Sunday 1st June, 2008

Anand Ramlogan
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‘Shush…What sense would it make?

Two headlines in Thursday’s newspapers just about summed up the sad state of our nation today.

The murder of Hope Arismandez captured front page, whilst the dropping of serious charges of grievous sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl, which occurred in July, 2006, was buried deep into the more mundane news.

Yes, many of you may have missed it, but Nigel Julien, a construction worker of Cantaro Village in Santa Cruz, walked free after the witnesses for the prosecution failed to show.

Mind you, Julien is no stranger to this kind of crime: he is also on bail awaiting trial for the rape of another minor. He was committed to stand trial for that matter last year.

Do you think the State would be able to secure a conviction when this second rape case eventually comes up for hearing before a judge and jury?

Very few of us would be optimistic.

What no one realises, of course, is that we all failed this little12-year-old girl. The men charged for the murder/rape of Amy Anamunthodo and Hope Arismandez may end up walking, too, unless the Government pumps the much-needed resources into the administration of the criminal justice system and modernise some aspects of our criminal procedure to speed up the delivery of justice.

(In the UK, for example, lengthy preliminary enquiries have been effectively abolished for some time now).

Of course, no court will ever set free the men who raped and murdered Radha “Pixie” Lakhan, Rebekah Sugrim and Akiel Chambers.

This is so because no one has ever been arrested and charged for the crimes committed against these children.

These men are roaming the streets freely, possibly looking for a new victim.

Should the DNA lab not come before the PM’s palace, the Tarouba stadium or the performing arts centre? What has become of the swabs taken from these children? Have they been destroyed?

Our beloved invisible Minister of National Security refused to comment on Hope’s death.

He referred the media to the equally-inept Police Commissioner Trevor Paul, who managed to express sympathy.

Bear in mind that Mr Paul is the man whose performance, as police commissioner, in supervising the unprecedented levels of crime we now endure so impressed the Government, that it extended his term of office beyond his resignation date.

And while our sons and daughters are being raped and murdered, the Police Service Commission shamelessly puts paid full-page advertisements in the media to remind us of how far off it is from selecting a replacement for Paul.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, quite rightly, reminded us about the Government’s clever response to the public outrage that followed the death of four-year-old Amy Annamunthodo.

Manning appointed a commission of enquiry (of sorts). That report from the Justice Monica Barnes Commission has never been made public.

Imagine John Public paying for reports that the Government apparently ignores, while children continue to die in the same manner as Amy and Faith Williams!

Heinous crimes against children cannot be taken in isolation. It is a symptom of the larger crime crisis. Criminals know they are large and in charge.

Simple robbery developed into robbery with violence, and then escalated into armed robbery with violence, until it reached the present epidemic of armed robbery with violence and sexual assault.

Criminals are no longer content to simply rob victims; they sometimes cook in the kitchen, drink out their beers, and take turns raping the daughters and wives.

The rape is oftentimes kept a secret by the victim’s family.

Since the series I did on the brutal sexual torture and rape of female kidnap victims, I often receive visits from distraught women.

The emotional burden of these visits from families, whose daughters have been raped during robberies, is far too heavy for my shoulders.

They have to deal with the festering wound their collective silence has created. It has ripped apart relationships and created unimaginable rifts between daughters and helpless fathers and mothers, while the bandits continue to enjoy the easy life of robbing and raping with impunity.

Imagine being so scared of criminals that you are forced to hide the rape of your own child.

That is the stage we have reached in T&T.

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