Advocate for children’s rights and former minister Verna St Rose-Greaves was not out of character, out of tune or out of time yesterday when yesterday she passionately demonstrated her distress over what she saw as the slow response of the People’s Partnership Government in treating with issues affecting children.
The former child development minister dramatically disrupted yesterday’s sitting of the House of Representatives as she made her voice heard in the wake of the murder and rape of six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch.
It was the question period and House Speaker Wade Mark was at the time telling new MP Terrence Deyalsingh he could not refer to things which were said in the Senate as the basis for questions in the House.
“This is the House of Representatives, we do not deal with the other place here. So that question is irrelevant,” Mark was saying.
“But we deal with the business of our children who are being killed! It cannot be business as usual!” St Rose-Greaves shouted from the public gallery where she had been sitting.
Mark was remarkably restrained. His tone was pleading as he attempted to calm her down. “Yes, yes,” he said, as the former MP wailed: “It cannot be business as usual! Our children are dying!” “Okay,” Mark said.
“Our children are being killed,” she lamented.
“Alright,” Mark replied, soothingly. “Could you..?”
“We have to do something! You just can’t sit here and pretend it is not happening. Do something!” she screamed.
Ordinarily, the Speaker has the right to direct the police to take swift action to end any disruption. But Mark seemed determined to treat St Rose-Greaves respectfully,
Apparently realising that the entire nation was experiencing hurt and anguish over the issue of the death of Keyana Cumberbatch and understanding the strength of St Rose-Greaves’s fervour on the matter, the Speaker opted to suspend the sitting to allow the police to escort her out of the chamber without much intrusion and fanfare.
“Honourable Members, I will suspend the sitting until the officers could get this lady out. This sitting is now suspended until next ten minutes,” he said, as St Rose-Greaves yelled: “It cannot be business as usual. It cannot!”
“Leave me alone!” she told the police officers as they approached her.
“Our children are dying! Do something! Oh Gooood! Kaaamla! Yuh fail us! Yuh fail de children!” she said, hold her belly.
“Yuh (Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar) make a promise and yuh make a commitment and yuh sabotage the work. Oh Jesus! Oh God! Oh Gooood! Oh Gooooooooood!” St Rose-Greaves bawled. “Strip allyuh self bare!” she roared.
Members seated in the public gallery (known as “strangers” are supposed to keep quiet in the chamber.
“Nobody don’t put they hand on meh please, ah begging allyuh. Allyuh coming with gun?” she asked the police officers as they approached.
The media were informed that those who sought to persuade her to leave were not armed.
Having given vent to her feelings, St Rose-Greaves then walked out of the chamber, leaving her stunned audience.
The PNM bench began taunting the Government MPs.
“Allyuh do something!” PNM MP Patricia McIntosh said, taking up St Rose-Greaves’s statement.
“That is one of yuh all own (former MP),” Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox chimed in.
“Claim it and own it,” McIntosh said. “Oh God, do something,” Cox rejoined.
Earlier, St Rose-Greaves in an interview with the Express said: “Time for niceness done. We still talking. What we waiting on? For it to reach home? Well I can’t wait!” she said.
She said she was in Parliament yesterday because “somebody have to be here for the children and for the people and the mothers who belly hurting them. Two dead. But every mother who have children nervous. … Every day we have rapes, abandonment and battering”.
She continued: “I know because people call me. People want help. No place to go. No one to turn to. Where are the after-school centres for the children, so that the mother who have to work in the casinos and the night shifts and who cannot be home, where are the places where those children can go and be safe, and where people can be held to account? Where are the community wardens?”
She said Government should use the unemployed to service community needs “so that they can keep their eyes, ears, nose and senses alert and can refer children (at risk) and we must put in the places of safety that the children can go to”.
St Rose-Greaves said: “Every housing settlement needs to have at least four to six units set aside so that we can have intervention centres, places where families could come, temporary housing where victims of violence and so on. Where is it? Nothing, nothing!
“Where is the voice of the Children’s Authority? The Head of the Children’s Authority, you think she should still be there? She is not saying anything. If you are not getting the money, demand it, say something! Too many people not doing the work. Where are all the professionals with the so-called certificates? Somebody has to be here and I am here!”
She said she would not talk to any minister, except the Prime Minister whose ruling of this country was a “gift”.
“She had a mandate, she started the work and she sabotaged it, she threw the children overboard,” St Rose-Greaves said.
She said it was the Prime Minister who called her out of her house and asked her to do the work. “But apparently I was too true to the cause.”
She said if the country does the work with the children, it wouldn’t have to be looking for more jails.
She said the Parliament should set as a priority over all other business the establishment of the units to facilitate the protection of children.
“All of them should resign! This country have people who matter and who do not matter and evidently our children do not matter, especially poor people children,” St Rose-Greaves said.
During the sitting, PNM MP Amery Browne attempted to raise the issue of the “Government’s failure to use its term in office to put any effective measures in place to protect our nation’s children” as a definite matter of urgent matter of public importance.
Browne said he was horrified by the sharp increase in vicious acts of murder against children and there had been no response of pronouncement from Government.
“The Government urgently needs to strengthen the Children’s Authority so that it can service the lead role in co-ordinating the prevention, response and monitoring of acts of abuse, cruelty and neglect against our children,” he said. The Speaker said the matter did not qualify for such a debate.