Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
THE DISTRESS and grief were pronounced on the faces of students of the Haile Selassie High School as they streamed in one by one to view for the last time, their friend and schoolmate Sheriefa Saddler at her thanksgiving service, held yesterday at Calvary Evangelist Assembly in St Andrew.
"No! A caa Sheriefa dat!" shouted one student who wept uncontrollably while members of the school's choir delivered its item.
Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness was resolute as he addressed the audience charging adults to be resilient against wrongdoing.
"No adult has any right to be with an underage child and you must lick out against it in your community, and those parents who accept it and promote it, you must lick out against them to!" declared Holness, who is also the member of parliament for the area where Sheriefa lived.
"When we look at the gruesome murder of Sheriefa, we have to think back and see that as a village, we have failed Sheriefa, and not just Sheriefa, but all the other children who have been murdered," he said.
Holness also encouraged persons to make use of the laws of the land and not to be afraid to speak out.
"There are laws in our land and we must use those laws, sometimes the parents are the last to know, but the village knew, the village heard and someone in the village saw, but they never spoke, and we can't remain silent and allow these things to fester in our community," he said.
"We today have to make a decision to stop protecting the gunmen and criminals and protect our children," Holness charged.
Opposition Spokesperson on Youth and Culture Olivia Grange shared similar sentiments and encouraged parents to be responsible.
"Parents if you grow your boy children right, they don't do these things. I grew up in the ghetto and the men in the ghetto protected me. I could walk anytime of day and didn't have to worry. I could stand at the bus stop and didn't have to worry about being stolen or being raped, but what has changed?" she asked.
"I want to say to the young girls, don't be afraid! Stand up to them (criminals) and anyone of them look at you too long, tell your mother or somebody you trust," said Grange.
Sheriefa was abducted and murdered while on her way to school last month. Her body was dumped on Lothian Avenue in Olympic Gardens, about a mile from her house. An autopsy report also revealed that she was raped.