated in or with these very shocking revelations as published.

“The national population is understandably angered by what appears to be facts where persons could have been identified as mistreating minors in their care, even committing heinous crimes against these unfortunate children and such persons instead of being prosecuted to the full extent of the law have enjoyed secrecy and protection of others,” he said.

His statement follows an editorial published on Sunday in the Sunday Express newspaper that the then social development minister Manohar Ramsaran and the (Basdeo) Panday administration failed to act on the report.

“Had the Panday administration acted on the Sabga report with the urgency required, the scourge of physical and sexual abuse existing in children’s homes today would have been eradicated, if not completely, then substantially.

In his statement, Prime Minister Rowley said that when his administration came to office in 2015, he established the Ministry of Gender and Child Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister and operationalised the Children’s Authority, expanding its scope.

“All this time I and my Government were totally unaware of the contents of a Sabga Report which is now being serialised in the media,” Rowley said, adding that he had recently indicated to Parliament that this government had established a Committee “to enquire into our concerns about reports of abuses and other shortcomings in this national effort of caring for these children”.

Rowley said that the expert committee did its work with dispatch and submitted its findings to the government in late December last year and by April this year, the unabridged report of this exercise was laid in Parliament for public information.

“I am now advised that this Committee sought diligently to get access to a Sabga Report but even their best effort could not provide them with a copy from any source.

“Through the local media, I am now discovering that there was/is a Sabga Report produced by investigators who inspected and collected information from nine children’s homes and described some of the most awful conditions and treatment meted out by person/s associated with child care and custody at the nation’s care centres.

“I am shocked, scandalised and angry as a result of what I have read in the local media where some of our worst suspicions appear to have been long confirmed . . . ,” Rowley added. (CMC)

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