On this International Day of Innocent Children, Victims of Aggression, I greet you my fellow citizens, on behalf of our nation’s children, with a sense of urgency and determination.
Our nation has long held proudly to a tradition of peace and stability, and stands as an example to the world, a true beacon of promise, as a small country that is big on pride and achievement.
Over the years, however, even as we have progressed in a number of ways, incidents of aggression and violence against children, a number of them fatal, have been a source of revulsion, horror and a fervent commitment to do more, and do better for our children.
On the side of Government, our vision has been to ensure that our children and young citizens are provided with every opportunity so that they can be supported to develop into grounded, socially adept and intellectually strong adults.
Through universal, free pre-school places for every child; a now fully technology-driven system of secondary education; much greater diversity of technical and vocational training programmes; community-based partnerships; legislative enhancements; full resource and technical support for the Children’s Authority, and direct intervention parenting and family policies, we have been able to expand our reach to protect our children’s lives and future.
However, there can never be a point where we feel that we have done enough. Impetus for stronger action must always underline the advances we make for our children. And child-care and protection are critically important issues for which each and every one of us shares an equal responsibility.
There can be no greater terror for a young child, than to desperately reach out to the ones they love and trust for help, and be met with aggression and violence. The mental and emotional torture, the anxiety, the sense of hopelessness and fright are unthinkable and we must, all of us, make the commitment that we will all take on the role of keeper of our nation’s children.
As we commemorate this International Day of Innocent Children, Victims of Aggression therefore, I recall and share with you the words of former Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar, who said in 1983: “On this solemn occasion, we need to recall the sacred duty, enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, to ensure that all children, without any exception whatsoever, enjoy special protection.”
On behalf of the Government, and every loving mother, father and guardian of Trinidad & Tobago, I re-affirm my commitment to ensuring that our children will live free and comfortable lives, with the confidence that they will be protected, cared for, supported and encouraged.
If our civilization today is to be measured by the care we provide for our children, then we must all work together to ensure that the country they inherit tomorrow is one that made them secure in their protection, and confident of their future.
For every child whose life was lost through aggression, abuse and torture, we pray that their souls will rest comfortably and with no more pain. And it is in their names that we will make every effort humanly possible to defend, protect and care for our children.
May God Bless our citizens and our country.