Columns

Here we go once again

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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The more things change, the more they remain the same.” This week is feeling like déjà vu all over again. The sad, sad story of eight-year-old Shante Skyers shouldn't feel familiar, but reports of children being murdered are no longer a 'once-upon-a-time' occurrence in this country.

The awful events started last Thursday when little Shante disappeared on her way home from school. Her family searched the hilly, rural community all evening, desperately looking for the child. Over the next few days members of the Red Hills/Sterling Castle community joined the family members in their search, with no results.

In frustration, they blocked the road, asking for more assistance from the police. On Wednesday morning teams from the Jamaica Defence Force and the Canine Division of the constabulary turned out and the body of young Shante was eventually found.

Once again, another family is in grief. Once again, a community has been plunged into despair. Once again, it seems that evil has won. Why does this happen? How can someone be so merciless as to kill a child? This question is asked too often, and we still wait for the answer.

Criticism has been levelled at the neighbourhood police for not doing enough. In interviews given to the media, Shante's father has said he believed if more help had been given to the searches his daughter may have been found alive.

Investigations are now underway. The police have said limited resources at the Red Hills station hampered attempts to find Shante. They have also said they are following leads with hopes of bringing the perpetrator to face the law.

Back in 2013 our country was faced with a similar story from Trelawny when a four-year-old was killed while walking to school. That story took an even worse turn when it was discovered that the murderer was an ex-girlfriend of the child's father. Six years ago, there was much discussion about the common practice of having children walk alone to and from school. For many generations of Jamaican schoolchildren travelling in this way was nothing strange.

Once upon a time parents knew the community looked out for children, and there wasn't a second thought if children “roamed” until it was time to “come home”. Some would say, it was not necessarily the best way.

Every “September morning” police stations sent out appeals for parents to come and collect their children who had been left to make their way home, only to lose their way. In the past, getting lost was the worry, not the worry that they would never come home at all.

Our society has changed to a more brutal and uncaring one. No child is safe. Last year, a 14-year-old girl from Arnett Gardens went to buy food one evening. She did not return alive. The shadows of the evil and wicked seem to cover this land. How will we get out from under this cloud? When will we begin to place more value on the lives of our children? What will the future hold for our children and the future of our land?

 

Another case of déjà vu

It was a scene from Gordon House on Tuesday when the challenges of access to the disabled was revisited. On this occasion of a proud moment a grandmother wished to see her offspring take her seat in the House of Parliament. Eva May Wright, grandmother of newly sworn-in Member of Parliament Ann-Marie Vaz, had to be lifted in her wheelchair in order to view the proceedings. It is not right. The sight of the staff of Gordon House having to carry Wright, beautifully dressed in her celebratory hat, up several flights of steps, was disturbing.

We've had this argument before. We've talked about the possibilities of making the Parliament accessible to all, and yet we are still talking and not doing anything about it. With all the interest and planning for a new Parliament Building, hopefully this means we can still take the time and resources to fix what is wrong.

A cynical friend of mine says nothing will change until one of our parliamentarians has to deal with it first-hand. He said: “Don't think I'm setting goat mout' on anyone, but a physical disability can happen to anyone at any time. So, why not sort it out before then?” Good question.

We complain that many Jamaicans are not involving themselves in the process of governance. Maybe it's because they don't feel there is a space for them to do so. The question is, don't you think it's full time we did better?

A happy and blessed easter to one and all.

 

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@gmail.com.


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