Today, May 23rd, 2022, marks the 24th anniversary of the brutal murder of 11-year-old Akiel Chambers, who met his demise while innocently attending the birthday party of one of his classmates. Little did his family know that day would have been the last they would see him alive and that 24 years later, they would still be searching for justice in his killing.
Senior Counsel Martin Daly has been one of the lone voices continuously reminding this country that there is a need to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.
Yesterday Mr Daly wrote: "The lack of justice for Akiel still vividly represents the dysfunction of a disgusting society which relentlessly permits persons of a better station in life, or the right contacts, to prey on others who may be less fortunate. I still think about Akiel because everywhere there are expressions of that dysfunction, which permits money, skin shade, class and contact to determine outcomes in everyday life."
No right-thinking person can argue with the position adopted by Mr Daly, especially in light of the damning 1997 Robert Sabga and 2021 Judith Jones reports which paint a dark picture of the cruelty meted out to children in homes which benefit from State subventions.
It is clear from the lack of justice for Akiel and the cruelty to children in state-funded homes that there lacks the political will in this country to deal with such crimes against children. If there was, would we be at a point where Akiel’s family has seen no justice while the many cases at children’s homes have gone unaddressed?
Those politicians who governed this country in the 25-year period since the Sabga report and Akiel’s death should hang their heads in collective shame, as none of them can say they care or that they did all they could to protect the nation's children.
It is true that after the Sabga report some headway was made with the establishment of the Children's Authority, but the fact that Justice Jones could still report 25 the abuse continues at some homes is an indictment on successive governments.
Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy, who has the task of protecting our children as Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, should not just be "heartbroken," but ashamed at her inability to make things right in the seven years she has held the position.
Investigations are one thing but if they bring no benefit to those who need it most, then what is their purpose? Acting Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob's position in yesterday’s Sunday Guardian that the country should not expect overnight results in the investigations into the 1997 and 2021 reports is already shameful and nothing more than a cop-out before getting into the crux of the matter.
For Akiel's family and the children abused in homes for decades, they are still hoping that what they endured never happens to another child and we must ensure this is the outcome of the current drive. These tragedies must be a lesson for all of T&T. We must never forget, nor must we allow this to continue.