MP for Princes Town, Barry Padarath has responded harshly to criticisms made by former Children’s Authority Chairman Hanif Benjamin saying that Benjamin is a PNM apologist who served, as a politically appointed person, as the Chairman of the Children’s Authority between 2017 and 2020 and it is during that time that a lot of the abuse, both sexual and physical, contained in the Justice Judith Jones Report was covered.
Padarath stated that the question must therefore be asked, where was Benjamin’s voice then? Why didn’t Benjamin speak up for the children then? What did he accomplish while at the Children’s Authority?
“We have a Justice Judith Jones Report telling us of a myriad of challenges, and a plethora of problems under Benjamin’s watch that dealt with sexual and physical abuse of children but Benjamin is using his platform to attack the MP for raising such a critical issue that is happening in our Children’s Homes and what appears to be him looking for a scapegoat while he attempts to cover the tracks of his failure and that of the People National Movement’s failed administration.” said Padarath.
The Member of Parliament went on to say, “At no point did I say the pregnancies occurred at the hands of staff, but that it was up to the TTPS to determine who got these children pregnant, where are the children now, what condition are they in, and what steps have been taken to identify the persons who have impregnated them.”
“It was very easy for me to call the names of the parents and children who reached out to me of these pregnant teenage girls, but I did not. I instead raised the matter in the public domain with respect to the safety of our nation’s children. I never once compromised the identity of the children. The Minister and the Chairman of the Children’s Authority have both indicated that this matter was reported to the TTPS and that an investigation was ongoing, they are both on public record of saying that, yet I was contacted by ACP Seecheran of the San Fernando Division who indicated that the DCP responsible for such matters has asked him to launch an investigation into the very issue of teen pregnancies in state homes which I raised publicly.”
“If the Minister and Mr. Benjamin are saying that when they unearthed this issue that they contacted the TTPS then why is the TTPS contacting me today, Wednesday May 17th 2023?”
“Why is the TTPS asking me today for details regarding which home and so on? In fact I asked ACP Seecheran why was he now contacting me if the public is being told that an investigation was already ongoing since before I raised the matter in the public domain?”
According to the Shadow Minister of Child Affairs, Seecheran indicated that he received instructions from his superintendent, who received instructions from the DCP in charge of these matters TODAY.
“Today, Wednesday May 17th, 2023 to launch an investigation into this matter so therefore we must now ask, who has been sitting on the hands with respect to this information, is it the Minister, is it the Children’s Authority, is it the TTPS or is it all of the above? All this, while the innocence of our children are being taken advantage of.”
The MP for Princes Town added that it was this same Minister and this same Government who sat on their hands for five months with the Justice Judith Jones Report and did nothing before revealing the contents of that report to the country.
Padarath said, it was during those five months the perpetrators remained in the homes and it was only because the Opposition raised the issue and forced public outcry that the perpetrators were allegedly reassigned and even now that matter is still clouded in so much secrecy as many of our questions with respect to that, continue to go unanswered.