“What we have to accept is that we are now in a crisis situation”.
Those were the words uttered by Chairman of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Vincent Roberts as he addressed members of the media on the rape and murder of 9-year old Ariel Bhola of Frequente in St. George’s.
Roberts said the NDC is willing to participate and use its influence to speak to whoever it can and to do whatever is necessary to bring the issue of child abuse and child sexual abuse to an end in the country.
Young Ariel was found dead by a search party the day after she was reported missing.
According to Roberts, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) believes that the issue of child abuse and child sexual abuse is a societal problem and should be dealt with from that perspective.
“We know that there is an economic component, we know that poverty contributes to a certain level of it. However, we also have to look (at it) in a broader way…”, he said.
Roberts recalled previous incidents in which prominent persons in society including a police officer, pastor and businessman were convicted in recent months on sexual abuse cases.
“So, clearly this is not something which is determined by one social status”, he said.
“The children of our nation are no longer safe and we must address it from that point of view”, he added.
The senior Congress official stressed that based on the frequency and degree in which these sexual offences are taking place calls for what he referred to as “an intense implemental approach” by government.
“…I say our government … because it is the government with the resources (and) our government should pool the resources and pull the resources together using the expertise of our Social Services Department, Ministry of Education, maybe our Ministry of Health and the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) to put a package of information together so that parents and children can know what to look out for and how to react”, he said.
“We think the same way we do preparedness for disaster, hurricanes, and earthquakes and so on, that we must have simulation in our schools, we must do role playing,” he added.
The NDC Chairman called on the various media houses in the country to play their part in the fight against sexual child abuse in the build up to Christmas by running some short awareness video clips, and animation.
He said, “I may be wrong but I am satisfied that the general awareness is there in society. We have had the motorcades, the demonstration, the media reports, the general awareness is there.
However, the education with regard to how to respond seem to be an area we can explore”.
“We do not have all the solution, we do not know if that would work as the solution. However, we cannot not try everything possible,” he remarked.
Roberts pointed at the lack of involvement of youngsters in traditional upbringing like involvement in the Scout movement, Cadets, and other civic organisations as possible factors contributing to the breakdown of discipline in the society.
He went on: “There is a drop in the number of children who attend Sunday school – what role are the churches playing? Children used to be busy (by) being involved in something, we have to come together as a nation, as a society and address this problem”.
“I said that I have seen a police officer convicted, it clearly means that it exists in the police force. Are we tolerant of it, are we turning a blind eye to police officers who are guilty – we have to revisit.
“A pastor was convicted – are our pastors and priests and religious leaders involved? Is there a cover up? I am not saying there is but if there is, it must be exposed.
“…A businessman was convicted – do we have business leaders involved? Are we tolerating it because of the influence – we must bring that to an end. Do we have politicians involved – are we tolerant of politicians who may be involved?
“The time has come where parents must put aside their political affiliation if there is and speak up. We must protect our children at all cost.
Roberts stressed that if the issue of child sexual abuse is not properly addressed it will only become a stain on the nation.
“How can we feel good boasting about the safety of our tourists walking the street at night, our people being able to leave things generally loosely in their vehicles and in their homes and at the same time our children are being victimised?” he questioned.
The NDC Chairman is adamant that society has to become intolerant of this kind of behaviour and no one should be exempted for getting involved in the abuse of children.