OPPOSITION Leader Andrew Holness says the most recent upsurge in child murders is a "disturbing trend" and has called on individuals to tell what they know.
The Opposition Leader's comment came yesterday in the wake of Wednesday's kidnapping and brutal killing of 14-year-old Shariefa Saddler, a student of the Haile Selassie High School in West Central St Andrew — for which he is the member of Parliament — and yesterday's slaying of four-year-old Rushane Burford by a gunman in Allman Town.
"There is a disturbing trend of our males abusing our female children, the gruesome murder of the 14-year-old girl from my constituency is the latest example. We also saw the story of the 15-year-old who was found in the presence of the 22-year-old man miles away from her home. It is a tragedy," Holness told members of the Jamaica Observer news team during an interview yesterday.
"I visited the mother of the 14-year-old yesterday (Wednesday) and she was beside herself with grief. There is very little I could do, or anyone can do, to comfort a grieving mother. Whatever the circumstances, in a country like Jamaica where we pride ourselves on our love for our children, [this should never] happen," he said.
Holness said he was particularly appalled at the fact that the young woman was abducted along a busy thoroughfare, beaten, killed, and hours later dumped.
"I appeal to the people in the community, in adjoining communities, anyone who knows anything, anyone who saw anything, even have a suspicion of what took place, I am appealing to you to bring it to the attention of the relevant authorities," Holness said yesterday.
"We can't allow these crimes to go unpunished. It may not bring back the life of the young lady, but it may prevent the lives of other young ladies from being taken..." he added, noting that he will be assisting the family with the funeral arrangements.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) yesterday expressed outrage at the "horrific killing of 14-year-old girl and four-year-old boy" while endorsing the Ministry of Education's appeal for children to walk in groups for their own safety.
Yesterday, Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison noted that the killing of the teen is another clear indication of the cruelty some persons in society continue to mete out to our children.
"It is extremely heart-rending when the Office has to issue statements of this kind, as one would think that as adults we ought to know that it is our obligation, at all times, to ensure the safety and well-being of children. We use this medium to offer our deepest sympathies and condolence to Shariefa's family," Gordon-Harrison said.
The OCA head has also called on "persons who have information that may assist with the identification of the perpetrators to make a report to the police to help them with their investigations so that those responsible will be brought to book".
"The act of the killing was bad enough, but the additional indignity and disregard that was shown by the manner in which her body was discarded is beyond comprehension," she said.
"I also condemn the murder of four-year-old Rushane Burford, who was shot in the head early this morning in a yard in Central Kingston. These acts of savagery against the nation's children are appalling and unacceptable, and they illustrate a pervasive callousness in the hearts of those who continue to inflict this sort of pain on the Jamaican society," she added.
Meanwhile, Opposition spokesperson on Youth, Sports, Gender Affairs, Entertainment, and Culture Olivia 'Babsy' Grange expressed sorrow at the murders.
Grange said the murder of the children was "another sign of the descent into the senseless brutality and unnecessary barbarism which has characterised the behaviour of criminals in the society in recent months".
She said "incidents like these expose the need for speedy implementation of legislation which will make penalties for such crimes mandatory capital punishment, and also speed up the implementation of the use of modern technology in convicting the perpetrators and protecting the victims and other witnesses from retribution".
And the National Youth Council of Jamaica yesterday added its voice to the scores of others expressing concern about the attacks on youth and children by unscrupulous members of society.
"We condemn these ruthless acts and extend our sympathies to the families, friends and wider community of the victims of Shariefa Saddler, Rushane Burford affected by these dreadful killings, " the council's Chairman Ryan Small said.