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Defiling the national conscience
published: Friday | July 18, 2003

IT IS almost impossible to express in words the outrage and shame occasioned by the findings of the Keating Committee on the state of children's homes and places of safety in Jamaica tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

As prepared as the public was for disturbing revelations, some of them first brought to light by Kay Osborne, the actual details of child abuse and neglect chronicled in the report are so widespread and callous that they stagger the imagination. Rape, carnal abuse and batterings of children by staff at government and privately-run institutions take on a Dickensian horror and are only some of the injuries inflicted on the psyche of innocent children, many of them disabled, whose care has often been entrusted to the depraved and disinterested.

In these circumstances some children plan to commit suicide by tying scarves together, saved by other inmates who untie the noose. When reported to the authorities, their attitude is reported to be, "Why do you interfere, one less to deal with." This is perhaps the most horrendous expose of a man's inhumanity to children in the last 100 years and defiles the national conscience.

What has been going on has been a type of moral leprosy, so abhorrent that no leper would wish to be associated with anyone directly or indirectly involved in the conspiracy. Where there is evidence, individual predators should not only be dismissed but criminally prosecuted. If we are not to be conspirators in the evil, it is time for the entire society, regardless of political affiliation or class differentiation, to demand the resignations of all those from top to bottom who have caused or tolerated a terrible state of affairs, which was brought to their attention by the UNICEF report four years ago and which they chose to disregard and cover up. They must leave the system in shame and make way for new, unpolluted personalities who can begin the task of cleaning the Augean stables.

It is only if we take responsibility for our actions that we can count on the massive international aid which we believe could be available to help correct the situation, to provide new facilities, rehabilitate those that are not too far gone and to provide and train a cadre of child-care professionals capable of dealing with a system with a population of some 6,000 children.

In the context of the report, to talk about only local solutions for local problems is a sick joke and unworthy of anyone with an ounce of humanity. Many questions yet remain to be answered, both as to how all this came about and what is going to happen to the children when they leave the homes. For now though, it is time not only for righteous indignation, but for swift, corrective action.

THE OPINIONS ON THIS PAGE, EXCEPT FOR THE ABOVE, DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE GLEANER.

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