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EDITORIAL - Anderson-McLean's accomplishments should not be belittled

Published:Friday | February 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Coming as it does in the midst of the public discussion of Justice Paul Harrison's report into the Armadale fire, the resignation of Mrs Alison Anderson-McLean as head of the the Child Development Agency (CDA) is all the more poignant. It is likely to draw speculation as to the cause.

But whatever the real trigger for her decision, voluntary or induced, Mrs Anderson-McLean leaves with our respect. And she can go with the confidence, harsh criticisms notwithstanding, that she has made a substantial contribution to childcare and protection in Jamaica.

Hers has not been an easy ride. In her six years on the job, she has been often pummelled for the weaknesses in and inadequacies of the system established to protect children, including those in the protection of the state. She has often been accused of not being aggressive enough in stopping abuses in facilities that are to be policed by her agency and for not blowing the whistle when such breaches occur.

In recent months, the campaign by the rights group, Jamaicans for Justice, for Mrs Anderson-McLean's firing or resignation reached a crescendo. Essentially, she was accused of covering up or downplaying the abuse of children in state care in a report sent to international agencies. We make no judgement on those claims.

But whatever might have been Mrs Anderson-McLean's weaknesses, faults or failures, she does have accomplishments.

Many contributions

It is to be recalled that it was she who spearheaded and shepherded the disparate agencies and institutions with responsibilities for child welfare and protection into the CDA. She worked with policymakers in fashioning the legislation that provides the mandate for the functioning of the CDA.

However ineffectively she might subsequently have used those laws and whatever resources that were at her disposal, it is a fact that Jamaica has a relatively modern legislation for the protection of children and a system with structured procedures to guide implementation.

These, as Mrs Anderson-McLean's role in their development, ought not to be scoffed at or belittled. But as Mrs Anderson-McLean as a student of politics would be well aware, the perceived creators of problems are not usually the persons who are best able to lead the turnaround.

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