Cajeton Hood: “I will not be made a political scapegoat”

Former Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood is taking strong offense to statements made by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell which seemingly took a swipe at the quality of his legal advice given to government when he served as principal legal advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers during the 2013-18 period.

Hood released a statement last Friday in which he said that he was forced “to defend my professional integrity and competence since they appear to be under attack by the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Mitchell”.

The former AG was responding to a charge made by the Grenadian leader in a meeting with staffers at the Ministry of Legal Affairs in which he praised the newly appointed Attorney-General, Guyana-born Darshan Ramdhani and expressed reservations with those who were offering legal advise to the State in recent years.

Dr. Mitchell said he was confident that Ramdhani, a former Solicitor General in Grenada, would provide “far superior legal representation than the government has experienced in recent years” and expressed concern with the number of recent court cases lost in which government was ordered to pay compensation.

“We have lost a number of cases because we have not put our best foot forward. This cannot be allowed to continue”, he said.

One of the cases involved former Cabinet Secretary, Gemma Bain-Thomas who was awarded close to a million EC dollars in compensation and benefits after the court ruled that Prime Minister Mitchell had breached the constitution in the illegal manner in which she was forced out of the job when he returned to power following the 2013 general election.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces in full the statement released by Attorney Hood in which he called on PM Mitchell to show “some decency and integrity”.

“I was shocked to read some statements by the Honourable Prime Minister which were made in an address to the Ministry of Legal Affairs and I believe that I need to defend my professional integrity and competence since they appear to be under attack by the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Mitchell.

Attorney Hood – has sought to defend his reputation as a lawyer

True to form, and in keeping with his style of never accepting responsibility for the results of his own deeds or misdeeds, he now attempts to blame members of the Ministry of Legal Affairs “over the last few years” for the Government of Grenada’s indebtedness to Claimants.

I am now forced to respond. I was personally approached and offered the post of Attorney General by the current Prime Minister shortly after the conclusion of the parliamentary elections in 2013. I wish to state categorically that I never applied for the post and I only agreed after being asked for the third time by Dr. Mitchell.

I entered into a four (4) year contract with the Government of Grenada commencing on or about April 4, 2013. In the year 2017 I was asked to extend my contract for another 6 months as I had indicated to the Prime Minister that I wished to return to my private office to lend support to my son who had been called to the Grenada Bar in October 2014.

During the period of my tenure the quality of my work was not called into question by the Government of Grenada. There were occasions when the results of court matters had been questioned and the appropriate responses were always promptly given. I hesitate to go into details about those matters because, in my view, they form part of lawyer-client privilege.

I challenge the Honourable Prime Minister to waive that privilege and allow me to fully respond to this cowardly and unfair attack on me.

It is a documented fact that the said Dr. Mitchell, the Honourable Prime Minister has repeatedly announced on several occasions during my tenure as Attorney General that my appointment had been reported to him, in general, to be the best appointment that he had made since returning to the leadership of Grenada in 2013.

Mr. Prime Minister, if you allow me to, I will be only too happy to give the details of some of those occasions and to jog your now-failing memory accordingly. Sir, I challenge you to present to the public the details of the sums outstanding to Claimants that you are complaining about.

In most, if not all of these cases, the sums have been awarded due to clear excesses and breaches of law against citizens of our dear nation that have been committed by your administration or previous administrations.

Prime Minister Mitchell – accused state lawyers of giving poor legal representation

In fact, there are some judgments that are unpaid in which I  appeared for the Claimants before I became Attorney General. I recall a claim for Eddie Frederick and one for several police officers who were denied promotion, in which they alleged interference by you, the Honourable Prime Minister.

For the benefit of objective comment and conclusion, I urge any neutral interested person to consult the current Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank who was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Grenada during most of my tenure, to ascertain the role that my office and I played in the Home Grown Structural Adjustment Program that the Honourable Prime Minister boasts about and whose results he now seems to always seek to hide behind.

The current Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit can reveal, if he is pressed and chooses to respond, facts about the remarkable progress and advancement we made as a country in the areas of Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing under the CFATF regime from the year 2013 and onwards.

The records are there for objective review and as Grenadians we need to refuse to listen to these statements that are made out of political expedience and are meant to distract and divert citizens from the truth of the matters regarding the manner in which our dear country is being governed.

In each and every matter concerning the state which was decided by the courts during my tenure as Attorney General, if the Prime Minister allows me to give the full details, I can show the nation the real reason why the state did not achieve success.

Prime Minister, it is cowardly and despicable to accuse persons who you know cannot defend themselves. You are literally punching me while my hands are tied behind my back. I challenge you to loosen my hands and then let us have a fair fight. I speak on behalf of the past Solicitor General, Dwight Horsford and the hardworking Crown Counsels in the Ministry of Legal Affairs who spent many sleepless nights, weekends and holidays trying to find ways to defend the decisions of this administration.

This has been done in spite of loss of salary, refusal to fill posts, whether or not advice given was followed, and other “legal persons” receiving over twice the salaries of top officers in the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

If Dr. Mitchell now admits that his administration did not put its best foot forward, the staff of the Ministry of Legal Affairs has always done so under my watch.

The Honourable Prime Minister seems to forget that the current Attorney General was Solicitor General when he became Prime Minister in 2013. In fact, it is the current Attorney General who led the matter of the government’s acquisition of the interest of friend and party member Wilberforce Nyack, in the property on Grand Anse beach which is now designated as the location for Part II of the Silver Sands hotel project.

If allowed, I will reveal the reason why the Prime Minister refused to renew his contract and the most likely reason why he has made him Attorney General at present and now sings his praises, attempting to use him to get at myself and Dwight Horsford, who is now serving as Attorney General in the British colony of Anguilla.

All I can say now is that, time will tell.

Chief, this will not work! If you wish for a battle with me, then I am up for it!

AND, if you untie my hands I can speak up fully and publicly about the salary deduction and pension and other issues also.

I will not be made a political scapegoat. I will not be used as one uses adult pampers.

Tell the truth, Honourable Prime Minister!

Ferguson elected to head Grenada Chess Federation

Attorney-at-law Ruggles Ferguson has been elected as the first President of the newly installed Managing Council of the Grenada Chess Federation (GCF) for the next two (2) years.

Ruggles Ferguson – elected to head Grenada Chess Foundation

The election of the body took place at a specially convened meeting on May 16 at the Grenada Olympic House.

Apart from Ferguson, others elected into office were Engineer Carlyle Glean Jr. as Vice President, Kinna Marrast-Victor (General Secretary), Raheem Smith (Assistant General Secretary), Jarelle Amade (Treasurer), Terrance Smith (Assistant Treasurer), Nicole Gellineau (Public Relations Officer) and Terrance Slocombe (Assistant PRO).

The election follows the launch of the Federation on February 28 during the visit to Grenada of Grandmaster Nigel Short MBE, the most celebrated Chess player in the United Kingdom, once ranked No.3 in the world.

An interim committee had been leading the work of the Federation following the launch.

The May 16 meeting also approved and adopted a Constitution for GCF which will be seeking registration as a Not-for-Profit company, with all it funds to be used in the promotion and development of Chess throughout Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

President of the Jamaica Chess Federation, Ian Wilkinson QC, who addressed the meeting via telephone, congratulated the GCF on its initiative and urged that much focus be given to the development of chess in schools as was done in Jamaica.

Wilkinson, who is an honorary Vice-President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and the author of two books on Chess, noted that in the past ten (10) years over 50,000 new players have emerged in Jamaica, as Chess has become the fastest growing sport there.

The objectives of the GCF, as outlined in its new constitution, include protecting and advancing the interest of chess in Grenada and promoting the sport in schools and communities.

Four (4) committees have been established to facilitate the work of the Federation – Tournaments, Marketing and Public Relations, Chess in Schools and Communities and Fund-raising.

Nicole Gellineau, in her capacity as PRO, heads the Marketing and Public Relations Committee, while Kwabena Amen and Jessie Greene were identified to lead the work for Chess in Schools and Communities and the Tournament committees.

According to a Federation release, someone will soon be identified to head the Fund-raising Committee.

High on the agenda of the newly launched Federation is seeking affiliation with the Grenada Olympic Committee and the World Chess Federation.

Sod-turning for Beausejour low-income project

Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has welcomed the start of work on a low income housing project in Beausejour, which will see the construction of more than 100 units.

The Prime Minister and Parliamentary Representative for St. George North West, and Ambassador of China to Grenada share a handshake after turning the sod for the start of work on the housing project

Dr. Mitchell who is also the Parliamentary Representative for the area, said housing is a critical need, with more and more persons seeking the security of their own home.

He was speaking at a sod-turning ceremony held to officially start the project to be facilitated by funds from the Government of China.

He said, “As people move forward economically, they want to have their own place. A lot of young persons too are seeking housing. This social need is extremely strong and when completed, this housing project will satisfy an enormous need.”

The current administration has long recognised access to housing as a basic human right and has committed to improving access to proper housing for low and middle-income families as a means of positively impacting the country’s socio-economic development.

The housing project is particularly dear to the heart of the Prime Minister because it is being constructed in the area of his birth.

Recalling fond memories of his youthful days in the village, Dr. Mitchell told those gathered, “I grew up right in this community in Beausejour and therefore, I am extremely happy to witness this important launch. As the Parliamentary Representative, it also brings me great joy because I understand the importance of housing in the community.”

The Prime Minister also spoke of other planned initiatives including another housing project and a vendor’s market, which would bring increased vibrancy to the area.

Speaking generally about the level of activity taking place around the country, Dr. Mitchell said, “Government is working; it is understanding the needs of the people and the country. We are going to be taking steps to further develop this area and the country as a whole. We are seeing economic expansion in a general sense and the country is moving forward.”

The Prime Minister also expressed gratitude to the Government and people of China for the support provided for this and other housing projects across the country.

Three low- income housing projects were completed in the first phase and five more, including Beausejour are being constructed in the second phase of the project.

Other speakers at Wednesday’s sod turning ceremony included Minister for Social Development, Housing and Community Empowerment, Delma Thomas and Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Grenada, Dr. Zhao Yongchen.

Molinere Woman Fined $25,000 for Spreading Sex Video

A 23-year old St George’s woman must pay a fine of $25, 000.00 after she pleaded guilty on the advice of her attorney, Francis Paul, in the St. George’s No. 1 Magistrate’s Court for Violation of Privacy.

Shadel Gill faces two years in jail if she fails to pay

The accused, Shadel Gill from the north-west village of Molinere was charged under the Electronic Crimes Act, after sharing a pornographic video of another woman, in which images of her intimate parts were visible.

If the unemployed Gill, who is also a mother of two, fails to pay the hefty fine within nine months, she will be sent to the Richmond Hill prison to serve two years jail time.

The charge was laid by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) in January after a video of the other woman, performing intimate acts on herself, was shared on social media.

In the video, which was widely shared on WhatsApp last December, a man is seen looking on as the teenage girl pleasured herself.

Gill was linked to the leaked video which began circulating on December 27.

During the court hearing, the State provided evidence to show that Gill had sent the video to one person, the aunt of the teenager, who had been in contact with her for some time.

The video was recorded from a video chat between the father of one of Gill’s children and a sixteen year old girl, who was in the United States on vacation at the time.

The maximum fine for this offense is EC$250,000.

After her arrest in January, Gill was suspended from her job with the Police Force as a Secretary in the South St George Traffic Department.

According to information made available to this newspaper, shortly before her arrest the young mother had told an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) about the video she had found on the phone of her boyfriend at the time.

She was allegedly informed by the ASP that, “if your intentions were not malicious, then you have nothing to worry about” and she was warned not to send the video to anyone else.

Gill explained that it was not her intention to broadcast the video, as happened but only to provide it to a concerned relative of the teenager.

She maintained that she did not send it to anyone else, however, the court considered her the “main distributor” and Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill told her that if she had not sent it to the girl’s aunt it would not have entered public domain on social media.

Under the Electronic Crimes Act (Violation of Privacy), a person who, knowingly or without lawful excuse or justification, captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of a person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $250, 000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years or to both.

Another person, Yuber Phillip, was also fined for this crime last year. Phillip pleaded guilty after he shared nude images of his partner. It is not immediately clear if he paid the fine or opted to serve an eighteen month jail sentence, in default.

ARE WE DRINKING OURSELVES TO DEATH?

Many are boasting about the availability of a constant supply of portable water on the island of Petite Martinique. In fact, this is a great achievement not to be boasted of since water is a basic necessity and not a luxury in my book.

One very important question that we fail to ask is – how portable is the water? The unsuspecting residents are thankful for the service unaware of the financial and health issues they will inherit as a result of processes not being followed.

I am not trying to scare anyone or paint a bad picture of the National Water and Sewerage Authority, but to call on the relevant authorities to address this situation before it’s too late. I hope the relevant authorities would not try to make excuses of lack of funds because we know better.

For those who don’t know The Petite Martinique Desalination Plant was designed as a highly sustainable system. Besides producing water for household consumption, it is also generating energy which is fed to the national grid. So, it’s clear to see that once the sun shines which always happens revenue is generated. This revenue was meant to be used to enhance the production and distribution systems on the island.

We are aware that since the plant was installed in 2014 over EC $500,000.00 worth of revenue was generated to date, where it went is another story.

The main issue at hand is the portability of the water that is presently distributed to householders. Studies have shown that even after water has passed reverse osmosis membranes, it still requires treatment before it can be sent to your tap. In the case of the Petite Martinique system, no post treatment is done this a fact not an allegation.

For desalinated water to be apt for human consumption it still needs to pass through the post-treatment phase which aims to give the water its chemical characteristics required for it to be drinkable. Desalinated water is so pure that it is lacking in minerals that are good for your health meaning it needs further processing to add these minerals in.

Desalinated water is very pure water which is almost completely devoid of any dissolved salts or micro-organisms. This is as a result of passing through meticulous pre-treatment processes which includes physico-chemical process followed by filtration prior to reverse osmosis. However, many of the mineral components that are removed during reverse osmosis are actually good and even necessary for drinking water.

In addition, this water is corrosive because of its low pH and the absence of the absorption potential of carbon-based molecules that are usually found in natural water. As such all desalinated water must go through a post-treatment process to resolve its mineral deficiency and slightly adjust its pH to make it more alkaline.

I am certain the management of the National Water and Sewerage Authority is aware of this since many of their engineers are trained in that field. One may ask, is this deliberately done to show the lack of capacity to finance and manage these plants?

We are aware of ongoing discussions with the Ansa Mc Cal group who have shown interest in acquiring these plants. We are certain that their interest is mainly in renewables having spoken to some of the consultants they sent to look at the plants.

The residents of Petite Martinique are already experiencing the effects and it is costing them dearly. We are calling on the management of NAWASA to address this issue.

Concerned Citizen

Minister Thomas: Gov’t has open mind on abortion for pregnant rape victims

Minister of Social Development, Delma Thomas has said that government has never discussed amending the law to give women the right to abortion if conceived through rape.

Social Development Minister, Delma Thomas

Speaking to reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing, the female government minister said the issue has never come up on the agenda before the Cabinet of Ministers headed by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

“I cannot speak to this at this time, because it’s not an issue that we (have) considered, it’s not an issue that we discuss but it’s something that we can have (an) open mind on”, she told reporters.

“We have not discussed this, and I am here representing the Cabinet of Grenada and since we have not ever discussed that particular issue, I can’t speak to it,” she said.

However, Minister Thomas noted that government cannot sit idly by while Sexual Abuse continues to affect people in Grenada.

According to the minister, the issue of sexual abuse has always been around and credited the increase in more reported cases to the work of the different stakeholder bodies.
She gave assurances of being committed to voice her concerns about any form of sexual abuse on the island.

“I always say that at the end of being a politician we have to be accountable to God, and if he put us in that position to be policymakers to protect people … we ought to do it (at) all cost without fear or favour, and therefore, I am committed to that cause, I am committed to fighting to eradicate all forms of abuse, not only child abuse but all forms of abuse”.

“We are not here to represent ourselves as government, we are representing the people and many of our laws that we made, many of the decisions and the policies that we made as a government… (were not done) because we sat in Cabinet and decide that is the way to go, but because we have listened to the voice of the people…and therefore, I would never ask persons to shut up on (those) particular issues.

“Let us not only speak when an issue is being brought outside there, let us be our brother’s keeper and look around within our different communities, within our different schools. Whether I am in government or out of government I will be an advocate for any form of abuse.

The latest onslaught!!!

Recent statements made by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell on legal matters have generated quite a lot of interest and discussion in the country.

There was an immediate reaction from former Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood who quite correctly felt that the statements questioned his competence and credibility as an attorney-at-law on the island since Dr. Mitchell claimed that the legal service provided to the State in recent years by its own Department was inferior and resulted in the loss of a number of court cases and awards of hefty judgments in cost to the Treasury.

THE NEW TODAY is quite confident that Attorney Hood and those who served government in recent years as lawyers are more than capable of defending themselves against this most unfortunate attack by PM Mitchell who has given many signals over the years that he has reservations about persons in the legal profession.

The Prime Minister’s latest statements came against the backdrop of the manner in which he was forced to lick his wounds after the court ruled against the vindictive manner in which he took action against two top civil servants after returning to power in the 2013 general elections – Cabinet Secretary Gemma Bain-Thomas and Commissioner of Police Willan Thompson.

Dr. Mitchell choose to ignore the most salient message that the court was giving him in those judgements that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that any action taken by him or any other Prime Minister in the future must not violate the constitutionally guaranteed rights of anyone.

The Prime Minister left out a very salient point in his statement which relates to the advice that was given to him by these legal people which resulted in the State being ordered by the court to pay millions in compensation to affected persons.

What was the advice given by Attorney General Hood to the Prime Minister on the decision taken by him to remove both Bain-Thomas and Thompson from their respective positions?

Did the Prime Minister move against them first and then ask the Attorney-General to find a legal away to make effective the decision that he took within hours of returning to power?

This newspaper will not allow Prime Minister Mitchell to once again pull wool over the eyes of people by suggesting that government will now be getting superior legal representation with the hiring of Guyana-born Darshan Ramdhani as the new Attorney-General.

It is no secret that Mr. Ramdhani was serving as Solicitor General when Dr. Mitchell returned to power and was soon out of the job. Why?

The Prime Minister must answer this question for the nation.

THE NEW TODAY is also forced to question the so-called “superior” legal representation that Mr. Ramdhani will bring to the position as the principal legal advisor to the government. What is the yard stick that the Prime Minister is using to make the boast that Mr. Ramdhani is bringing far superior legal representation to government than those who served before?

Less than a week after this latest onslaught by PM Mitchell against the lawyers who were once on government payroll, the state suffered another humiliating court defeat against Grenlec in which the so-called “superior” Ramdhani had put forward the arguments in the case.

Is it true Prime Minister Mitchell that your government decided to move forward with the Grenlec case in the face of the position held by the so-called “inferior” lawyers who advised not to proceed as the State would most likely suffer defeat?

The public officers in the country will never forget the role played by the “superior” Ramdhani as Legal Consultant to the government in getting the Supreme Court Registry to open its doors on a Saturday to file papers to take action against them in the battle over the 25% gratuity and pension payments.

It is also the same Ramdhani who made a move to get a judge to hold an unprecedented sitting of the court on a Sunday to deal with public officers. Why this high-handedness? No one can fault a court for holding an extraordinary sitting on a Sunday if the State needed legal cover in a situation in which a foreign power was trying to invade Grenada or something of the sort. But to bring out a judge on a Sunday to deal with a simple industrial dispute is an over-reaction and abuse of State power.

THE NEW TODAY would also like to remind the Prime Minister that not too long ago the same Ramdhani was facing an allegation of contempt of court by his own Legal Affairs Department in a particular matter involving a foreign national in which a gag order was taken out against the media.

Mr. Prime Minister, who prevented former AG Hood and then Solicitor General Dwight Horsford from filing the case after the papers were already prepared?

THE NEW TODAY would also offer a word of caution to Mr. Ramdhani that if he is not careful that he might just become the latest in a long line of persons who are hired to serve the Prime Minister and then discarded along the way.

It is well recorded the number of top civil servants forced out of their jobs over the past 25 years by the Prime Minister on the grounds that he lost confidence in them – former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Brian Francis, former Accountant General, Garvey Louison, Director of Audit, Julia Lawrence, former Budget Officer, Richard Duncan and the likes.

Three of them – Duncan, Francis and Louison – were handsomely rewarded financially by the court due to the arbitrary manner in which Dr. Mitchell moved against them as public officers.

It is also an undisputable fact that more than half of the $EC40 million set aside by government to pay compensation against persons who took the State to court came from actions of the current New National Party (NNP) government.

The Dipcon debt is over $20 million including interest payments following the high-handed manner in which Dr. Mitchell and Works Minister Gregory Bowen terminated their lawful contract with the former Congress government in favour of CCC.

Another of those arbitrary actions of the Mitchell government and for which the court handed down a ruling in excess of $EC1 million was the Dorset Charles matter in which his business premises were illegally broken down and destroyed on Grand Anse beach by the State.

The latest outburst from the Prime Minister on lawyers must also be construed as an attack on his own former Deputy Prime Minister, Elvin Nimrod who was the leader of the Ministry of Legal Affairs for many years.

It is just more evidence against this current Prime Minister who is prepared to throw just about anybody “under the bus” when they are no longer useful to him.

Many years ago, calypsonian Black Wizard did a song “Show Me the Will” in which he depicted Prime Minister Mitchell as one who in his quest to hold onto power was fighting every sector of the Grenadian society including lawyers, teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants and the media .

Carpenter Arrested for Westerhall Killing

A 62-year-old Carpenter from Westerhall in St. David was on Monday remanded to the Richmond Hill Prison in connection with last week Thursday night’s chopping death of 27-year old Construction Worker, Sheldon Mapson of the same village.

James Lewis – covered his face while being escorted from the Court house by Police Officers on Monday

The suspect, James Lewis was apprehended by police hours after the incident in which Mapson was chopped to death.

Lewis, who is facing a charge of Non-Capital Murder, was taken to the Grenville Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where he appeared unrepresented, before Magistrate Nevlyn John.

The female magistrate read out the charge to him but he was not required to enter a plea for the indictable offence.

Information reaching THE NEW TODAY is that some days before the fatal chopping, both the deceased and the murder-accused had a misunderstanding over a fire that the defendant lit, which was extinguished by Lewis.

However, it is understood that on the night of the incident both men had a fall out at a popular village shop, during which Mapson reportedly slapped the elderly man in his face several times.

A well-placed source told this newspaper that the deceased who was drunk left the shop and went home to boast to persons that he had slapped up Lewis.

According to some eyewitnesses, the murder suspect was later seen on the night with two (2) cutlasses in his hand and was heard saying that he was waiting to chop up Mapson.

The deceased was reportedly found by his sister lying on the ground in the vicinity of his home with multiple chop wounds to his body.

Mapson was taken to the General Hospital in St. George’s, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Shane Mapson – died in last week Thursday’s chopping incident at Westerhall

A resident of the village expressed shock at the murder since both Lewis and Mapson were virtually living in separate houses in the same yard in the area.

The incident reportedly occurred at a place called Stone Road in Westerhall about 8:50 p.m last week Thursday night.

The murder suspect used his hands in an attempt to shield his identity from media workers who attempted to capture his photograph and video footage as he was being escorted by police to and from the court room.

Lewis would be put through a Preliminary Inquiry at the Magistrate level before the matter is sent before a high court judge and jury for a trial where he would face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted of the offence.

The murder accused was remanded to the Richmond Hill prison until June 7 when he is due to make his next appearance before the St. David’s Magistrate’s Court.

The murder of Mapson brings the homicide toll to seven so far for the year in the country.

Rescued Venezuelan disappear in G’da

Grenada Police are currently in search of a Venezuelan who was warded at the St. George’s General Hospital after being rescued at sea last week, after the pirogue he and 19 others were travelling on sank while travelling to neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.

The 24-year-old, who according to police has been identified as Alberto Abrero, was travelling from Margarita to Trinidad to purchase goods to return home.

It is understood that the small boat that they were travelling in overturned and sank, leaving him fighting to stay afloat in the sea off Chaguramas, when he was found by someone and brought to Grenada, at the Port Louis Marina.

Abrero was later taken to the General Hospital for treatment and on Sunday, he left the institution without being discharged and checks to locate him have been futile.

Abrero was rescued in Trinidad waters by a US businessman and taken to Grenada last week Thursday after he was found drifting at sea.

On his Facebook page, Robert Richards, the businessman who lives in the US Virgin Islands and is originally from Pennsylvania, said he and his crew found Abrero.

He posted on his Facebook page accompanied with photographs: “We found this young man 30 miles offshore of Trinidad in some sporty sea conditions fighting for his life, he had been in the water for 19 hours, while we were bringing our new boats back. He was on a boat that sunk the night before with 20 other people on board, so far no other survivors, they were on their way to Trinidad to buy food because (their) home of Isla De Margarita, a Venezuela island has limited food that’s very expensive, it’s a very sad thing going on there. GOD bless the lost ones!”

This is the second boat that recently got into difficulties resulting in deaths with Venezuelans attempting to come to TT.

In April, 11 of 34 people, mostly women, were rescued after the boat they were on sank.

The ten metre long pirogue overturned and sank near Patos Island, near the Dragon’s Mouth on April 23.

It was reported that 25 named people and nine unnamed people boarded a pirogue B/P JHONNALY JOSE at Las Salinas in Güiria. On the voyage the overloaded boat experienced engine failure and sank.”

Protect our Nation’s Children from Child Sexual Abuse

The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights that must be realised for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights.

The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. By recognising children’s rights in this way, the Convention firmly sets the focus on the whole child.

Those who molest children look and act just like everyone else. Abusers can be neighbours, friends, and family members. Only about one third of child sexual abuse incidents are identified and even fewer are reported.

Emotional and mental health problems are often the first consequence and sign of child sexual abuse. Children who are sexually abused are at significantly greater risk for later post-traumatic stress and other anxiety symptoms, depression and suicide attempts. These psychological problems can lead to significant disruptions in normal development and often have a lasting impact, leading to dysfunction and distress well into adulthood. Behavioural problems, including physical aggression, non-compliance, and oppositionality occur frequently among sexually abused children.

These emotional and behavioural difficulties can lead to delinquency, poor school performance, and dropping out of school.

Our nation’s children need to be protected against Sexual Violence and as adults we’re designated as custodians and therefore are charged with the responsibility of Child Protection.

Child Protection refers to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children – including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour.

UNICEF’s child protection programmes also target children who are uniquely vulnerable to these abuses, such as when living without parental care, in conflict with the law and in armed conflict.

Violence, exploitation and abuse occur in the homes, families, schools, care and justice systems, workplaces and communities across all contexts, including as a result of conflict and natural disasters.

Many children are exposed to various forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse and exploitation armed violence, trafficking, child labour, gender- based violence, bullying, cyber-bullying, gang violence, physically and emotionally violent child discipline, and other harmful practices.

All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Some girls and boys are particularly vulnerable because of gender, race, ethnic origin or socio-economic status. Higher levels of vulnerability are often associated with children with disabilities, who are orphaned, indigenous, from ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups.

Other risks for children are associated with living and working on the streets, living in institutions and detention, and living in communities where inequality, unemployment and poverty are highly concentrated. Natural disasters, armed conflict, and displacement may expose children to additional risks.

Vulnerability is also associated with age; younger children are at greater risk of certain types of violence and the risks differ as they get older.

Children’s Rights: Article 4 (Protection of Rights): Governments have a responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. When countries ratify the Convention, they agree to review their laws relating to children. This involves assessing their social services, legal, health and educational systems, as well as levels of funding for these services.

Governments are then obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure that the minimum standards set by the Convention in these areas are being met. They must help families protect children’s rights and create an environment where they can grow and reach their potential. In some instances, this may involve changing existing laws or creating new ones. Such legislative changes are not imposed, but come about through the same process by which any law is created or reformed within a country.

Article 41 of the Convention points out that when a country already has higher legal standards than those seen in the Convention, the higher standards always prevail.

Grenada signed the CRC on 19th April 1990 and it was ratified on 9th October 1990. The Optional Protocols on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC-OP-AC) and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (CRC-OP-SC) were acceded to 6th February 2012.

Therefore, Government and its citizenry are fully responsible for the well-being of every child under their care residing in the state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Children’s Rights States Parties that recognise the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) undertake to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse including exploitative use in prostitution and pornography (Article 34), which the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000) further refines.

Article 34 states that measures should be taken to prevent inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity. The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices and the exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

The Child Protection Authority is mandated by the Child Protection and Adoption Act 2010 to be the agency solely responsible for child protection.

Collaborative effort is needed from everyone including the Minister of Social Development, Minister of National Security, Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF)/ Special Victim’s Unit, Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child (GNCRC) likewise all other NGOs that are involved in the process of raising the education awareness against Sexual Violence.

I firmly believe more is needed and more can be done in terms of protecting our nation’s children. What we need is (Legislations from our lawmakers) likewise steeper penalties coming from the Judiciary system towards perpetrators.

The Minister of National Security in his capacity as Prime Minister needs to do more in addressing this escalating issue.

Social Development Minister Delma Thomas made the pronouncement recently regarding a Halfway House for abuse girls although all is well and good but we also need an institution that can house boys in a conducive environment that can help them heal and be reintegrated back into society.

RGPF/Special Victim’s Unit has been making headway especially the women police officers who have been doing a fantastic job. I applaud the strides that have been made thus far with the RGPF/Special Victim’s Unit.

We are a long way from ridding the nation of this malignancy of sexual violence but we cannot give up the fight against child sexual abuse because if we bond together as one we can achieve much.

Time for us all to become more united as a nation and say “Enough is Enough” and let’s expose and rid our communities of Sexual Violence by ensuring perpetrators are persecuted severely by the judicial system.

Brian J.M. Joseph